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Let’s Discuss! Art, Technology and Consumerism with Art Unchained


We all know how digital technology keeps us all connected nowadays. But how does this affect the art world? Over two virtual Art Unchained Lunchtime Forums on “Technology, Art and Beyond” and “Blockchain: A Brave New World of Consumerism” in November, experts came together to share just how technology has enhanced the process of making, sharing and appreciating art, and the wider impact it has for all of us. Let’s revisit the four key points from these discussions.

Takeaway 1: There’s been an increased adoption of digital tools in all aspects of art. 
Many industries have long been leveraging digitalisation – and now the creative world is quickly catching up. Two current game-changing trends, according to Massimo Sterpi, partner and head of IP and Art Law at Gianni & Origoni, are the adoption of digital tools in the creation process and the concept of “dematerialisation” – artworks made with digital content like visuals and sounds – instead of three-dimensional objects.     .

“Not only are artists using tools like AI, blockchain, robotics, smart contracts…but the art market is adopting many of these technologies,” he said during the first “Technology, Art and Beyond” forum. “For example, AI is used for art appraisals, client relation management and even exhibition curation.” Meanwhile, blockchain technology is used to ensure digital scarcity, which means ownership of digital works can now be tracked and limited. 

Takeaway 2: COVID-19 has pushed the art world to its digital tipping point. 
Just as the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the way we live and work, it’s accelerated the pace at which technology is being adopted in art. “Before COVID-19, it was difficult to convince some established artists to produce digital art. It’s super easy now [because of social distancing restrictions that make traditional art sales difficult],” said Andy Alekhin, co-founder of “The sales of digital art on blockchain have increased at least threefold [in 2020], while there’s a growing interest among collectors in trading and storing digital art.”

Joanne Ooi, co-founder of Art Unchained, also believes that the pandemic is bringing the art industry to a tipping point in terms of its willingness to accept new technology. When traditional cultural institutions such as museums and theatres were forced to close temporarily, they had had no choice but to look to technology for alternative ways to reach their audiences. “Technology addresses many problems that have been revealed by COVID-19,” she said. “People are tuning into virtual art fairs and paying more attention to digital art.”

Takeaway 3: Blockchain technology is revolutionising the different industries.
“Banks and financial services providers have been using blockchain technology for digital identification,” explained Ashok Venkateswaran, vice president and Blockchain & Digital Assets Lead-APAC at Mastercard. “Meanwhile, food and consumer goods producers have been using it to verify authenticity and enhance traceability.”

Would you be surprised to hear that the music industry has also been undergoing a transformation due to blockchain? 

“For decades, record labels and content aggregators have taken most of the revenue [from music sales], leaving musicians with only a small piece of the pie,” said Dominic Edmondson, senior associate at Baker McKenzie’s IP, IT & Communications department. 

But now, with the help of blockchain technology, musicians are questioning this revenue distribution model. “There’s an opportunity to return value to content creators via decentralisation at an institutional level,” Edmondson continued. “Artists can share content with listeners directly through platforms built on blockchain and smart contracts, allowing composers and performers to get paid directly.”

Takeaway 4: Blockchain is empowering artists. 
Democratisation brought on by blockchain has led to many more changes in the art world. In addition to having more crowdfunding opportunities, many are exploring the concept of droit de suite – or the right to be paid on successive sales of an artwork. It’s similar to the royalty payments musicians receive when their song is used in a film or an advertisement. So, with blockchain, artists who’ve sold a piece of art can be paid for secondary transactions by showing a digital certificate that proves their ownership of the artwork.

“Ultimately, [in the art industry] blockchain is all about empowerment,” said Jean-Luc Gustave, co-founder of Art Unchained and head of Asia at GDA Capital. “It allows users to trade and interact with one another without intermediaries,” he said. “Whether someone is selling a picture, a song or a video, they can now be paid perpetually on any future usage of their intellectual property. This is absolutely revolutionary.”

Conclusion: Technology brings art closer to the rest of the world.
Technology can be a powerful tool that brings all the players in the art experience – from the audience, artists to art institutions everywhere – much closer to one another. “Digital tools can allow viewers to step into the mind and eyes of the artist,” Ooi said. “I hope technology can bridge the gap between the industry and the rest of the world, and act as an important nexus that draws people together to rehumanise art.”

Revisit the thought-provoking discussions:
Technology, Art and Beyond
13 November 2020
• Andy Alekhin, Co-Founder,; 
• Anna Lowe, Co-Founder, Smartify; 
• Joanne Ooi, Co-Founder, Art Unchained; 
• and Massimo Sterpi, Partner, Head of IP and Art Law, Gianni & Origoni; Chair of the Art Law Committee of UIA - International Association of Lawyers.
Watch the full discussion here.

Blockchain: A Brave New World of Consumerism 
20 November 2020
• Ashok Venkateswaran, Vice President and Blockchain & Digital Assets Lead-APAC, Mastercard; 
• Jean-Luc Gustave, Head, Asia, GDA Capital; Co-Founder, Art Unchained; 
• Jim Duffy, CEO, Tracr; 
• and Dominic Edmondson, Senior Associate, IP, IT & Communications, Baker McKenzie.
Watch the full discussion here.

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