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Articheck: A Passport for art

Most people hate extra paper work. And no one buys art to add to their paperwork. Collectors often start out with great records but then slip. In a large art collection it can be a painstaking process to detail every aspect of an artwork and to find a safe of storing this information. Articheck, a new online platform and iPad app, wants to make this a thing of the past.

Articheck allows users to create digital condition reports using their iPad app. Each report uses a standard framework allowing users to easily create clear and detailed condition reports.

Annika Erikson, founder of Articheck, grew up in the art world. Her father was a architect specialising in artist’s residences and her mother is an artist.

Erikson traces the start of her interest in conservation back to an encounter with one of her mother’s artworks. Her mother had wanted to project a video onto a large container of milk in her co-op gallery. “I thought to myself, what happens when the milk curdles?” says Erikson.

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Her passion for the arts is clear. She made her launch into conservation and restoration, it was during a grand tour of Italy and Greece; “It was so amazing to see these amazing works and actually be able to touch them.” Before her venture into conservation, she had dabbled with curation but decided that it wasn’t for her.

Prior to launching Articheck, Erikson worked at TATE. Whilst working for TATE, Erikson was the paper conservator responsible for Mike Nelsons 15 room installation artwork ‘Coral Reef.’ During this time she had to preserve and restore the 70 paper objects within the art work, including dated copies of Playboy. Because TATE had such an aggressive acquisition and loans program, new works were constantly coming through the door requiring attention.

Generally in a collection the volume of paper objects is higher than other artworks, which meant that Erikson was spending a huge amount of time on paperwork. Each work required regular condition reports which were a lengthy procedure.

It reached a point where she decided to start a research project into how all the different members of the art industry deal with condition reports. She says “The world of condition reports turned out to be much larger than I originally knew.” At the time she began talking to shippers, auction houses, registrars and technicians. Conveniently this research project coincided with the launch of the first iPad.

It was then she came up with the idea for Articheck. A solution that can provide all the tools needed for condition reports in one place, on a mobile basis. A tool that is useful for everyone.

Erikson says she wanted the app to be able to cater for everyone, for different needs and for individual skill levels. It includes an expert template, as well as a beginner’s guide, and can create reports from a one page document right up to a 150 page document with as many as 70 pictures attached.

The prototype was launched in 2013 and after adapting and responding to feedback from the industry, the final product was on the market in October 2014. One of the best bits about the app is the fact that it is updated regularly. Articheck are constantly developing the app and adding to it based on user feedback. Every few weeks changes are made to ensure that it is providing exactly what the users want.

The latest big update is a new feature which allows a user to view previous versions of a condition report. It can tell the history of a work by showing all its previous reports. Erikson says this was an important feature for Articheck to include: “this is vital for our vision that Articheck will become the passport for art.”

The idea is that Articheck can be used as a passport, by users creating a condition report every time a work moves. Every time it moves, it gets a stamp on its passport.

The purpose of a condition report is to flag any existing issues. But condition reports can also help show if the work is likely to have future issue, for example to flag if it is unhappy with the conditions is being kept in.

When a work is bought, it is up to the buyer to request a condition report. Erikson says “It’s down to buyers to educate themselves and to do their due diligence. They should always request a report and do their own on their existing collection annually.”

As well as monthly or annual subscriptions for the app, Articheck also provide services to do the condition reports for you. They are now developing an international network of art industry providers and conservators so that they can offer these specialist services locally to the user.

In the future, the plan is to allow clients to be able to compare quotes from different providers and conservators online via the Articheck website and in the app.

“More and more people view art as an asset. In that context it needs to be protected and maintained. The best way to protect your asset is to do minimum maintenance” Erikson says. She is surprised how many people don’t do this considering the amount they invest in art. Developing a provenance of the work can support an increase in value.

Articheck is also useful for insurers. “Stolen art is hard to recover without good documentation. Articheck provides an audit trail.” Keeping track on the condition of the art can ensure that any damage is caught early and prevent the need for maintenance, which can also reduce insurance premiums.

What one piece of advice would she give a buyer in today’s market? “Make sure you have a plan in place for the protection of your asset. The best way to reduce the risk is to make sure you have a plan for protection and maintenance. Imagine the work in 50 years’ time.”

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Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca's passion for the visual arts started at a early age so studying a BA (Hons) in History & Philosophy of Art was a natural progression. A keen artist she has also completed a Fine Art Foundation to develop her own artistic practice. Rebecca has recently started writing features for Private Art Investor. Please feel free to contact Rebecca on +44 1737 245 564 or at rebecca@privateartinvestor.com if you are interested in arranging an interview.