This month we discussed condition reports with Annika Erikson, CEO and Founder of Articheck. Articheck is an innovative start-up, providing condition report software to conservators, appraisers, museum registrars, collection managers, private collectors and more. Learn about why condition reports are important for art collections and the art market in general, how much efficiency is generated by using software over traditional methods and the vision for the future of Articheck.
The Clarion List: What is Articheck? Why are condition reports so important in the art market?
Annika Erikson: Articheck is a system for making condition reports better, faster, more professional, and standardized. Condition reports are generally done when artwork is about to be moved for any reason, such as a loan, exhibition, art fair, storage and for due diligence when being bought. This is because a work of art is at its highest risk of damage when being moved, and it's important both to highlight any issues and to identify who is liable. It’s also best practice to do one every few years for art that is in storage or being display just to check everything is ok.
Articheck is the new global standard in condition reports, acting as a passport for art that gets stamped with a full provenance of movement, exhibition and condition change and that is legally verifiable, avoiding disputes and smoothing claims. We provide the system as well as training on how to make professional non-conservator reports or when to bring in a conservator. We provide conservators when independent expert reports are needed. (Watch our intro video on the homepage here.)
TCL: Tell us more about your background and why you founded Articheck
AE: I had the idea during my time working as a paper conservator for Tate. Tate runs a very ambitious loan program, and I worked there at the height of recession with limited resources. We were drowning in paperwork and when the iPad came out, we thought that was the perfect way to streamline a time-consuming process - we’d print out templates, fill them in by hand, take images on digital cameras, upload all the images, try and file/ sort the images, sometimes scan the handwritten reports or else type up notes later, sometimes print the images to draw diagrams on top of… We’d actually get different colored markers to represent different damage types, very “old school”! In various places I worked, condition reporting was done a bit differently, but it was always a mess. I later worked in the commercial world and found it much the same, only worse. Because reports have to look good for a client or buyer, you spend extra time polishing a Word document with inserted images and comments.
I thought this was an important thing to do: to give people more time to work with art and to minimize time spent on paperwork, to standardize procedures and improve communication about valuable cultural objects, and to help people without conservation training, who make the majority of condition reports, to be more confident in how to do so professionally.
TCL: How does Articheck help different user types? How much time is saved versus the traditional method of creating condition reports?
AE: Articheck is designed in a modular way, so that a shipper, for example, could do a super quick basic report, a gallery or museum could do a loan report, and a conservator could do a very detailed report when needed. There are ‘basic’, ‘standard’ and ‘detailed’ templates to service these different needs. In timed tests, people make reports at least twice as fast with Articheck as they would without our software, and, if they do fairly detailed reports, we can save them even more time. In a timed test, White Cube staffers spent an average 60 min on a report without our software and just 10 minutes on a report using Articheck for the first time!
Private clients can contact us as well, and we can provide different services such as importing old spreadsheets with artwork details onto Articheck, introductions to local specialists when an expert is needed, and training on how to identify when an expert should be called in.
TCL: What Articheck features are you most proud of?
AE: Our annotation tool is now quite elegant, which enables you to upload images and draw on them using standardized icons indicating damage in different colors, and also enables you to tag detailed images and notes. I love using SIRI voice recognition when making notes- it’s so great not having to type anything. We also have a lot of different templates for different types of collections; we started with templates for the obvious collection types - paintings and sculptures - and have since added templates for textiles, books, photography, installations and, coming very soon, vehicles!
TCL: What do you like about The Clarion List?
AE: I’m a believer in the idea that the art world needs to adapt to the needs of the next generation of collectors - that means being more digital, more transparent and more standardized. Some people are pretty reluctant to do that (despite the benefits and success in other industries of embracing this change), so startups like The Clarion List - that a) provide a truly useful service and b) increase art world standardization and transparency - are really kindred spirits!
TCL: What plans do you have for the future of Articheck?
AE: World domination of condition reports! Muwah-ha ha! But, really, my vision is for Articheck to be the global standard for condition reports not just for fine art, but also for antiques, architectural objects and archaeological objects. I would love to help reduce looting and increase recovery of archaeological sites by getting them well documented.