Our columnist uses the “first-ever blockchain-based auction of fine art” to throw cold water on an overheated art-tech space. Tim Schneider,
June 25, 2018 Every Monday morning, artnet News brings you The Gray Market.

The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.  This week, dissecting one subject to put an entire system in view Maecenas logo. Image courtesy of Maecenas.

On Wednesday, art investment startup Maecenas opened online registration to participate in an event it is billing as “the world’s first ever blockchain-based auction of fine art.” But in my opinion, slicing into the details lays bare a number of deficiencies that also apply to much of the overheated art and blockchain space. (If you’re not familiar with that space yet, check out my primer from earlier this year.) Presented in partnership with Dadiani Syndicate, which brands itself as the first British gallery to accept cryptocurrency payments, the Maecenas auction in question will feature only one work: Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs (1980).

The painting will be divided into fractional shares collectively amounting to as much as a 49 percent ownership stake. These minority shares will be distributed to winning bidders paying in Bitcoin, Ether, or Maecenas’s own cryptocurrency, the ART token.

Sale and subsequent Wall Street-style trading of these shares will be tracked on a blockchain, allegedly creating what Maecenas calls a “transparent marketplace.” To Maecenas and Dadiani’s credit, would-be bidders can only participate in the auction after submitting some basic “Know Your Client” and “Anti-Money Laundering” details, including proof of identity and current residence. In theory, this requirement at least prevents the auction from being converted into a washing machine for dirty cash—a legitimate possibility that dogs many crypto-ventures seeking an air of legitimacy and wider adoption. Read more from news.artnet.com…

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