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Too Good to be True: Real Art, Fake Art, and RFID

Too Good to be True: Real Art, Fake Art, and RFID

Art crime is the third highest-grossing criminal business in the world, according to Art Business News. Art can be forged. It can be stolen. It can even be “discounted” via price tag switching. In fact, art is subject to all the security issues of any retail product sold in department stores – but with a much, much higher price tag.

  • Fakery – Modern art in particular is a forger’s paradise, as portrayed in the documentary film “Made You Look.” Provenance (chain of custody) is important to art buyers, but imperfect provenance can be disregarded in the heat of an emotional purchase. In “Made You Look,” a single gallery owner was so eager to acquire works of noted modern artists that she overlooked their questionable provenance, resulting in a multi-year $80 million fraud.
  • Theft – Museums and private art collections aren’t the only places where fine art is found. Corporations, too, have significant investments in art. Deutsche Bank, for example, owns works by Kandisky, Mondrian, and Francis Bacon. Unlike heavily-guarded museums and private homes, these works are on office walls where they are far more vulnerable to theft. Although corporations avoid the negative publicity associated with a theft of one of their artworks, it is an unfortunately common occurrence.
  • Label Switching – Galleries don’t always display the prices of art works, but often a short-term exhibition will include pricing on or beside each piece. Fraudsters will distract the gallerist  while confederates change the price, then pressure the harassed gallerist into a quick sale at the fraudulent lower price.

However, collectors and gallerists are increasingly using RFID technology as a way to secure their art investments. RFID excels at asset tracking, providing real-time ongoing data about an asset’s name, location, origin, age, value, components, and its movements (historical and prospective). RFID tags are inconspicuous and don’t detract from the appearance of the art. They don’t damage the artworks in any way. Most important, they protect these priceless objects from loss.

Of course, fine art authentication and asset management is just one of the many ways in which RFID serves business owners. From facilities management to inventory management, ERP, and MES, the data supplied by RFID keeps enterprises productive and profitable. Talk to an RFID expert and learn about the benefits for your business.


Photo © zmijak / AdobeStock

Counterfeits Damage Brands and Consumers. RFID to the Rescue!

Counterfeits Damage Brands and Consumers. RFID to the Rescue!

Counterfeits are big business. A global analysis estimated lost sales of $1.82 trillion in 2020. And it’s not just the sales lost to counterfeits. Jobs are lost. Even lives are lost. And brand trust – intangible and invaluable – is damaged, perhaps forever.

Fake products aren’t confined to luxury goods like handbags and watches. They include:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Whether they are ineffective sugar pills, or contain dangerous toxins, counterfeit medications have been estimated to kill as many as 1 million people annually.
  • Art and Antiquities Reputable museums and private collectors paid a grand total of $80 million for counterfeit works from one New York forger, as documented in the film “Made You Look.”
  • Consumer goods – From consumer electronics to vintage wines, fake labels and fake contents cost the U.S. $600 billion per year.
  • Manufacturing components – Falsely labeled components and materials were reported to cost the automotive industry alone $3 billion per year.

Adding insult to injury, counterfeits destroy brand trust. A Harris Poll of 2018 found that if Americans learned that they had purchased a fake product, 73% would stop buying from the company that sold it.

Technology comes to the rescue in the form of RFID. RFID assigns a unique identifier to every element of a product. It starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process and continues through product completion, shipping, warehousing, and retail sale. The authenticity of each finished product can be certified. Its RFID-managed and controlled “history” is unimpeachable. Your brand’s reputation is enhanced though the use of anti-counterfeit technology, and customers trust your brand more than ever.

RFID has many benefits, from inventory management to operational security and more. But perhaps none is more valuable, in the long run, than protecting your brand.

Photo © metamorworks / AdobeStock

National Historic Site | Mezzanine

National Historic Site | Mezzanine

World-renowned historic museum employs state-of-the-art vertical storage solutions and saves on real estate costs.

The price of commercial and industrial real estate is always on the rise, and facilities managers often face the challenge of finding additional storage capacity on a limited budget. Many times the solution can be a vertical expansion, instead of costlier horizontal growth.

One Washington, D.C.-based museum took the upward path when its archival storage capacity began to be strained by continued growth. Its collection of more than 18,000 artifacts, 89,000 historical photographs and images, and 76 million pages of archives, as well as film, video, and oral histories was housed in a substantial facility, but the collection received an average of five to six new artifacts every day.

A heavy duty shelving system supplied by National Office Systems doubled the height of the museum’s previous storage system, allowing the museum to continue collecting artifacts for scholarly research and ongoing educational exhibits on the National Mall.


