Current state of affairs
Art’s system has largely remained unchanged in the last few centuries; if anything, it has moved back from museums, community centres and public projects to the private spaces of collectors. Typically, the genesis of a piece of art follows these main steps:
- Artists design or produce artworks and submit them to art dealers;
- Art dealers showcase the artist’s work to prospect buyers, often involving an art critic;
- Hopefully, a buyer is interested in the work;
- This cycle repeats itself indefinitely. The more successful an artist is, the wider becomes their exposure and the commercial value of their works, but the process remains, by and large, almost the same.
This process is built on two cornerstones: the uniqueness of art works (which entails single-ownership) and a high level of intermediation. The main drawbacks of this situation are:
- Since there is basically a repeating cycle, where the success of each iteration ultimately depends from the buyers, these are the real deciders;
- Art dealers use their influence to steer the artists’ work toward the (perceived) needs of the buyers;
- The cyclic and heavily intermediated nature of this system favours a bottleneck selection, where an ever smaller group of artist gains renown and the others are trapped in lower circles;
- The single-buyer system favours works of art that are designed for collection and investment value, rather than public display;
- Artists becomes a trademark of sort and their signature is a mark of value, gaining more significance and centrality than the work of art itself.
The combined effect of these factors has a systemic impact on how art is produced and its societal role, moving from public and social display to private ownership. Furthermore, this has also an impact on the forms of art that are produced, reducing the space available for museum-sized works and performances.
Using blockchain based solutions
The introduction of blockchain-based solutions could represent a radical paradigm shift.
- a blockchain-based ID system allows each work of art to be “published” globally and safely identified and protected;
- the evolutionary capabilities of such a solution (metadata and versioning) allow to publish the work of art even at earlier stages of its creation, to enhance collaborative productions and in-progress funding (i. e. artists can publish their ideas and raise the funds needed to bring them into reality);
- a smart-contracting system embedded with the ID allows the purchase of the work of art with a series of options. These options include a non-transferable token, a transferable one or a mix of the two, freely defined by the underlying smart contract;
- this token-based system allows for a shared ownership of the works of art, with the non-transferrable tokens intended for a form of non-profit social ownership and the transferrable ones as a possible investment tool;
- an embedded governance platform allows the community of owners to take decisions on the management of the work of art, such as its display, cost and revenue management and distribution, as well as the editing of some metadata to create “collections” linking different artworks;
- critiques and reviews can be embedded in the metadata, via an automated system that certifies critical judgements and stores the cultural conversation;
- the ability to create versions allows works of art to evolve and change, creating a whole network of connections and opening new possibilities for the creation of meaningful art.
The main effects of the introduction of a blockchain-based system as the one outlined above could be summarised as such:
- a community-based ownership and management model for the works of art can enhance their public availability and thus their societal and cultural resonance;
- a streamlined, universal, meaningful and searchable ID system can allow a better circulation of the works of art, providing better visibility for new talents and ideas;
- the fully customisable mix of transferable and non-transferable tokens allow a flexible access to not-for-profit and for-profit funding (the transferable ones should be more expensive, to reflect their investment value);
- the value of the work of art would be more rooted in its conception (its cultural reality) more than in the object itself (its physical reality), opening new possibilities for transient, replicable or otherwise non object-related form of art, such as performances, digital works, installations;
- versioning and fundraising system could redefine the ways in which art is produced and enjoyed, in many ways that are yet to be foreseen;
- embedding the critical discussion on a work of art in its ID could amplify its cultural resonance and open up the conversation on art, giving relevance to the work of art in itself more than to its author’s signature.