Verifying the authenticity of a fine art work has become almost the raison d’être of the art world itself. Without either, an art work can be entirely worthless. For instance, in this year’s respected Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, “Certificates of Authenticity and Condition Reports” are the top two services people want when buying art and collectibles online. But with the rise of the Blockchain — a decentralised permanent ledger — verifying the truth of something has come within reach of just about anything.
Startups such as Monegraph and Ascribe are entering this space both for the opportunity in the art world and for the wider platform play of ascribing authenticity to any image.
Now, Verisart, a brand new startup out of L.A., is poised to launch using decentralised technologies to help artists and collectors with new ways to certify, document, verify and enliven their works. It wants to use the block chain to build a worldwide ledger of art and collectibles, coupled with museum standard meta data, to provide immediate value for artists, collectors, apprisers and insurers.
Israel-based fund Rhodium has provided seed financing terms, but terms have not been undisclosed as yet.
It’s also managed to sign up legendary bitcoin figure Peter Todd as a Board Advisor. Todd is both a core developer for Bitcoin and an extremely vocal and well known figure in the blockchain/Bitcoin community.
By using the Blockchain, Verisart provides digital provenance to physical works that can be verified online and in realtime. This could benefit artists, collectors and dealers alike.
“We believe technology can aid trust and liquidity especially as more of the $67 billion annual art market shifts to private sales (peer-to-peer) and online transactions,” founder Robert Norton tells me. “We believe the cryptographic token used in the block chain addresses the privacy and security concerns in the art world by ensuring the anonymity of buyer and seller and other sensitive information.”
He goes on: “The art word is not broken. It just relies too much on middlemen to ensure trust and liquidity. We believe the advent of a decentralized world-wide ledger coupled with powerful encryption to mask the identities of buyer and seller will be attractive to the art world. As more art sales move online, there will be increasing demand for certificates of authenticity as well as the need to perform real-time verification of provenance. The blockchain allows potential buyers to verify the chain of title in a work without relying on any single node of verification.”
Verisart’s mobile app will launch in the next few months and will first be made available to artists, with the API for online sellers available shortly after.
Norton says Verisart will always be free for artists and is designed to help them manage their works and collector databases long term.
Verisart is Norton’s third business at the intersection of art and technology, after Saatchi Art and Sedition Art. Hi co-founder and CTO is Daniel Riley.
But Verisart is not the only one to notice this shift to the blockchain.
Part way through last year we reported on Monegraph, a startup which uses the cryptography inherent in the blockchain to authenticate digital art. Artists submit the URL of the art, and receive a block chain key and value they can store in a NameCoin wallet, similar to how they would store bitcoin. This is their digital deed and Monegraph can cross-reference if someone tries to claim that art work again. Monegraph also tweets out an announcement of the ownership to commit it to public record.
Ascribe allows artists and writers to create unique copies of their work that can be bought and sold and cannot, in theory, be duplicated.
The founders, Bruce Pon, Trent McConaghy, and Masha McConaghy have experience in banking, hardware, and art curation, such as at the Louvre. The company has raised $2 million in seed from Earlybird Venture Capital, Freelands Ventures, Digital Currency Group, and various angels. You can upload a digital image and state it is the definitive version, allowing you to loan it out to people or even transfer it to another user.
As you can tell, startups are pushing the boundaries on what is possible, even in such a rarefied atmosphere as the art world.