Interview to Angelica Maritan – All Art
SpeakART is an innovative start-up founded in 2017 by Angelica Maritan, an Environmental Engineer who left the world of oil and construction to devote herself to her greatest passion, Art. SpeakART software is able to catalog entire collections, making fast search tools available. It allows those who work with artworks, who collects them, handles them or examines them, to optimize processing times and costs, having a tool that is easy to use and available wherever you are.
SpeakART, however, goes further by allowing the artwork to “speak for itself” thanks to the creation of its personal and unique digital fingerprint. It will be itself to communicate if it has suffered damage during transport or if it does not match the original, and this will be possible by simply comparing the scan of the photograph at time zero of the work with a more recent shot. SpeakART is a resource for all operators in the art market, whether they are private collectors, auction houses, galleries, registrars, restorers, artists, museums, brokers or insurance companies.
Angelica, from environmental engineer to innovator of the art world. Tell us how the idea of focusing on the cultural sector was born and how these two souls come together in your work?
I have always been a person who has combined adjectives and situations that – in common feeling – were not usual. I have always had a passion for art and a weakness for information technology. I attended classical high school, then engineering. I left at 24 to work on an offshore oil rig as a field engineer. Back in Italy, I took care of construction sites and real estate management and finally managed to combine my great passion for art with my work. Art and digital.
Three adjectives to describe SpeakART.
Revolutionary, easy and versatile. Revolutionary, because it is a product that is unique in the world today, it is the only one that creates a digital footprint by recognizing the work over time, provides four different comparison methods and creates a link between the work of art and certifications. Easy because it is software that most users can use without the need for training. Versatile because it is optimized across the board for anyone who works with art or collections.
You said: “No more works of art lost in overflowing warehouses, SpeakART helps to bring order and efficiency”. How? How does the SpeakART management software work and what does it offer? Can it be used for any category of works of art (paintings, sculptures, installations, jewels, coins, vintage cars, historic wines, musical instruments)? In simple terms, what elements is the software composed of and what is their function?
Ad oggi la nostra scelta è stata quella di concentraci sul mondo del fine art, ma il passo tra questo e il collezionismo in senso più allargato è davvero brevissimo ed è già in programma. Il software è stato creato per semplificare il collezionismo, valorizzare il patrimonio e rendere più snello ed economicamente vantaggioso il lavoro dei professionisti del settore. SpeakART si compone di tre parti: la prima è un gestionale delle opere d’arte pulito e intuitivo, con tutte le caratteristiche che servono per descrivere un’opera; la seconda – il nostro fiore all’occhiello – è dove risiede il cuore della tecnologia SpeakART, un algoritmo che ci permette di mettere a confronto due immagini dell’opera che il nostro software trasforma in impronte digitali (DIMA – Digital Identity Matrix for Art) e che vengono messe a confronto grazie a un sistema automatico; la terza parte è composta da due format che permettono all’utente di creare condition report e valutazioni, sia a distanza che in presenza. Questi format forniscono ai tecnici una base strutturata per costruire poi i loro documenti senza necessità di riscrivere ogni volta dati già presenti nel database.
Quali sono gli aspetti più rivoluzionari di SpeakART che vuoi segnalare? Quali le principali esigenze che vuole soddisfare?
The most innovative aspect is certainly the DIMA: Digital Identity Matrix for Art. Through this real digital imprint we are finally able to bind all documents, such as the certificate of authenticity, the certificate of free circulation or other fundamental documents directly at work without having to physically interact on it. Having freed ourselves from physicality in order to recognize the work has made us safe from the risk of corrupting it by extraneous means. The DIMA allows you to check the state of the work at different times and check if changes (damage or replacements) to its original state have occurred over a period of time. I did not create this software as a stylistic exercise, I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I know what it means to optimize time and costs, so SpeakART was created thinking about the substance of the problems and creating a solid basis to solve them. In my opinion, a digital service that does not bring economic benefits is to be considered useless, so we also studied that the optimization of time and resources could be estimated at around 20% if the software were used systematically.
Who is SpeakART for?
SpeakART by its very configuration is very transversal and the cataloged collections can be public or private, intended as both personal and corporate collections. The logics of use change, but it is the vehicle itself that adapts to the customer in an easy and immediate way. SpeakART is aimed at collectors, artists, insurance companies, brokers, museums, specialists, galleries and auction houses.
The user can decide whether to make his collection or part of it public and, therefore, visible. How does SpeakART contribute to the artistic and economic enhancement of individual works of art or entire collections? What other activities facilitates the use of this software in the event, for example, of generational change, loan to museums or activation of an insurance policy?