The storage capacity of a national museum in Washington, D.C. would soon be overrun by the growth of its collection if additional storage was not created. Its facilities manager hoped to take advantage of the vacant vertical space above the museum’s then-current storage shelving, requiring a stronger, more robust shelving system with enhanced accessibility, as well as additional climate and humidity controls.


Using Heavy Duty Industrial Shelving sections, National Office Systems was able to provide 20’ high shelving units, along with a steel grate mezzanine to provide two levels of accessible storage.

Stairs and safety railings were also provided and installed.

The installation was particularly challenging as it had to be coordinated in six different phases, each dependent upon the other and requiring other vendors to provide changes to the existing electrical, lighting, HVAC and fire safety. Old storage systems had to removed, and their contents also had to be relocated and safely stored.

With storage capacity for years to come, this museum can continue its mission of research and education, without additional real estate expenditures for storage.

“Museums require additional levels of care and control to insure the safety and preservation of original historical documents and artifacts. There is no room for error, and proper planning is the key to success,” – Kevin Ward, Storage Specialist


Mead Art Museum, Amherst College | Art Storage

Mead Art Museum, Amherst College | Art Storage

Multiple Storage Solutions for a Multi-Faceted Museum
The Mead Museum houses the art collections of Amherst College, comprising more than 14,000 works of global origin, from Africa to Japan to the Americas. Established in 1949, the museum’s aging storage area was unsuitable for long-term preservation of delicate art works and artifacts. It underwent a renovation project that included a number of new climate-controlled and temperature-segregated rooms.


Each storage room was now climatically suited for specific types of items, but the art works to be stored within each room varied widely in size, shape and material. Moreover, the museum’s collections were growing rapidly, and additional storage needed to be found for newly-donated items.


In discussions with the museum’s director, NOS’s consulting team learned that the collections included paintings, textiles, sculptures, decorative works, and cultural artifacts. Multiple types of storage solutions would be needed to preserve the variety of works safely, while allowing room for growth. The solutions included:

  • Sturdy four-post wide-span shelving and slat wall to keep sculpture, artifacts, and decorative works off the floor, safe from moisture.
  • Drawers to keep rolled and folded textiles away from destructive humidity and pests.
  • High-density mobile storage with drawers and flat files preserved works on paper, while creating extra storage room for future collections.

Today, Mead Museum’s collections are safe and secure with each type of artwork or artifact matched to its ideal storage solution – perfectly preserved examples of the past, perfectly stored for the years to come.

“Now, with everything stored professionally using the most favorable preservation methods, we offer a more suitable environment for our collections and have the ability to accommodate growth in a safe and manageable way.” – Stephen Fisher, Collections Manager


American Textile Museum  | High Density Rolled – Textile Racks

American Textile Museum | High Density Rolled – Textile Racks

The American Textile History Museum, which houses the most significant, publicly-held, integrated textile collections of clothing, fabrics, tools, spinning wheels and hand looms in America, acquired two large coverlet collections and curators sought to develop a premier storage solution specially designed for its unique needs. Also, the textile collection reached maximum storage capacity, requiring an improved and space-saving solution. By partnering with an ASA member, the museum was able to improve preservation methods and increase storage capacity, allowing for additional space to expand the collections and provide staff with improved accessibility to stored objects.


As the American Textile History Museum expanded its cultural reach, the number of museum artifacts broadened with the acquisition of its first clothing and coverlet collection, which created new and unique storage needs for staff members. Also, as the museum’s textile collection expanded, curators had concerns with existing storage space constraints and preservation methods. Fabrics were typically packed in archive boxes that allowed potential exposure to environmental elements and required undesirable folding of fabrics and stacking of archive boxes. Locating items was often difficult, and museum staff had to search through multiple locations and stacks before finding a specific item.


The ASA member provided consultation for space planning and archival storage solutions to maximize on-site storage, allowing for consolidation of all collections and providing room for growth. Minimizing the storage footprint and increasing capacity enabled the museum to expand its collections and accept additional items that it wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

The coverlet collection storage is drastically improved with the use of a high-density storage system specially designed to accommodate hanging garments, including top shelves and lower drawer storage for accessory items. Museum cabinets with pull-out drawers were selected to store the museum’s premier hat collection.

To accommodate the expanding collections and accommodate growth, boxed textile storage methods were converted to rolled and hung racks, which improved cloth preservation, minimized handling and made items easily visible and located. With textile rolls condensed on two high-density mobile systems, the museum is able to accommodate its current and future object acquisitions.

To account for each item in the collections, objects are assigned a storage location and entered into a museum artifact database. Items are retrieved and returned to its assigned location after use, minimizing excessive handling and ensuring collection integrity.

“Having the ability to expand storage space provided staff with greater access to the collection, improved preservation and, ultimately, brought in more collections that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to acquire.” – Karen Herbaugh, Curator