Naufal Abshar’s Fishing Catch Games was sold in early 2018 using a blockchain-based art platform. Photo: Art Porters Gallery, Singapore
Naufal Abshar’s Fishing Catch Games was sold in early 2018 using a blockchain-based art platform. Photo: Art Porters Gallery, Singapore

Across Asia, blockchain is being increasingly used for both the authentication and purchasing of artwork. The trend was first witnessed in April 2015 when the Austrian Museum of Applied Art/Contemporary Art purchased work with Bitcoin.

Since then numerous galleries and start-ups are seeing the implementation of art buying with crypto-currencies  via the Aditus Pay platform, which was rolled out at Art Stage Singapore 2018 in January.

Four paintings, including Indonesian artist Naufal Abshar’s Fishing Catch Games, were paid for with the system, which Aditus calls “the world’s first luxury access platform for crypto-affluent.”

In China, Marcelo Garcia Casil, the CEO of Maecenas, a gallery that is promoted as a decentralized art blockchain platform that uses smart contracts and tokenization, discussed his initiative at the Shanghai Art Asia Art and Finance Forum in March 2018.

The Maecenas CEO said the fine art market is a monopoly that has not changed for more than 300 years, despite the fact it has increasing investor interest and a large market cap. “This market is not an efficient one,” Casil told attendees, discussing the high fees charged by auction houses, saying that three out of four general investors see transparency and low liquidity levels as entry barriers that prevent them joining the art market.

“We love art and we want to address the fundamental issues that have plagued this industry for years. A lack of transparency is probably the biggest one in people’s minds, but equally important are a lack of access to this market due to inefficiencies and high fees that prevent large numbers of players from participating.

“We believe that an open and global platform, like Maecenas, can create the necessary liquidity and transparency to completely transform the art market and trigger an investment revolution,” said Casil in a 2017 Deloitte Finance & Art report.

In Hong Kong, Whitestone Gallery has launched its own ICO fundraiser. “As a result of Hong Kong being the center of Asia’s distribution and the world’s art market, we opened our gallery space in Hong Kong. Whitestone Gallery provides an environment to support artists, similarly with the exhibition space, Whitestone Coin will be utilized by artists in various ways,” Yukio Shiraishi, Whitestone Hong Kong CEO, says in a video for the gallery, adding the gallery’s coin, which has now completed its initial token sale, will aim to fund an art trading platform.

The adoption of such technology across the art world, said Shiraishi, will reduce transaction fees, allow artists to connect with consumers and create verified records of ownership free from tampering.