“If you’ve always wanted to own a coveted Monet or Picasso, block chain technology trends suggest that you’ll soon be able to make that bid.” MAECEANS Art Investment Platform
An ongoing argument in the art world may be on the brink of being solved through technology. The argument is related to the ownership of art and who should benefit from increase in value over time. One issue is ownership; another is value and beneficiary of said value; finally, tracking the art. I will try to simplify this just as a leading Black owned Tech firm, NuraCode’s CEO, Iziah Reid and Project Manager Desta Tonge did for me during an ad hoc consult for this article.
To begin, when an artists sells an artwork for $1,000 and said art re-sells for $1M five years later, should the artist benefit? Some artists say they should because the work wouldn’t exist and benefit the buyer without them, bekka. Some buyers say artist’s benefit is bigger than just a cut of cash. The value of the artist’s entire portfolio will rise due to the sale that’s benefit enough. I admit, I have an interest in this debate, as a womanager of African visual arts over the past 14 years; not to mention as a Pan African creative consultant, advocating for advancing Africa through the arts. That said, I have been actively researching solutions to help resolve this, equitably, for all in the art value chain as opposed to the age-old model; art is created; sold; buyer owns the art 100% PERIOD.
Reid and Tonge, ask, “…what if an artist sells 90% of their art work and uses technology to track it so they know location of art, sale price, and other vital info using blockchain technology?” Sell 90%…blockchain…!!!??? Well, maeceans.com, an art investment platform provides rationale to this cutting edge idea. “The biggest performers of 2018 included van Gogh, Andy Warhol, da Vinci and Picasso…(which) never lose their value. Few buyers can scrape up $20 million and thanks to blockchain, they no longer need to. 2018’s most notable purchases included the most celebrated artists of the last century, but cryptocurrency and blockchain have also introduced some interesting new trends. The most important of these is the accessibility the technology is creating for all income groups. If you’ve always wanted to own a coveted Monet or Picasso, blockchain technology trends suggest that you’ll soon be able to make that bid. If you’re not sure you should invest in those coveted masterpieces, historic appreciation trends will soothe your anxieties and those of your financial advisor.”
Here is how it works, “under the hood” according to www.blockchainartcollective, “…unique artworks and artifacts, have multiple components… required to validate the claims to an identity. We connect these three components: 1) an object/art, 2) a secure physical identity, and 3) a secure digital identity. In the past, all of these components were isolated, creating…weaknesses in the ability to prove…provenance claims or authentication documentation. Now, we have united these components so they stay together over the course of an object’s life, which allows for long-term oversight into the life of an individual artwork.” Voila!
So what does this mean in a nutshell For African artists, and Ethiopia in particular and potentially; reportedly the first collaborator with Atala for building a blockchain payment system in the country’s capital, Addis Abeba? In the near future, an artist will be able to sell a percentage of his art, kind of like shares in a company, track said art and benefit from increase in value. So let’s say Ghana’s El Anatsui or Ethiopian-American Julie Mheretu sells a piece at $2M; they choose to retain 10% of the art, $200,000; offering shares for ownership for up to $1.8M, the average art lover with kids in college and limited funds for a luxury buy can purchase shares as low as $100. This results in an increase in both artists and buyers financial portfolio through blockchain, a public ledger that keeps it all transparent through a chip placed on the art tracking its movement, gathering info along the way such as venues exhibited, number of viewers, condition of art and a host of other essential information, helping maintain the value of your newly purchased work through a holistic art identity. So do we need even more eyes on us in yet another web of “babylon”? With drones, incubators and all types of devices and technology offered in the 21st century to African youth by disruptors such as BlueMoon and IceAddis, already on the continent, the future of African art will be tied to tech. Says, King of Charcoal Artist Merid Tafesse, headed back to Gallery Guichard in Chicago for his closing, “I have mixed feelings when I sell a piece…it’s less about the money…there is a chance I will never see that piece again or know how much it is sold for in the future…if this technology is developed for us and by us, it can open new avenues for African artists to interact with viewers around the world…”.
If technology can help ensure artists and buyers benefit, much like musicians and record companies may earn from publishing in perpetuity; and if tech can help Africa retain its claim of treasures-to-be, then I am confident that the future of art in Africa needs to explore blockchain and all it has to offer.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.