Even with the reluctance around cryptocurrency, NFTs are trying to appeal to classical arts through low-cost sales.
Despite the smell of sulfur hanging over the world of cryptocurrencies, some investors and experimenters are trying to introduce NFTs – digital tokens based on the same technology as cryptocurrencies – into the world of art galleries and museums. Virtually cutting a painting into small squares, each associated with an NFT: this is what Artessere offers, a company created by Anaida Schneider, a former banker from Liechtenstein.
Each NFT, a sort of electronic property certificate, is sold for 100 to 200 euros, which, according to the latter, allows “democratizing art”. “Not everyone has $100,000, or a million, to invest. Hence this idea of creating a kind of mutual fund. making it possible to invest in a very real work, based on the technology of the “blockchain”, she told AFP. The “blockchain”, or blockchains, are sorts of huge digital registers shared between a multitude of users, without central authority and reputed to be tamper-proof. They were made famous by cryptocurrencies, which are based on this technology.
“We know what we are doing”
Artessere started last year and offers works by representatives of nonconformist Soviet art, such as Oleg Tselkov (1934-2021) and Shimon Okshteyn (1951-2020). According to Anaida Schneider, Artessere plans to keep the paintings for a maximum of ten years before reselling them on the market. The added value will then be shared between the owners of the NFTs of the paintings.
But what happens if the work loses its value, or if it is destroyed? “We are insured”, says Schneider. As for the possible loss of value, “We don’t think that will happen. We are experts. We know what we are doing,” she says. The former banker denies that her objective is only speculative, and assures that her project completely respects the law on the “blockchain”, adopted by Liechtenstein in 2019.
The principality and tax haven was one of the first countries in the world to approve a specific law to regulate activities based on this technology. According to a first quarter survey by the Art+Tech Report website of more than 300 collectors, some 21% of them had started buying NFTs representing a fraction of an artwork.
NFTs in the art world represented a cumulative value of around $2.8 billion in 2021, according to a report by French company NonFungible. However, the vagueness that still surrounds the rights attached to an NFT linked to a work of art dissuades public museums from exploiting the vein. In Italy, where the artistic heritage is immense, the Ministry of Culture has declared that it is suspending its projects to create NFTs linked to works of art, for lack of legal certainty.
A digital Leonardo da Vinci
One company, Cinello, has signed contracts with Italian museums to sell digital reproductions of their art treasures. But the associated NFT is only an option offered to the buyer, underlines Cinello, anxious to stand out from the excitement around the “non-fungible tokens”. Cinello sells a high definition digital reproduction of the work, which is contained in an electronic box given to the buyer. This case is connected to a screen the size of the work, surrounded by a handcrafted frame reproducing the original frame.
The digital reproduction is protected by a code system, and provided with a certificate of authenticity which can, if necessary and if the buyer requests it, be supplemented by an NFT. Cinello indicates that it has already digitized 200 works, including those of illustrious masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, and claims that its reproductions have already provided 296,000 euros in income to Italian partner museums.
In general, the founder of Cinello, the computer engineer Francesco Losi, is still skeptical about the potential of NFTs in the field of art. “I’m not saying NFTs are going to go away,” he told AFP, but many are “used incorrectly”.
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NFTs seek their place in the art world
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