Most people come closest to owning a world-famous work of art by buying an inexpensive poster from a gallery, but art dealers are determined to harness technology to attract new collectors.
Anaida Schneider, a former banker based in Switzerland, is among those promoting new ownership schemes, for a small fee investors can buy a digital piece of a painting and split the profits when it sells.
“Not everyone has $1 million to invest,” she told AFP. “So I had the idea to split, to do like a mutual fund but on the blockchain.”
Each buyer receives an NFT, the unique digital tokens created and stored on the blockchain, the computer code that underpins cryptocurrencies.
Although crypto-assets have been routed this year with plummeting values, collapsing projects and mounting scandals, the NFT art sector has weathered the storm better than other parts of the world. cryptography.
NFT artwork accounted for some $2.8 billion in sales last year and the rate only declined slightly in the first half of this year, according to analyst firm NonFungible.
Collectors and artists are among the most avid experimenters with this technology, even if it means owning just a slice of a digital copy of a painting.
A fifth of the 300 collectors surveyed by the Art+Tech Report website said they had already engaged in so-called fractional ownership.
Schneider’s Artessere company, based in Liechtenstein, offers squares of paintings by Soviet artists, including Oleg Tselkov and Shimon Okshteyn, for 100 or 200 euros ($100 or $200) apiece.
She gives herself 10 years to resell them.
Schneider owns the paintings it sells, avoiding legal complications, but attempts to come up with new digital ownership schemes for publicly owned works prove trickier.
Thirteen Italian museums recently signed deals with Cinello, a company that sells limited-edition digital reproductions, to offer ownership of digital replicas of masterpieces.
The buyer receives a unique high-resolution digital copy to project on a screen and a certificate from the museum, which receives half of the profits.
The company held a splashy exhibition in London in February, showcasing digitized works by Renaissance masters including Raphael, Leonardo and Caravaggio. He’s sold a handful since.
But Italy’s culture ministry was reportedly upset that a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’ sold for around 240,000 euros, but the Uffizi gallery in Florence got less than a third of the takings.
A ministry spokesperson was quoted in several media outlets last month as saying the issue was “complex and unregulated” and asked museums not to sign any new contracts around NFTs.
Cinello boss Francesco Losi was unhappy with the characterization, telling AFP: “We don’t sell NFTs.”
Buyers can request an NFT to accompany their image, but the company said it has its own patented system for securing ownership, which it calls DAW.
Cinello said it had digitized more than 200 works and its sales had generated 296,000 euros in additional revenue for Italian museums.
But the company’s difficulties in Italy underline the mixed blessing of NFTs, they bring publicity but also suspicion.
The NFT industry, which covers everything from avatars in computer games to million-dollar cartoon monkeys, is teeming with scams, counterfeits, thefts, and washing trades.
Losi said he was well aware that NFTs could be used “in the wrong way” and was unsure what future they had in the art world.
Anaida Schneider pointed out that her project was protected by law in Liechtenstein, with the tiny principality being among the first jurisdictions to pass a law regulating blockchain companies in 2019.
Beyond that, she said her insurance would cover damage to the artwork and that she had also taken into account the possibility of the paintings losing value, although she declined to give exact details. .
“I hope that never happens,” she said. “For me, it’s very important to bring this idea to market.”