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Art and the Blockchain: Bringing power back to the artists




With a simple timestamp, the blockchain can give a work of art a story.

It’s hard for an artist to get the credibility they deserve in today’s digital world.

One minute an image is created and shared on social media, and the next it’s copied by others. For hundreds of years artists have dealt with copycats stealing their work. Art historians still debate on the exact number of Leonardo da Vinci paintings, in fear that some are not authentic.

Now, artist’s work can be saved using the blockchain. With a smart contract, they can register their work on the permanent ledger and gain the copyright for their piece. Whether it’s physical or digital art, the artist will have complete control over the ownership. If someone attempts to copy the piece, both parties can use the blockchain to prove who created the artwork.

Even with the advantage of copyrighting their work, the blockchain offers more advantages to those involved in the art industry. One example would be using the blockchain to prevent a fake piece of art from getting into the hands of a collector or museum. If anyone wants to add a particular piece of art to their collection, they can check its authenticity using the technology without wasting any money. After all, finding out your Van Gogh or Rembrandt is a fake could prove to be pretty embarrassing and expensive.

The blockchain would remove the middleman within these dealings. By looking through the artwork’s smart contract, the buyer is granted access to its true past. In case of a mix-up, the smart contract could be used to show who transported the artwork.

A beneficial aspect of this technology is the prevention of art theft. By putting artwork on the blockchain, it is given an original serial number. Hundreds of paintings have been stolen or destroyed throughout history. Over time these pieces have popped up causing art historians, restoration artists and scientists to go over every thread on the canvas just to prove its the real one. If a painting or sculpture is stolen and then returned, researchers can check the ledger to verify its genuineness.

However, this would only work for new artworks or ones that are currently hanging in a museum. Since the blockchain has not been around since the Renaissance or the Dutch Golden Age, researchers must use the long way to verify paintings.

If Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, one of the most famous paintings stolen during World War II, or Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert, stolen during the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, were to find their way back into the public, checking its authenticity would take time.

The blockchain would provide correct information on stolen artwork, such as its original owners. In occupied France during World War II, the Nazis stole massive amounts of art collections. These artworks were stored in the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris where Rose Valland, a French art historian, worked. Valland was known for secretly recording artist and location information on more than 20,000 artworks.

Valland’s archives are very similar in the way the blockchain can return a piece of art to its rightful owner. The blockchain not only empowers the artist, but gives their art a life it never had before. Each piece would be able to tell its story through the public ledger.

Danielle Meegan

New Hampshire native Danielle Meegan is a writer based in Los Angeles. She has been published in a couple of sports and entertainment magazines and newspapers throughout the years and has dabbled with multiple virtual currency exchanges to understand the 'ins and outs' of trading. Danielle has invested in over 15 different virtual currencies, including Ether.

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