Interpol’s ID-Art app allows users to take a photo in-app, upload an image or enter key descriptive terms into a search engine that runs against the organization's stolen art database, which has information about more than 52,000 lost pieces of art.
If the work appears to match a registered stolen work, the app shows users more information about the lost piece and prompts them to report the item to Interpol with a pop up banner.
The app could be a boon for stopping trafficking and recovering lost art, Interpol said, by allowing anyone with a smartphone to instantly check if a piece is registered as missing on their mobile phone.
According to Interpol, the app has already been used to successfully recover four pieces of stolen art during an early pilot phase, having identified two sculptures in Italy and two Dutch paintings.
ID-Art also has a feature for users to make records of items from their own collection, which Interpol officials say can be useful during an investigation in the event artwork is stolen or lost.
There is also an option on the app to report important cultural locations at risk, like historical monuments and archaeological sites, that may have been damaged during a natural disaster, looting or conflict.
“Interpol’s new ID-Art App is a major milestone in the international fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property,” UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Culture Ernesto Ottone said in a statement Thursday. “It is both preventive and reactive as it allows everyone to record cultural objects and sites into the app. This has the potential to improve due diligence practices with potential buyers of cultural artefacts.”
ID-Art can be downloaded on the Play Store for Android and Google, the App Store for iPhone users and is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish. The trade of illegal art is believed to be one of the most profitable illegal markets in the world. Last year, UNESCO estimated art and artefact trafficking is worth nearly $10 billion annually, though some experts say it’s nearly impossible to estimate how much money the black art market handles. Criminal and terrorist groups often turn to the illegal art market to help finance their activities and launder money.