Physical vs Virtual: FTX to Alternative Assets

Butterfield sculpture like that featured in Denver's Art Hotel

Butterfield sculpture like that featured in Denver’s Art Hotel. Image: The Art Quarterly Staff Photo.

The implosion of FTX sets a prime example for companies and industries, like Fine Art, on the key to digital progress: trust.

Since Vollard, the revelation of what backs a work has been essential.   NFTs have the added advantage of being formally registered with blockchain technology.   Yet as is visible on OpenSea, the sheer abundance of “art” leaves the collector with either blind trust or “brand” trust.   The ability to provide something easily – a doodle – with little to no curation is not for the faint of heart for most when spending thousands.  This logic though transcends the physical realm of the modern art world.

Dealers and galleries have serious infrastructure at risk when they further justify their fine artists’ careers.   The actual records required to legitimize “the most popular, the most collected or the most influential” is no longer a press story on the evening news.  It is a visual contribution to the medium’s significance.   Depending on the market and the platform used to buy or sell a work of fine art, the artist and collector have a critical decision to make to uphold value over time.  Who and where was the work prior to the owner offering it for sale?

This week, curators, museums, galleries, dealers, and artists will congregate in Miami for America’s most celebrated series of fine art events and fairs.   The knowledge required to navigate let alone uncover the next “find” comes down to the entity backing the sale.   The fine art world has had its share of SBF – just ask Beltracchi or the owners of questionable Rothkos.   Ultimately having the work physically present for others to view marks an essential step for trust to be conveyed.   Mind you: it is only one piece of the puzzle in establishing a credible transaction today.

Author: Contributors

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