Daily Inspired #19 - Can Blockchain Tech Impacts Art?

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The Topic

Continuing the topic of Blockchain & Art written on my last sharing, I did more digging about what is the current trend of the application when it comes to art and blockchain. I would like to find out more about its current challenges faced in the application as there is no perfect and one-off solution for everything. Even Ethereum has its flaw with its insane volatile fees and congested traffic. Reasons behind why people are opting for blockchain technology to solve the issue in the industry.



The Learning Points

Centralized vs Decentralized

Looking through blockchain projects that are centralized and decentralized, all of them have their very own pros and cons. For decentralization, we get this transparent and a no-trust issue event as there is no presence of a centralized entity with just blockchain technology working for us. As for centralization, it would be more appropriate for an application that connects the physical world to the virtual realm. There is still a need for a reputable and trustable "agent" that could enable the connection of the art in the physical world to be uploaded. Without the agent, there will be still a lack of inclusiveness for the art industry whereby only digital art can only be integrated with blockchain technology. Thus, my take is to build a lean and close to community kind of agent to facilitate the "upload" of art into the virtual world.


Case studies

  1. The NFTs
    • Non-fungible token (NFT) artwork is used to create verifiable digital scarcity, as well as digital ownership and to be able to interact with different platforms. The very first used case is the infamous Cryptokitties which at one point the "Dragon" Cryptokitties was sold at 600 ETH (worth 210,000USD as of now). The amazing part of digital art is how fluid it can be like how a game behaves. The artwork can grow into an ecosystem with more than 1 million versions of kitties that are available in the market for collection. This reminds me about how Pokemon cards and all other play cards work. When I was young, I did not see that getting the rare cards are going to be worth something in the long run, with the condition that the "culture" did not go sideways. Pokemon cards like the Charizard-Holo can fetch up to 12,000 USD as of 2017. The card was published in 1999 and in near to 20 years time, it appreciated around 600% per year. The most important element for which the items can have such appreciation in value is the rarity and stories. Without the scarcity and the right storyline that connects with the people who collect and willing to pay, then it is just an ordinary piece of card. It is the same as how NFT works.
  2. All Public Art Platform
    • This is a centralized art platform where artists can sell their artwork and provide services like courses or commission art service for interested parties. They are issuing APA token which is based on ERC-20 token and APArt token which is built on ERC-721 token. With that being said, it is clear that both tokens are issued under the smart contract of Ethereum blockchain which can have certain shortcomings like congestion and high gas fee. A great idea that all the activities are facilitated through the built blockchain infrastructure. Yet, I see there are some issues where it might be a good consideration point for new projects:
      • The tokens are not listed in any exchange, in other words, these token can only be exchanged with goods from the platform itself. This is convenient for the consumers but artists would have some issue about it as they would need to exchange their earning from APA token to fiat currency. In other words, this token is just like any points or coins that are issued by the company and only can be circulated within their ecosystem.
      • Another issue is the scalability of the organization where the flow of getting an art piece to be on the platform, the public can capture and send details about the artwork to APA Platform. Then, there will be personals from the organization that will pay a visit to the art piece and verify its authenticity. This will be quite daunting but I think it is inevitable as getting art authenticated may get tricky and tedious. To me, the process is right as it ensures that all listed arts are genuine and authenticated by the experts from APA Platform, yet for the business side, it is going to be a heavy OPEX to cover (unless each art pieces carry a good price). Thus, the business model has to be smart enough to filter through and only get the most promised submissions to be authenticated.
  3. Christie's Auction House
    • Even prominent auction house like Christie's had piloted the launch of a blockchain-based encryption and registration service for pieces of art. Such pilot test was done on the Barney Ebsworth collection whereby the tech partner, Artory(in charge for the registration service) prepared digital certificate for the sale of 300 million USD worth of art to be sold. Such an amount would justify the need for implementing a safe and trustworthy tracking and identification system. From this application, it also leads me to think about how about the rising artist which the artwork had yet to achieve so much value. How about them? Will their works be inclusive into the integration of blockchain technology?
  4. Parisian Bitcoin puzzle mural
    • Another interesting case of mural art created by a French cryptographer and graffiti artist Pascal Boyart. They had collaborated and hid 1,000 USD worth of BTC in the drawing. Due to the nature of the artwork it a political statement that was interpreted as "freedom leading the people" to depict the French protest group Le Mouvement Des Gilets Jaunes in a reinterpretation of Eugene Delacroix's work. The artwork was then being censored by authority with grey paint flushing. Yet, with the help of blockchain technology, the artist then moved the art piece in the virtual world of Cryptovoxels, based on Ethereum smart contract.

