AIS: Do We Need An ISBN For Art?

This time on ArtEvolve, we were joined by Keri Kilty, Chief Revenue Officer at Authentify Art, and Nicole Bouchard, Senior Director of Product Strategy & Technology at Crozier Fine Arts. We talked about building an industry-wide standard for artwork identification.

Both guests are members of the Art Identification Standard (AIS), a consortium of organizations that is developing unique identifiers for individual artworks. AIS is made up of professionals from all corners of the art world including curators, commercial galleries, museums, art tech, insurers, and more. This coming together of different roles in the art world demonstrates the desire for an industry standard when it comes to artwork identification. Other industries already have similar systems, such as an ISBN that booksellers, libraries, and consumers use to find books.

Many in the art world understand that the data they hold is valuable, which can lead to a reluctance to sharing it. However, data is only valuable if it can be leveraged.


Current issues:

The art world currently has lots of different solutions to identify and describe artworks. What are some of the issues we currently face with this non-standardized approach?

  • Duplication of effort
  • Asymmetric information (buyers and sellers do not have access to the same basic data points)
  • Fractured, siloed data
  • Incompatibility across systems
  • Loss and distortion of information, bias
  • Security risks


What does AIS propose to help resolve these issues?

A unique identifier (IDentifier) will be assigned to an artwork, which is then registered on the blockchain. This transparent, open-source database encourages collaboration and digital integration between parties. There will be a public layer of data, as well as a private layer of data, which can be made available for a fee by the owner (not by AIS, which is non-profit consortium).


How does this address key industry challenges?

  • For shippers and logistics companies, a lot of time and effort is lost across the industry for lack of information, re-keying data and mis-keyed information being wrong, as well as redoing condition reports due to lack of records. If an identifier had reliable information about a work’s physical properties, more time could be focused on the organization of exhibitions, installations, art movement, digitalization, and other tasks dedicated to the artwork itself (which also translates into cost and/or risk)
  • Information reduces risk. Gaps in the story of an artwork add an element of risk to working processes as staff, including insurers and shippers, must anticipate the ‘what ifs’ and make decisions based on an incomplete picture.
  • Being able to gather research and information about artwork could lead to increased participation in the art market.
  • Allows art organizations to more seamlessly communicate and collaborate with each other. A unique identifer allows for service providers to share information with each other about the ID when requested, and the ID itself acts as the key to open the door for sharing and accessing this information. Ultimately, service providers could streamline processes, cut back on unnecessary overhead, and give clients better user experiences.
  • Artwork data is already being shared but often via unsecure methods such as email or ad-hoc tools like Whatsapp. Data accessed and shared via the blockchain offers greatly improved security and privacy.


What are some potential applications?


  • Artwork with IDentifier connected to artist’s digital catalogue raisonné = help verify authenticity and boost visibility.
  • Use IDentifer with a service that helps manage copyright and artist royalties = improve transparency, protect resale rights, and safeguard artist income.



  • Condition reports, catalogue raisonné entries, and exhibition history all linked to same IDentifier = build trust and enhance sales pitch
  • Research materials linked and easily locatable, saving institutions time = allow galleries to expand the volume and depth of research, in turn enhance their output and brand



  • When sourcing works, museum can locate wealth of artwork information via IDentifier =  verify authenticity and establish data trends
  • Condition reports & shipping reports are easily accessible and connected to same IDentifier = minimize risk of confusion, increase transparency, and potentially reduce insurance costs
  • Easily research conservation reports of same medium and/or same era = verify and inform museums’ own conservation methods
  • Museum can choose to make previously inaccessible (or difficult to access) data available for a fee = new revenue stream

More information, including additional use cases, can be found in the AIS brochure.


Thank you to our guests, Keri Kilty of Authentify and Nicole Bouchard of Crozier Fine Arts, for joining us!

If you’re interested in joining AIS, or simply finding out more about the consortium, please visit