Lawrence Merritt is CEO of Tagsmart, the people behind the fantastic Certificates of Authenticity that come with every purchase made on Buy Art | Buy Now.
Anna Preston speaks to the CEO of the start-up tackling fakes and forgeries in the art world.
Tagsmart is an invaluable resource for the contemporary art market, assuring trusted providence and authentication. What first attracted you to the Tagsmart ethos?
I’m passionate about solving old problems and creating new experiences through technology; fakes and forgeries have plagued the art world for hundreds of years and on a rational level, this drew me to Tagsmart. It also struck me as odd that such a modest share of the wealth in art accrues to artists; Tagsmart empowers artists by allowing them to legitimise their creations and this drew me to Tagsmart on a more emotional level
Can you briefly explain what Tagsmart involves relating to Mall Galleries’ Buy Art | Buy Now service.
One of the biggest concerns online buyers have about buying art is the lack of standards around Certificates of Authenticity; independent 3rd party research has shown this again and again. Tagsmart aims to solve this problem by establishing a new standard for Certificates and we have partnered with Mall Galleries who now present our Certificate with every online purchase. The Tagsmart Certificate is compelling because it's loaded with anti counterfeiting technology, uniquely signed by the artist and twinned with a digital version which means it's a great enhancement that helps to position Mall Galleries at the leading edge of e-commerce and better able to meet the needs of its customers
What does being a Tagsmart CEO involve day-to-day, and what do you enjoy most about working with contemporary artists and art businesses?
Being a startup CEO brings many challenges and joy; the key priority is to remain fixed on the vision which is to make fakes and forgeries obsolete but flexible about how we achieve this; there is no playbook given that we are the only company in the world doing this which means it’s important to move quickly, learn fast and stay focussed. But the most exciting thing about my job is meeting contemporary artists and talking to them about their motivations and message; their ambition to continually challenge the status quo is inspiring and infectious. Great art does this and in many ways this is the ideology of Tagsmart
Have you always been in the art world, or passionate about art?
I am new to the art world though I’ve now been a part of it for almost two and half a years; historically I’ve been more passionate about the business of art than the art itself which makes me a philistine I know though recently I have developed a fondness for art with, lets say, a political, social and subversive focus that makes you challenge the mainstream media narrative or what passes as conventional wisdom. On a more casual level, when on holiday with my family in Mallorca over Easter, one of the first things we did was visit the Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation, where we saw Miro’s works, his home and his studio. I loved it.
How are you planning on taking Tagsmart forward and expanding it?
I believe there is a battle raging for the soul of the art market with progressives on the one side fighting for change and modernisation; we stand with them. It’s interesting to note that the global art market hasn't grown in value over the last decade despite a huge rise in the global middle class and the sheer number of millionaires; it's in all our interests to bring more openness and transparency into the art market to encourage more people to buy art for the first time and enhance the overall salience of art within popular culture. Our mission is to help enable this by allowing all artists, from all over the world to seal their works with our tags and offer all buyers 21st century peace of mind