Blockchain in the Art Market

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The Impact of Blockchain on the Art Market

Blockchain is considered to be a “disruptive technology” that is steadily transforming the global economy and will have a significant impact on numerous industries. The fine arts world has begun to utilize this technology to solve a number of issues that include issues of provenance, authentication, transparency, ownership, valuation, copyright, and art forgery. Blockchain would also be able to bridge the gap between art galleries and art lovers in a more secure manner that does not require a centralized corporation hub.
After a thorough search through industry reports, white papers, and other trusted media sites, we were able to find the information to provide an overview of how blockchain is impacting the global art market and its potential impact in the future.


The total sales in the global art market amounted to $56.6 billion, as recorded by Dr. Clare McAndrew, the founder of Art Economics for Art Basel and UBS, in The Art Market 2017 global art market analysis. Statistics also show that although online sales increased through the year, it made only 9% ($4.9 billion) of the total sales, while dealer sales went up by 57%. Unlike the other sections of the global economy, the art market is difficult to appraise. Similar to private deals, transactions are already being made by exchanging cryptocurrency for works of art, and artworks for digital currencies, all of which are not recorded in reports. It was in April 2015 when an Austrian art museum was the first entity to pay for a work of art using Bitcoins. Later in July 2017 cryptocurrencies became an acceptable means of payment in Mayfair art gallery, located in London. Transactions involving Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Monero, Dash, and Ethereum were then accepted by another fine art gallery called Dadiani.

Driving digital art sales through digital scarcity

A large problem that is faced in the fine arts world is with duplicating and selling pirated digital art. When digital arts are replicated for free, the value of the piece falls, along with its prospects in the market. Therefore, in order to retain value, there must be a need for scarcity. The technology of blockchain helps in solving this issue through the concept of “digital scarcity” which is defined as creating a specific (limited) number of copies and “tying them back to unique blocks proving ownership”.

Democratizing fine art investment

This year (2018), a company called Maecenas is working to launch its first open blockchain platform that will democratize the access to fine art. Art lovers have a common dream of owning some of the most famous paintings that exist in the world today. Due to blockchain, people can now purchase and own shares in a Monet, Picasso, or a Warhol. Museums, collectors, and galleries can put up their works for bid on Maecenas to raise money to buy future works. By using blockchain, the transaction costs will be lowered to as little as a fraction of a penny through cryptocurrency. The company provides a case example to show the savings that go into using blockchain technology. The example is a gallery that wants to acquire a piece of artwork for $3 million to add to its Warhol collection. The art gallery can raise funds from Maecenas investors by providing some of their art pieces at a 6% one-off fee. This amounts to $400,000 in savings for the gallery. It is found that the investors are also benefited by the transaction since the cost of transactions is significantly reduced and the cryptocurrency can be divided an infinite number of times. Maecenas has the ability to transform artworks that are highly valued (in terms of millions of dollars) into small digital units which can be purchased and sold in real time.

Improving provenance and reducing art forgery

Art forgery is also a major concern that can be actively dealt with the use of blockchain and thereby, can establish a system of secured authentication and provenance. The distributed ledger is the core of blockchain technology and provides a record of provenance that cannot be altered. This record of provenance starts with secure authentication and ends with the current owner of the specific piece of art. Apart from reducing theft and art forgery, blockchain has the ability to support and protect artists through methods of art monetization.
Verisart is a company that verifies and certifies collectibles and artworks using bitcoin blockchain. The company is working to reduce art forgery by providing a methodology of airtight authentication that allows verification of artworks in real time using image-recognition technology and distributed target ledger.
Monegraph and Ascribe are two other companies that are working on decentralized ledgers of artworks and collectibles. Ascribe, a Berlin-based company, provides artists with a certificate of ownership for every artwork they create. Each artwork is then linked to a specific cryptographic ID through which the entire history of the art piece can be obtained. Monegraph provides artists with the platform to verify digital assets using blockchain. After submitting their artwork online, they are provided with a blockchain key which is then stored in a Namecoin (open source decentralized key) wallet.


Through blockchain distributed ledger, the journey of an artwork can be traced from the beginning of its creation to the current owner. With this technology, every aspect of an artwork’s life cycle is recorded and can be traced, thereby eliminating one of the most major concerns — “fragile documentation”. Deloitte has created a platform using blockchain called “ArtTracktive”, which is a proof-of-concept model that validates every movement of the artwork.

Digital Assets

According to Invest Foresight, blockchain investors evaluate the prospects of establishing downloadable artworks into the market of digital assets. People can purchase digital assets using digital currency units. The very first digital assets market ( platform) for contemporary fine arts will be launched sometime this month (February 2018). The following are the four distinct product categories for digital artworks,
Limited number of copies and no access to get the printed version
Limited number of copies and access to get the printed version
Unlimited number of copies and access to get a printed version
Unlimited number of copies and no access to get a printed version.
Crypto-investors can obtain digital assets from one marketplace, which they can later sell at other marketplaces for different digital currencies and regular currencies (dollars, euros, or rubles).


To wrap up, blockchain is a public database that is increasingly being used in the fine arts world. Blockchain technology will continue to impact this industry in various aspects like fine art investment, fight against art forgery, digital art sales, etc. The technology provides secure transactions on a decentralized ledger that helps solve issues of provenance, authentication, transparency, copyright, and art forgery.

