2018 In Review And What’s Ahead: The Evolution Of Identity And Authenticity For Physical Artworks In The Digital Age

Jacqueline O'Neill
Nov 20, 2018 · 4 min read
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Artist Nanu Berks with one of her BAC-registered artworks

With the new year on the horizon, our team at the Blockchain Art Collective wanted to reflect on our history and look ahead to what’s in store.

In 2014, we started with a simple problem to solve: how to give a physical artwork a unique identity that could not be replicated.

This issue dates back to as early as the third century BC in China. In those days, fingerprints were used to identify, authenticate, and verify important documents, art, and physical objects with unique value.

Since then, we have seen other iterations of these identities, such as clay imprints from Mesopotamia and wax seals from Europe.

Increasingly sophisticated systems followed.

Artists’ signatures and monograms were first popularized in the early Renaissance to celebrate the individual creator, as people started breaking out of the guild system and uniquely identifying their own works. These signatures served as helpful timestamps for dating a piece to a certain period over the course of an artist’s career.

Today, emerging technologies are making identity, authentication, and verification capabilities more powerful than ever before.

If you’re going to invest in an artwork, you want to have as much trust as possible that the object is worth your investment — and not a scam like this recently discovered Picasso fake.

Thanks to blockchain, IoT, machine vision, and AI, the complex life of an artwork can now be accessed by the appropriate parties over many years (even beyond its creator’s lifetime), while keeping its identity protected and in tact.

And those records are immutable. Once they’re registered on a blockchain, it’s impossible to manipulate or change them in any way.

By connecting these records to the artwork going forward, the process of piecing together provenance timelines, locations, associations, and paperwork is now trustworthy and efficient — and easily amended when new information becomes available.

This is system is creating new levels of trust between collectors and dealers of art, which in turn are lessening barriers to entering the art market. And that includes increasing the overall market, as well.

The BAC is building a platform based on this notion of security and trust.

Our goal is to serve as many parts of the art ecosystem as possible in a real and sustainable way.

At the beginning of the year, we introduced a tamper-evident, NFC-enabled Certificates of Authenticity recorded on a permissioned EVM-family blockchain for use with our mobile application. These physical identities and blockchain-based records contribute an unprecedented combination of functions to an artwork — the artist’s signature, a certificate of authenticity, and provenance tracking — in an efficient, unique, and secured manner.

Now, we truly have the ability to maintain an artwork’s identity and grow its value over time.

In September, we were one of the first companies working at the intersection of blockchain and art to launch a legitimate decentralized application (also known as a DApp).

We now have a growing ecosystem of artists and galleries, from Austin to Iceland, authenticating and tracking their artworks on the BAC platform. These include Nanu Berks, cryptograffiti, RFX1, and Krypto Studios, to name a few.

While the industry is in flux, our team at the BAC will continue to put art and its intrinsic value first.

Throughout the year, the industry saw blockchain applications for the art world make headlines on nearly every major news source.

Christie’s auctioned off its first collection with blockchain-based record-keeping last week with Artory. And more artists, galleries, and companies are finding ways to incorporate these new technologies into their own practices, like PRICELESS by artists Kevin Abosch and Ai Weiwei.

The art world is at a unique moment in human history.

And as new technological and social shifts keep happening, our team will continue partnering with artists, galleries, and other companies dedicated to making a positive impact on the art world.

We will stay agile, hungry, and humble in this burgeoning landscape, as we share new iterations of our physical-digital link and platform that has excited so many artists, gallerists, authenticators, museums, auction houses, and national governments to date.

We believe very strongly in the power of a united art world ecosystem, and we want to express our sincere thanks and gratitude for all of the people and companies that have supported us to get to where we are today. We are also proud to be a part of and support such a driven and talented community of innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs, and we genuinely love learning from you all every day.

Stay tuned for more big things from our team at the Blockchain Art Collective. We’re looking forward to continuing to build a better, brighter future for the art world together.

Thanks for reading!

Our team at the Blockchain Art Collective wants to make sure art world changemakers and innovators — whether individuals or institutions — are having an impact on this growing ecosystem.

Sound like you? Fill out the form to apply to the Blockchain Art Collective Working Group.

Blockchain Art Collective

Art Provenance in the Digital Age

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