Often the enhancement of a work involves a systematic and orderly collection of information. To date, information on works of art is too often neglected, lost or forgotten; and this impoverishes the artistic heritage. SpeakART allows you to manage all the information of the entire life of the work, including exhibitions, publications, documents, previous condition reports, in a simple and orderly way. Valuing means knowing, to know you need to archive in the correct way and know how to communicate what has been archived and SpeakART does it automatically for our customers. Secondly, enhancing a work also means giving certainties over time on the works and what gives greater certainty if not its digital imprint? In addition to this we have created a system of interactions with the individual works for external professionals (such as restorers, registrars and photographers) through a system of “invitations” you can view the card of the work or interact directly with it, for example compiling a condition report, an evaluation or storing a DIMA. This allows the client to maintain his IT security and privacy, and at the same time the professional to work for the client with information, documents and images already present in the database.
When and where did the idea of developing a software capable of creating a digital imprint of the work of art come from, capable of identifying any damage or recognizing fakes, often invisible to the naked eye?
I have an architect mother, who has always been passionate about art, and a father – who I consider a living encyclopedia – who has been “systematically” interested in art since 2000. Magically artists, galleries and art events have joined part of the family daily. I found myself hungry for art, without even realizing it, kidnapped by this world that, working as an engineer, I had the opportunity to attend only in my spare time. I will never forget when during a business lunch, speaking of art, I said confidently: “I can’t believe that in 2016 there is no way to attach a certificate of authenticity to the work!” and from that phrase, from so many efforts, a pregnancy and endless sleepless nights, SpeakART was born. The idea arises from a personal need, from an awareness of the needs of the market and the substantial gaps that are found in the sector. Art, the artist and heritage are protected thanks to transparency. Protecting and informing has the direct consequence of enhancement. We trust a well-reviewed product more if we shop online, right? There is no reason to think that this cannot be applied to art. Personally, I would more willingly buy a work if I knew that by itself it can tell me about itself, about its history, that it shows me the damage it has suffered over time and that it does not risk being falsified.
SpeakART is equipped with an “intelligent” machine learning system and that means that it learns for itself. Can we fully rely on the software to identify any damage or to recognize the fakes of a work? What is the degree of reliability and, therefore, the margin of error in checking the status through photo scanning?
The degree of reliability of the software is ‘frighteningly’ high. What can limit it is a poor quality shot processed, therefore the human factor. SpeakART is able to recognize differences to the tenth of a millimeter, which is very difficult for a technician since he will never have the opportunity to compare the two stages of the work at the same time, SpeakART is as if it did. The percentage of error on the protocol template is around 1–1.5%. To make a comparison, the human eye seems to have a percentage of possible error that stands at 20-25%. The human factor is however fundamental and essential in particular in this sector, in fact, SpeakART does not want to replace man, but to support him, making his work easier, giving an alert to understand where to look, where to bring attention. But human judgment and the description of any damage will always (or at least for a long time) the result of a “sensitive” judgment.
SpeakART is a certified system on the blockchain, what does it mean? What are the advantages in terms of security and transparency?
Many talk about Blockchain, but few really understand what it means. They often ask me “Do you have the Blockchain?” and I smile at the question, because I seem to be at the fishmonger’s. “Excuse me, can you give me a kilo of Blockchain?” The Blockchain potentially everyone can have it, because it is a container that can be filled with the information you want, it is an empty box with a nice padlock to close. The Blockchain makes sense if the information we want to insert needs a certain date of entry and if it must remain immutable over time. So the answer is yes, SpeakART stores information on the Blockchain at the customer’s request, and by storing a fingerprint, it makes the DIMA itself, the information and documents associated with it guaranteed and immutable over time.
One of the lessons we are learning from this difficult situation of health emergency and economic crisis – due to the pandemic from Covid-19 – which forces the global lockdown, is certainly the importance and urgency of planning, enhancing and managing the own heritage (including artistic). SpeakART fits perfectly into this logic. What, then, are your thoughts on the near future? Are you already developing new software features?
You said very well, plan: what up until now very few have had the foresight to do. Certainly this emergency has stimulated awareness and has highlighted how much those who were “digitized” have contained the backlash of the lockdown. A serious and effective digitization cannot be done in an urgent situation. I am a dreamer perhaps, but I believe that very soon this sector will embrace digital in a concrete way. Looking ahead means applying new technologies to stable and settled know-how without erasing the past, but making it easier to use. As mentioned, technology should not replace man, but help him to reduce work times and production costs in order to allow him to devote himself to higher and more refined activities. In the future I see 3D made by smartphones, our APP – which is almost finished – and SpeakART INsurance, a spinoff dedicated to the insurance world. The Covid-19 emergency has attracted the spotlight on us and on the need to digitize the entire sector in a functional way, but now I trust that a virtuous and organized process will begin also in Italy that will really bring a change for a healthy and real enhancement of the artistic heritage supported by digital.