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Digital Editions and The Art Basel/ UBS 2018 Art Market Report

With Digital Editions, The Fine Art Ledger is disrupting the way fine art multiples are sold, owned and collected.

The Fine Art Ledger will be offering select works for sale in digital form. This is one feature of the Fine Art Ledger's platform which we are launching first. In Digital Editions, we are able to demonstrate the power of fine art blockchain.

A Digital Edition is like a print edition of a multiple, for example a photograph, whose proprietary value and uniqueness lies not in a physical print of the image, as has historically been the case, but in the digital file itself. This means the digital image needs to be made 'limited' and unique, and not susceptible to duplication.

The difficulty of doing this is obvious. Since images in digital form are capable of being shared easily, the uniqueness or finiteness of the image itself could not be guarantied.

Blockchain changes this. It allows for each digital image within an edition to be cryptographically stamped immutably into the blockchain making it unique. The image's signature is tied to to the file holding the image and to the owner of that image. If the image is shared, any copies are by definition not the original and would have no value.

Recording the image and edition's information in the blockchain, also provides, potentially, a public record of the existence of the edition, the image itself and the owner of the image.

Buyers of the digital image would be able to verify title and provenance in the image, and when sold title would be passed to the buyer in the blockchain. The blockchain record of the edition or series would also work to safeguard against attempts to publish or produce duplicate editions of the same work, as there would now be a record of the original edition stamped into the blockchain.

The often asked question is what do I do with digital image? A piece of Fine Art is to be enjoyed, right?

Of course. Our answer to this at The Fine Art Ledger is that we give the buyer the enjoyment of actually interacting with the fine artist to produce a print of the digital edition. The buyer would be taken behind the scenes to meet with the fine artist and play a role in the process of printing and framing the piece for her enjoyment. Nevertheless, the uniqueness and object value remains in the digital edition.

This adds a whole new dimension to the joy of collecting fine art. For most collectors, it is the interest in the artist and her work and career which is an integral part of the collecting process, and here, with Digital Editions, we give that opportunity to buyers on the Fine Art Ledger.

From the artist's point of view, retention and control over the original or 'raw' image, in the case of photography, is an essential concern.

No photographer would want to relinquish control of his 'negative' or original high resolution image. We address the concern by ensuring that the high resolution images, being the components of the limited digital edition, remain with The Fine Art Ledger.

On a sale of a piece within the edition, title on the blockchain transfers from the fine artist to the buyer, but the high resolution image remains with The Fine Art Ledger. The buyer receives a web-ready jpeg image and, of course, the entitlement to interact and work with the artist to produce a physical print of the image.

Digital Editions are a relatively new concept and, as with any disruption in traditional processes, there is bound to be opposition. However, we believe that once it is seen how Digital Editions make buying art more accessible, affordable and enjoyable, whether seen as a new way of owning multiples or a new medium entirely, Digital Editions will be widely adopted, bought and sold.

Art Basel and UBS's latest Art Market Report (2018) confirms this. At pages 246-247, the Report acknowledges the opportunity which blockchain allows for Digital Editions:

"...A problem encountered in the digital art market, for instance, is the relative ease of replication and copying, which reduces underlying values for collectors. Blockchain could help to solve this for digital artists by issuing a limited number of copies and linking them to unique blocks, proving ownership. Artists can authenticate works, and this authentication is essentially recorded on the blockchain ledger permanently. They can also offer limited editions of digital works with each number tracked separately and publicly on the ledger, protecting both the artist and those who invest in their works. Buyers are also protected by a centralized and verifiable proof of ownership, which can act as a traceable and unalterable record of an artwork’s provenance over time. This traceability also paves the way for tracking future sales and commissions due back to artists in resale royalties and copyright..."

The acknowledgement of Digital Editions and the possibilities blockchain opens up to the way we understand, own and appreciate art as an item of value, is prescient. The Fine Art Ledger is pioneering Digital Editions, not only as a key feature in itself, but also to demonstrate the pure potential that blockchain has for fine art. Digital Images are a gateway to opportunities for owning, buying, selling and appreciating art that we are only now beginning to see.

Join us as we travel this road, and experience the pure joy of owning and collecting art.

The Fine Art Ledger Team.

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