Art value is reliant on originality. This is tracked and recorded through copyright and provenance. The system is not always perfect. Forgeries and plagiarism can slip through the cracks. However, new advancements in technology may be the key in solving these issues. Blockchain, the program that made Bitcoin possible, is finding new uses in encryption. This software could provide the creative solution that the art world needs to better control the market.
Blockchain functions as a digital ledger. Instead of recording transactions in one place, it sends it to several databases at once and maintains all information on the data being recorded. Whenever there is a new transaction, a trail or “key” is left behind so there is no ambiguity or a need for middle men. This allows for an easier flow of information. For the art world, it could bring greater transparency and trust to an industry that lacks regulations.
This software has many other potential uses. Programmers are developing ways of bringing Blockchain to the visual medium. Blockchain can be easily taken into the digital art realm, but they are looking at traditional art as well. Some of the proposed methods include scanning or the invention of a smart canvas that can translate the art into computer data.
This would work in a similar fashion as it does for finances. Copyright information can be carried across the world and shared with art collectors. If a piece of art is too similar in color or composition as something else, then Blockchain can put out an alert for a possible forgery. If successful, Blockchain can track who is violating copyright laws and maintain an indestructible record of these violations. Some developers are also hoping to make this service readily available for the public so that independent artists will have greater control over their intellectual copyright.
Blockchain would have a transformative role on the art market. It would simplify and encourage global art trade and give artists the ability to protect their work. It is exciting to see how new ideas and technology will fix age-old issues.
Authenticity is a major issue with using Bitcoin for art. I was recently offered a fake masterpiece for $30m. I did a quick Google search and found that the work was offered via Bitcoin earlier in the year. Based on this and other subtle hints, it was easy to discern that this was a fake. If the seller had been able to sell this painting via Bitcoin, the buyer would have been badly burned. They would have had no idea who sold them the work (since Bitcoin is anonymous) and, hence, no recourse after learning it was a fake. Herein lies the problem with digital currency.
While Bitcoin could provide a solution for newly created fine art and copyright issues, it has a long way to go to before becoming a platform for high-end art sales. Authenticity is not a perfect science, and most works by notable artists require the authenticity of a particular expert or foundation. Bitcoin can only be used if some type of authenticity stamp accompanied the art, which guaranteed the authenticity of every work offered. An extra fee could be assessed to pay for this guarantee (or insurance), which would act to add instant legitimacy, thus allowing important works to change hands anonymously via the digital currency. An arduous task in deed, but not impossible by an means.
Kenny Ackerman is an Art Advisor and Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. For more information visit http://ackermansfineart.com or contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.