Christie’s is Now Dealing Artwork on the Blockchain 0 159

International art dealer Christie’s has announced they’ll be tracking art transactions and storing encrypted registrations on the blockchain. The 250 year old London based auction house is keeping things interesting by partnering with Artory, a blockchain registry for the art market.

This November, Christie’s will unveil An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection at their Rockefeller Center showroom in New York. The collection includes work from modern American masters such as Georgia O’Keefe, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Edward Hopper.

Christie’s estimates the value of the collection over $300 million. Every sale from the auction will include an encrypted certificate of sale, via Artory, and a permanent record of the transaction chiseled in block. Christie’s expects this to be a major boon to collectors and investors.

“Our pilot collaboration with Artory is a first among the major global auction houses, and reflects growing interest within our industry to explore the benefits of secure digital registry via blockchain technology,” Says Christie’s CIO Richard Entrup. He calls the upcoming auction “an ideal platform for our clients to experience this technology for themselves and to explore the advantages of having a secure encrypted record of information about their purchased artwork.”

Artory CEO Nanne Dekking adds that they’re “delighted to work with Christie’s on this industry-leading collaboration”, and pleased to be able “to show the art world how digital encryption technology can benefit buyers and collectors in the future.”

The Blockchain Has Unique Benefits For Art Dealers and Collectors

It isn’t the first time we’ve seen art for sale on the blockchain. DADA.nyc is a blockchain-only dealer for digital-only arts. They create scarcity by limiting the number of editions of digital works, and using the blockchain for proof of that scarcity and authentication of the work’s origin and ownership.

A Singapore startup called Maecenas had the idea of “fractionalizing” artworks into shares which can be bought and sold on a distributed ledger. You could, for example, own 6 percent of a Warhol. Your money goes to the gallery or individual that owns controlling shares, and your investment appreciates along with the piece.

Verisart is a blockchain system for creating secure digital certificates and detailed, “tamper-proof” records for art and collectibles. Systems like these promise to solve some of the art world’s oldest problems: forgery, devaluation, theft, and the difficulties inherent in proof of ownership and transaction histories when relying on a paper trail.

With art transactions inscribed into the blockchain, prospective buyers can verify the piece’s authenticity, and can see the history of the artwork and its valuation, without encountering any personal details about previous buyers and sellers.

The First Major Collection to Be Auctioned on the Block

This is the first time a major art dealer will sell a collection using a blockchain platform. Prior to the November auction, a portion of the show is touring the west coast, with showings in San Francisco October 16th-20th, and in Los Angeles October 23rd-27th.

Barney A. Ebsworth, the late modern art enthusiast whose collection will be auctioned at Christie’s, was an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Art News listed Ebsworth among the World’s 200 Greatest Collectors, and Art & Antiques called him one of America’s Top 100 Collectors.

His home outside of Seattle was designed by award winning architect Jim Olson with the express purpose of housing the art collection. It included a den built around the 1929 Hopper masterpiece Chop Suey, “where Ebsworth wanted to see it as he read his morning paper.”

Chop Suey (pictured above) is one of the last Hopper paintings in the hands of a private collector. According to Artlyst, Ebsworth promised the painting to the Seattle Art Museum, where he was a member of the board. But his family has decided to sell it instead. The painting is estimated to fetch around $70 million.

Christie’s Continues to Pursue a Tech-Forward Reputation

Just halfway into 2018, Christie’s had already sold $4.04 billion in artwork and collectibles. They hold 350 auctions per year, selling artworks ranging from the hundreds to the hundreds of millions of dollars. While these sales primarily take place at their 10 showrooms, in New York, Geneva, London, Hong Kong, Milan, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam, Zürich, and Shanghai, Christie’s previously explored online-only sales with the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s collection following her death in 2011.

Other major dealers, like Sotheby’s, are no strangers to the value that blockchain can bring to their industry. If other art dealers follow suit with auctions on distributed ledgers, there could soon be widespread implementation of the blockchain’s trademark security and transparency for the benefit of the art world.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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There’s an Inflatable ‘Bitcoin Rat’ Staring Down the Fed 1 124

Someone has put a giant inflatable rat outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

It’s covered in Bitcoin code, printed in rainbow colors, and is apparently a piece of installation art aimed at subverting the federal institution that controls the US dollar. Or is it pale, puffed-up pariah a commentary on Bitcoin bros themselves? Or does it have something to do with Warren Buffett, who earlier this year called Bitcoin “rat poison squared”? According to CoinDesk, who first reported on the inflatable rat, the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.

The artist behind the puzzling prank is Nelson Saiers. He describes his own work as “mystifying” and “singularly original”, notwithstanding the long history of rats being inflated as protests or used as economic and political icons in art and entertainment around the world.

“It’s art, so I hope they’re entertained by it,” he said, apparently implying that art is entertainment. “It’s informative, I hope people will learn [and] I’m hoping it’ll at least help people understand bitcoin better and be kind of faithful to what Satoshi would have wanted,” he added, citing the mysterious pseudonym of Bitcoin’s founder with a touch of reverence.

A $50 Million Artist

Saiers, a phD in theoretical mathematics, was a hedge fund manager who did that thing where you give up all the money to chase your dream of being an artist.

