Christie’s is Now Dealing Artwork on the Blockchain 0 76

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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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes and makes films in the Pacific Northwest.

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Chinese Crypto Leader Li Xiaolai Suddenly Retires 0 70

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.

Bow To Your New God, Blockchain. Bow Down. 0 131

It’s pronounced ‘Zero Ex Omega’.

It’s the brainchild of two people who apparently have lots of time on their hands and a penchant for publicity stunts: artist Avery Singer, child of Ramona Singer, who seems to be someone on television, and Bay Area whiz kid slash former CEO of Augur Matt Liston.

Together at a conference at New York City’s New Museum, Singer and Liston unveiled 0xΩ. It’s a blockchain religion they invented.

Do we need a blockchain religion? Of course we do. Look at it this way: blockchain has always been a religion. Singer and Liston are just making it official—and, of course, decentralizing it.

Not a Critique of Capitalism, But…

“In our secular culture, we have sort of replaced religion with capitalism or, rather, this rampant consumerism,” Liston told Wired. “0xΩ isn’t a direct critique of that, but I think it’s definitely a clear point to make.”

Put that way, 0xΩ isn’t so different from the Church of the SubGenius, which satirizes everything on Earth to rough sketch a core dogma of meaninglessness and mayhem transcendable only by the attainment of ‘slack’. Or more recently, it resembles trends in chaos magick, which asserts that “nothing is true and everything is permissible.”

These anarchic belief systems (or anti-belief systems?) can be seen as responses to some of late capitalism’s gaping failures, namely the frenzied fervors of consumerism, epidemic feelings of void and alienation resulting from an absence of cultural roots, and the general collapse of institutional religion as a place to find any meaning or value.

From this climate emerges the great and terrible Dogewhal.

Yes, Dogewhal.

“We have this avatar I’ve created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo,” said Singer at the unveiling, while muffling laughter.

Is this a joke? Yes! Is there more to it than that? Also yes!

The rest of the crypto world takes itself so seriously, it can stand a little shake up from time to time. If nothing else, 0xΩ brings that relief. While ostensibly the meaningless antics of the clever, it could actually have some new ideas about how we approach belief systems, and some new applications of the block.

The Block X Religion

0xΩ is a custom religion, but it’s also a platform for existing religions. On 0xΩ, everyone in the religion has an equal say in which beliefs prevail, and what will be the content of sacred texts.

It’s a takedown of traditional hierarchies in which acolytes apply themselves to the instruction of a master who holds the keys to the kingdom, hierarchies which people are less and less interested in.

“We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” Liston said. This deliberate manufacturing of consensus reality, if it works, would make Peter J. Carroll proud.

Where Did This All Come From?

The name ‘0xΩ’ itself has gnostic overtones. The void, or the original nothingness, multiplied by the sum total of all material existence, signified by the character Ω. Nothing times everything. Whence comes the universe? From what void does it all spring? You could ask the same of Bitcoin, which spontaneously emerges from nothingness just as the universe did, or does, maybe.

Liston, who also previously worked with a decentralized prediction company called, ironically, Gnosis, says he “grew up Jewish.”

He was pushed out of his position as CEO of Augur in a series of legal battles surrounding one of the world’s first ICOs. Augur, a betting tool that rewards users for correct predictions on elections, markets, or even the weather, seems an apt place to start for someone whose business aspirations seem to revolve around the ethereal nature of belief.

Regarding his approach to blockchain, Liston says “I’m obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I’m bored with it being a space that’s dominated by engineers and finance people.”

Like What Does Religion Even Mean, Dude?

It raises questions like: Is a democratized religion even a religion? Do the people know best on matters concerning the secret laws of nature? What is the point of all this? The best answer to the latter is probably ‘well, what is the point of anything?’

Sure, 0xΩ may be dismissive of the cultural post that world religions occupy. It’s a bit like someone mouthing a bunch of gibberish and declaring they’ve just founded a language. But it disrupts the evangelical fervor of blockchain enthusiasts, and that, if nothing else, is a service to humanity.

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