Fractionalized ownership

Conventionally, the ownership of a piece of art is under a single entity. Yet, now it has changed with the advent of blockchain technology. A piece of art can be breakdown into shares of the art piece and salable to people all around the world. This is just like how a company share works. When the company decided to raise fund through an initial public offering where there are a specific amount of shares being broken down and offered to the public. With that, even the public can have a share of the profit of the company.

In my opinion, fractionalized ownership could drive the development and growth of the art industry as not only people can participate in the works of their favourite artists which may not be accessible before since it is very much exclusive to the art professional and rich circle. From the perspective of investment, art pieces can be a good investment vehicle which can be way more lucrative than stock. Yet, it is very dependent on how the artist plus the curators work hand in hand to build the brand.

On the other hand, as more people are accessible to art which includes being able to own a piece of art from the convenience of their own devices. Then, this will change the game entirely as people can easily access and read about any artwork. When the artwork is interactive or it may mean something to the audience, then naturally it will form a bond between the art piece and the audience. From that bond, the audience will be willing to spend some bucks to have a piece of it as it meant something to them. This would create a positive cycle loop that can both benefit the artists as well as the public.


The challenges of blockchain integration for art

  1. Getting artists to participate - this will be one of the challenges where artists would question how blockchain would actually help with their career. If the process is too complicated and redundant, then it would not be practical for them to adopt the technology. Another point of concern is whether it is having to adopt such technology, how much value will it generate for the artists themselves. These are real questions that we need to deliver in order to get the artists on board.
  2. Flow of digitization of physical artwork - in order to authenticate that the artwork is genuine and not forged, there is much due diligence that are needed to be done. Thus, this would complicate the process of getting physical artwork onto the blockchain. Even for digital art, there would be a need for an infringement countermeasure that can cross-check whether such work is done originally by the artist. To be honest, it may be very subjective when it comes to originality and it needs documentation of the whole production process to determine whether it is indeed a genuine work. Such a tedious process would need to be streamlined and recorded as well in order to justify the uniqueness of the work. As for the current application, we see any artwork can be easily minted on the blockchain and become an NFT almost instantly. That would raise a question of trademark and copyright that the conventional artists are concern about, specifically the artists that had already made it and is earning through the brand that they had built.
  3. Public awareness - another side of the story that we also need the consumer side to be aware and participate in the process. In my region, I observed that not many of us are in the arts. The involvement is purely on entertainment like movies and music but for visual art, it may not be as stimulating as the previous both. When it is hard to communicate with the audience, naturally the art piece would be harder to reach out to more audience that is intended to have. In fact, even the schools that we been to had not been focusing much on the education about art and the subject itself is an optional subject that seldom gets chosen by the students. So when art is accessible through blockchain, even though it is accessible, yet the awareness may not be there to benefit from the accessibility.


Note: a very interesting infographic that discussed about art & blockchain.

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Source

Inspiration

It is indeed an interesting discord to research and discuss so that there would be more voices from different points are heard. With that, we can come out with a more comprehensive and relevant solution for the art industry. Will be continuing the reading and research about art, education and also blockchain. Whether or not the three elements will come together at some point, we shall see about that.


A special mention to @joshman who had triggered me to think about this topic and look into the possibilities of how blockchain could improve the user experience of purchasing artwork. I personally looking forward to facilitating and to be part of this movement to push the boundary. I remembered that during Steem time where @sndbox and @creativecrypto are a big deal that time promoting art and blockchain. Now, I have the chance to venturing into this with more time on my own and I see this as a potential that could impact many, especially on the part to empower artists. We are at a time where many talents are grossly undervalued and through blockchain, we could facilitate the open up the market to a wider audience too.

I would love to hear from the big boys & art players on the platform like @blocktrades, @theycallmedan, @azircon, @encrypt3dbr0k3r, @darthknight, @pharesim, @themarkymark, @gtg, @onchainart, @nftshowroom, etc. Hope to get inputs from the community and see how we can head this too. I would say this is an exciting journey to be on.


Reference

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Daily Inspired #00 - My Beginning
Daily Inspired #01
Daily Inspired #02
Daily Inspired #03
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Daily Inspired #08
Daily Inspired #09
Daily Inspired #10
Daily Inspired #11
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