How To Serve All Parts Of The Art Ecosystem, From Artist To Institution

Jacqueline O'Neill
Oct 30, 2018 · 4 min read
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Blockchain’s potential to change nearly every industry has been covered in thousands of articles by now. Everyone knows the opportunities are there — the technology just has to be applied properly to unleash them.

That’s easier said than done, of course.

People are naturally self-interested, so when an innovative technology comes along, they often focus on how it applies to them.

But as satisfying as it may be to create solutions that benefit a single group, blockchain solutions are only going to be effective if they consider the entire ecosystem of an industry.

In the art industry, a lot of companies using blockchain still have too narrow of a focus. Some are solely worried about the artists, others are more concerned with institutions.

Any solution in the art space has to benefit the entire ecosystem, not just one piece of it. Otherwise, there’s no room to grow and evolve.

Tracking one Picasso might benefit you, but you’ll get a lot further if all artists are involved.

Here’s how the industry can move forward together:

Understand who makes up the art ecosystem.

From the outside, the art economy may seem fairly simple — artists create the art, hopefully selling it and building their reputations.

But there are so many different, interwoven participants that the structure is much more complex than many imagine. (If you want to understand all the moving pieces of the art world, I recommend watching the documentary Blurred Lines: Inside The Art World).

  • The artists and their estates make up the first, and arguably most important, portion of the ecosystem. Without them, there would be no reason for the space to exist in the first place.
  • Even so, someone has to buy and appreciate the artwork. These are the collectors, auction houses, galleries, and authenticators. They make the art world spin, so to speak, by purchasing, authenticating, and showcasing the pieces.
  • Lastly, there are the institutions. They come in many shapes and sizes, but their common interest lies in protecting works of art and preserving the heritage that has been built over hundreds and thousands of years. Governments agencies, museums, and universities fall into this category.

By knowing who makes up the ecosystem, you can then work to gather everyone around a solution.

Choose a goal everyone can get behind.

People like to talk about how blockchain will change the world, how everything will be interconnected and transparent.

The fact is, none of that is going to happen if we can’t give people a reason to want a connected, transparent world.There has to be a catalyst, or a common issue, that drives everyone in the ecosystem toward the same goal.

In the art world, it’s provenance.

That’s because authenticators, collectors, artists, auction houses, and institutions all have vested interests in making sure a work of art is authentic. The collectors and institutions want to ensure they have real, original artworks — but provenance affects artists, as well. If you’re an artist, and your work is stolen or counterfeited, that means someone is diminishing your livelihood.

Provenance is the issue that has an impact on all participants. And the only way to move forward together is by providing people with a solution that is in their own self-interest but that also positively affects everyone else in the ecosystem.

Gather the ecosystem together to find a way forward.

No one takes on a massive, multi-year project all at once. Instead, you break it down into bite-sized pieces you know can be accomplished.

Step-by-step, you build and iterate towards the final goal.

At the Blockchain Art Collective, our team is currently creating a workshop in order to educate people about the space. We want to help others in the ecosystem understand why it’s important, what we’re trying to achieve, and why they should participate. We have resources. We have collaboration. And we’re going out and talking to people to find out how we can build something useful for them.

What we don’t want is a platform that fails to serve everyone and doesn’t embrace the social and technological promises of blockchain in the art world.

And the only way we can avoid that is by drilling down and figuring out what will truly help people. We want to know how our platform will best serve people, both socially and practically.

And we can’t answer that question on our own.

The art community has to actually spend time together and map out what the requirements are, how they’ll be implemented, and how they’ll be integrated cross-organizationally with existing systems.

Together, we can unite the art ecosystem and figure out what provenance will look like going forward.

I truly believe we have a platform that can benefit the entire ecosystem. It’s the only way to create a sustainable solution for the art world, and it’s the only way to truly bring the benefits of blockchain to everyone.

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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