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Fine Art Blockchain Hits the Mainstream: How We See it

In our previous post, we spoke about Christies's upcoming Art + Tech Summit in July 2018.

The summit is a cornerstone event as it heralds the recognition by major fine art market protagonists of the importance that blockchain will play.

Although it frames as an open question whether the market is "ready for consensus", the benefits that blockchain can bring to, particularly, the collecting experience, is already, in our view, a foregone conclusion.

The increased transparency, trust and accessibility which blockchain brings to fine art collectors are features that we have already written about extensively. The advent of blockchain promises, essentially, to improve authentication, title and fractional ownership mechanisms which fine art markets have struggled with for hundreds of years.

While blockchain promises to deliver on these mechanisms, it is not an absolute panacea by any means. Authentication and title, fine art provenance, and the success, and ability of blockchain to deliver for fine art in general, depend heavily on being able to ensure that traditional gatekeepers of authentication and title onboard as key participants in the fine art/ blockchain space.

Without galleries, dealers and other fine art market professionals, and the ability to verify title and authenticity, the blockchain-fine art enterprise will fail. 'Authentication' and title is only as good as the information that is plugged into the blockchain to begin with, and traditional actors are crucial participants in this regard.

Equally so is consumer acceptance of blockchain and its potential, and the integration of blockchain technology into the mainstream. Blockchain has become a buzzword, but most people, when asked, still have little understanding of what it is, let alone the potential that it offers. Events like the Christies' Summit help to bring this home to a wider audience, but it is the increasing prevalence of blockchain discussion on our traditional and new media sources and social feeds which brings this into the vernacular more than anything else.

One example of this is CoinCentral's coverage of the blockchain space. Although billed with a cryptocurrency focus, CoinCentral focuses, in laymen terms, on the underlying blockchain technology which drives crytpo, helping to bring this to a wider audience. One such article which caught our attention in the fine art space is its entry-level explanation of the opportunities blockchain brings to the fine art space.

CoinCentral writes:

"Provenance refers to the chain of custody for a piece of art. Traditionally, the owner maintains the provenance of the piece or various auction houses keep their own records. The idea is to trace the art, sale after sale, back to the artist.

The problem is this provenance documentation can be forged or counterfeited fairly easily, especially in the absence of a central shared record. When auction houses want to verify the authenticity of a piece of art, they research the provenance documentation. They also usually commission an outside expert appraiser to evaluate the authenticity of the piece. Fake art has fooled appraisers many times.

Blockchain art provenance aims to solve this issue. Today, multiple companies are working on creating a digital database of the world’s art and owners. These owners then have public and private keys to prove ownership of an original work.

Blockchain art provenance could fundamentally change the way the art world operates, making it easier to certify that a piece is the real deal. Moreover, you’d be able to track the ownership history of the piece over time on a transparent public ledger."

Pieces like this are very useful indeed in enhancing the conversation around fine art and its interplay with blockchain, and also crystallizing in people's minds how blockchain can be practically applied to solve every-day problems, and, in essence, remove, the stigma associated with cryptocurrencies. Certainly, this feed of information helps to bring blockchain into the mainstream.

We look forward to continuing the conversation!


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