Blockchain technology has been bringing many crucial initiatives into different spheres since 2008. Indeed, it is hard to say in which area blockchain does not bring its benefits. We mostly mention physical products missing the correct information about the origin, supply chain, or used ingredients, but what about the creative world? Art piece, both in physical and digital form as an artist’s intellectual property, likewise deserves attention. These types of intellectual property fall under the categories of copyrights, trademarks, and patents. The revolution of blockchain in the art world can protect artists, art collectors, and galleries as well.
The art industry’s growing interest in blockchain was made evident by its presence in the media and organizing the Art+Tech Summit in 2018. One of the world’s leading auction houses, Christie’s, held its first-ever Art+Tech Summits, dedicated to discussing blockchain technology’s positive and negative attributes. In November, Christie’s became the first major auction house to record sales via blockchain (a $318 million sale).
In 2019 some artists (for example Frankie Aguilar) have already started testing artwork sales using blockchain. When a work of art is registered on a blockchain platform, its details — such as history and physical characteristics — are recorded and stored in a digital ledger, marked accordingly in time (recorded timestamps). This way, the art’s data becomes more accessible for verification and detection and cannot be replaced in the future. Some of its main advantages is the guarantee of copyright, transparency, and the provenance of the works.
Did you know that street artists, in order to get paid, are now using QR codes to get tips? A lot of them now include QR Codes in their artwork such as graffiti which links to their cryptocurrency wallet.
What is considered as art fraud? According to Britannica, Art fraud is an intentionally false representation of the artist, age, origins, or ownership of a work of art in order to gain financial profit. Forgery of a famous artist’s work is the best-known kind of art fraud, but fraud may also result from the knowing misattribution of the age or origin of a work of art, for example, if an art dealer claims that a vase was from the Chinese Ming Dynasty, for the purpose of making a greater profit, because works from those particular regions or time periods are deemed more valuable on the contemporary art market.
THE DIGITAL ART SECURITY
While digital art is infinitely duplicable and easy to copy or pirate, this would not be possible if the original digital artwork was recorded in a blockchain ledger. Artwork would be immutably ‘saved’ to confirm the attribution of the artist who created the piece and ensure ownership. Also, limited-edition ‘digital art’ pieces, stored as local copies of computer files, could be uploaded and fingerprinted in blockchain by artists wanting to sell their digital work online using crypto-tokens in order to receive 60% of the proceeds by removing unnecessary middlemen.
PROBLEMS OF LOCALIZATION
There are a lot of issues for an art collector to consider when lending an artwork to Museums. Key issues include ensuring the Loan Agreement reflects the terms of the loan including identifying the location of the lent article, settling their duration, understanding clauses outlining insurance terms and conditions, including whether the Lender or the Borrower pays the transportation costs, reviewing any immunity from seizure legislation in the country of loan, ownership and other legal issues, regulating the lawful reproduction of artworks and considering tax issues.
The owner needs to verify at all times the whereabouts, storage conditions, and all historical data about the artwork. As mentioned above the expensive art pieces must be transported and stored according to contractual conditions to prevent damage and loss of value. Today there are no practical methods to remotely verify storage of the piece in inappropriate conditions or when subject to excessive shocks and vibrations when in transport.
AVAILABLE INFORMATION ABOUT THE DAMAGE
When lending the artwork the crucial is historical data, right? One way to determine the authenticity of a work is to establish that kind of history review. Marks of ownership, such as owner’s stamps, may be found on the object itself, or dates signifying a change in ownership may be written on the object, but to be honest, historical marks on a work can be falsified as well, so the transparency of information is very much needed to determine authenticity.
Did you know almost 30% of the art market consists of fakes? The main problem is not much research has been done documenting the works of different artists. Also, the commercials of the underground forgery market are so lucrative, that even if one forgery is sold out of a hundred, there is enough money to keep everyone quiet.
How can blockchain technology help?
Counterfeits of exceptional works of art are a source of major value loss for the owners of the original pieces such as paintings, sculptures, and other objects. A distributed ledger technology as a blockchain is able to protect such sensitive information. In order to decrease the risk of counterfeiting or other tempering while a piece of art is on loan monitoring real-time GPS location of an artwork using dedicated blockchain-secured GPS, RFID, Bluetooth and other localizers connected directly to an immutable blockchain database is possible. The owner can see all the geographic and indoor localization information at a glance. The system uniquely identifies each artwork and provides reliable information to the owner’s mobile device. Advanced blockchain-secured IoT sensors allow continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity, shocks, and other environmental conditions which are of critical importance when lending the artwork in order to assure the owner about handling conditions during the loan.
According to 3IPK’s co-founder Juraj Zamecnik, “the unique combination of blockchain-enabled sensors for indoor and outdoor monitoring of location and of the environmental conditions together with immutably recorded data of a uniquely identified artwork can bring huge net value for all owners of expensive pieces of art.”
As such blockchain-verified information can be used as a proof for insurance or contractual claims. Indeed, the information related to the origin and history of each uniquely and immutably identified piece of art is securely stored in an immutable blockchain database.