His financial experience includes a stint as managing director at Deutsche Bank’s prop trading desk, before becoming CIO of Saiers Capital, the hedge fund that bears his name. His creative career gives credence to the theory that working as an artist is more and more a privilege of the very wealthy.

CNBC estimated Saiers’s wealth to be around $50 million at the time of he departed from the financial industry to pick up his paintbrushes.

The Rat Joins a Tradition of Sculpture-as-Commentary in FiDi

The Bitcoin rat, which stands on Maiden Lane, isn’t the first pop up sculpture to grace Manhattan’s financial district. Last year, Kristen Visbal’s 50 inch bronze ‘Fearless Girl’ statue made waves by staring down the famous ‘Charging Bull’, to the outrage of ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica. The 3.5 ton ‘Charging Bull’ itself was left on Wall Street in the middle of the night when Di Modica originally created it, obstructing traffic and drawing the curiosity of passers by.

When Saiers placed the Bitcoin rat, he initially set it up on private property and was promptly ushered off by security guards, who he says were good natured about the situation. He expects the sculpture to be more temporary than the aforementioned Wall Street bronzes, and will probably only be around for a few days.

A Critique of the 2008 Bailouts

The placement of the rat on Maiden Lane seems to be no accident, but rather a reference to the Maiden Lane Transactions, more commonly known as that time when the Fed bailed out the big banks after they all caused the 2008 market crash. The Bitcoin crowd’s antipathy towards the Fed and the big banks is palpable in Sairs’s rat sculpture, and while a more specific meaning eludes, perhaps the success of the piece depends upon its ability to start conversations about the state of finance.

We’ll leave it to the viewers to decide who’s the rat—the Federal Reserve, or Bitcoin itself—and what that means for the future of currencies.

Chinese Crypto Leader Li Xiaolai Suddenly Retires 0 131

One of China’s most prominent Bitcoin investors has announced his retirement from the crypto world. Billionaire Li Xiaolai is the founder of BitFund, a crypto venture capital firm that has fostered a slew of Bitcoin-related startups.

Li’s announcement of his decision to withdraw from cryptospace—and investing otherwise—came unexpectedly via his page on Chinese social media site Weibo.

“From this day on,” his post reads, according to TechNode’s translation, “I, Li Xiaolai, will personally not invest in any projects (whether it is blockchain or early stage). So, if you see ‘Li Xiaolai’ associated with any project (I have been associated with countless projects without my knowledge, 99% is not an exaggeration), just ignore it.”

Li is a former school teacher, and claims to be the first person in China to openly trade Bitcoins, rather than hiding behind its famous anonymity. Now, retired from both teaching and investing, he says he’s not sure where to go next. “I plan to spend several years to contemplate on my career change. As for what I’m doing next, I’m not sure just yet.”

Li closed his post by expressing that he still maintains a long term optimism about the blockchain.

Li’s Ventures Grew Crypto Capital, Controversey

Through BitFund, Li has incubated a number of blockchain related startups, including an off-chain wallet called Bitfoo, the crypto exchange YUNBI, and HashRatio, a miner manufacturing company. Li organized 2014’s Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing, back when you could get a BTC for as little as $440, and years before China instated its full ban on cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this year, Li also acted as managing partner of Hangzhou Xiong’An Blockchain Fund, a billion dollar fund backed by the Hangzhou government. Li stepped down after fellow venture capitalist Chen Weizing introduced a series of accusations against him.

Included in the eleven accusations, which Chen broke on social media and messaging platform WeChat, were a supposed debt of 30,000 BTC that Chen says Li failed to pay on time. Li published a point-by-point response to Chen’s accusations, addressing the 30,000 BTC debt by saying “it’s not true… Chen is just muddying the water.”

Though Li called them “defamations,” and Chen did not offer supporting evidence for his allegations, Li said Chen’s antics “brought material and negative impacts on the reputation of Xiong’An Blockchain Fund” and that his resignation would “let the Hangzhou government continue its push for blockchain development.”

Li was the subject of controversy on another occasion when, in a candid conversation he did not know was being recorded, he outed several influential organizations as scams and said that the best way to succeed in blockchain, even if your project is worthless, is to get famous and build consensus.

The State of Crypto in the People’s Republic

All crypto and blockchain related websites are blocked by the Chinese government, and citizens are forbidden from engaging in crypto transactions. The People’s Bank of China released a statement on August 24th warning against ICOs, which they consider to be “illegal fundraising, pyramid schemes, and fraud.”

But the rules have been difficult to enforce, and crypto still enjoys an active user base in China. Beijing Sci-Tech Report, China’s oldest technology publication, is now the first Chinese publication to accept BTC as payment from its subscribers. Chinese crypto channel cnLedger announced in a tweet on September 25th that Ethereum Hotel, China’s first hotel to accept ETH as payment, is open for business in Sichuan Province.

A Crypto Landscape Without a Leader

The sudden exit of Li Xiaolai from the Chinese crypto scene could have caveats, or greater implications. Weibo users expressed their support and gratitude following his announcement, but some also speculated that his choice of words leaves room for Li to continue investing in crypto indirectly, perhaps through funds or corporate entities. Whether that will be the case or not, for many, his resignation marks the loss of a public blockchain leader.

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