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Provenance Solutions in the Global Art Market

Blockchain is a growing technology within the global art market that is providing further transparency around the provenance of pieces of art. Further, there are numerous self-regulation solutions that various artists, museums, art professionals, collectors, and wealth managers are utilizing to validate their pieces. What follows is an overview on self-regulated solutions that are currently being implemented in the art landscape, as well as the rise in blockchain technology, and its capabilities to prevent forgery. A list of new blockchain products have been included as well, however it’s important to note that this technology is relatively new, so many products are still within the start-up phase and have yet to be implemented on a large scale.


2/3 of art professionals, collectors and wealth managers approve of self-regulation of art. United Kingdom already has three self-regulating art authenticity organizations (LAPAD, BADA, SLAD), all of which have members that can verify and regulate their conduct, ethics, and codes of practice. France has the Comite Professionnel de Galeries d’Art, which is working on updating their code of practice to reinforce the self-regulation of art authentication.

However, 36% of wealth managers also want more government regulation within the art market as well. This can be accomplished with adding more layers of official regulation as it relates to artwork, with governments cracking down on current laws as it relates to fraud and money laundering. If governments start to hold more of the accused responsible as it pertains to local crime laws, the amount of art fraud and forgery is then projected to decrease.


A physical signature tag can be attached to artwork that cannot be tampered with. It can work on any backing of artwork or media (e.g. video, sculptures, photographs, or paintings), and is supported with a facial recognition system.
Utilizing the signature tag, the artwork is then part of the Look Lateral Network, which links all “relevant data (via a blockchain technology stack) to pertinent historical information and physical transfer data that accumulates during its lifecycle.” Data is continuously added to the network each time a physical transfer of the artwork takes place. AI (artificial intelligence) is used within the system to process real-time data, which can deliver pricing and indexing information.
If an artwork is owned by more than one individual, it can be divided into portions (tokens), and will be equated as shares for the individuals involved. For example, if someone owns more than 50% of a piece of artwork, they are the outright owner, whereas if someone owns less than 50%, multiple owners are given “tokens against price, dividends, and voting rights.”

TagSmart is an art “DNA” tag proof of authenticity that is placed on the artwork itself, to provide proof of ownership. A “digital passport” of the artwork’s information is then uploaded to the platform, and numerous artists have started utilizing this technology with their pieces, including Marc Quinn, Idris Khan, and Deborah Azzopardi.
Art Fraud Insights is an anti-fraud initiative that analyzes global data in the art marketplace, and uses a specially-designed methodology to identify forged artworks and “deceptive practices by sellers.” The system can then identify the scope of the fraud problem and make recommendations for the buyer.

I2M is a product (similar of TagSmart and Signature Tag) that can be appended to all art “invisibly, non-invasively, and permanently” in order to prevent future fraud and forgeries of the artwork.


Blockchain can be used to prevent forgery, as it establishes provenance and authentication of the artwork. At its base, blockchain technology is a ledger, meaning that it captures records of owners and the original artist, leading up to the current owner of the piece. This ledger is permanent and unalterable, providing validity of the piece and owner. Further, blockchain technology allows for real-time verification through image recognition technology. Blockchain is best used for current living artists, and there are future plans to authenticate older works of art.

Once a piece of artwork is forged and replicated for free, the value of the art decreases. Blockchain technology can limit the number of copies, and then “tie them back to unique blocks proving ownership”, which in turn, increases the value of the artwork, as the scarcity has been proven. Utilizing blockchain, a user can purchase digital artwork with proof of ownership and IP protection. Once a piece of artwork is embedded with blockchain technology, it cannot be modified, which supports the validity of the artwork.

Three key components of blockchain technology include the following:

1: Authentication/Attribution: Utilizing blockchain, the artist can personally verify that the work is theirs, and because once it is implemented it cannot be modified, a forger cannot attempt to change the artist name or reproduce the artwork as their own.

2: Digital Editions: The artist can limit the number of digital editions allowed for sale. For example, if an artist lists 200 pieces of artwork, your proof of ownership can be confirmed with your number of purchase (e.g. 44 of 200). The ownership information cannot be changed or duplicated.

3: Provenance: Regardless of how many times a piece of art is bought and resold, your original purchase, and the purchases of future owners, are documented through blockchain technology and, as the theme is with blockchain data, it is unable to be modified.


A newer piece of blockchain technology utilized for provenance is called Codex Protocol, which is a “decentralized title registry for art and collectibles.” It is designed to work with numerous forms of art, including classic cars, jewelry and fine wine, on top of the traditional paintings and sculptures. Details included with each piece of artwork include the owner, identity of the object, and where it has been displayed.
Versiart is another new blockchain platform that is working to verify artwork authenticity. It’s a free service that will generate permanent certificates for the artists, utilizing ledger technology, image recognition, and museum certifications.

While blockchain technology is beneficial for artwork that has been created by artists still living, and for future pieces, it does not help the issues that have occurred in the art trading world as it relates to pieces from deceased artists. Leaders within the art industry are still working to combat the issue of provenance as it relates to historical pieces of art.


Self-regulation in transparency around provenance is a growing trend in the art market, as many technologies are allowing for "invisible, permanent" data trackers that can be placed onto physical pieces of art. Through the utilization of blockchain technology, the risk of forgeries entering the market will drastically reduce, and transparency around provenance will increase. Blockchain technology capabilities within the art landscape are still in the early stages of development, and implementation is currently being done on a small scale. As the technology is only beneficial for artwork created by living artists, leaders in the market are still working to solve the transparency of provenance for historical pieces.