According to an official Christie's announcement, the auction house is collaborating with digital art registry Artory to pilot the "encrypted registration of art transactions on a blockchain." This November, artwork from An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, including masterpieces from artists such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, will be auctioned off with blockchain-based certificates of sale.
The certificates offer, according to Christie's, "a permanent digital record of relevant information about [each] artwork." Such information includes title, description, final price, and date of sale. Following the November auction, successful bidders will receive registration cards that provide access to these details, listed on Artory's blockchain registry. Buyers' personal information is neither recorded on the blockchain nor by Artory itself.
Chief information officer of Christie's, Richard Entrup, spoke favorably about the pilot:
"The entrepreneurial spirit of the Ebsworth family and their embrace of leading-edge technology makes Christie's November sale of the Ebsworth Collection an ideal platform for our clients to experience this technology for themselves and to explore the advantages of having a secure encrypted record of information about their purchased artwork."
Apparently, Christie's has a history of embracing technological innovation within the art business. The art house has added other tech-focused elements to its auctions, such as online and mobile bidding, e-commerce, and livestreaming. For example, in 2011, Christie's held an online-only auction for The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor.
Entrup believes the upcoming blockchain pilot "reflects growing interest within [the] industry to explore the benefits of secure digital registry via blockchain technology."
Other art institutions have experimented with blockchain and cryptocurrency technology recently. London's House of Fine Art announced in August that it would accept cryptocurrency payments for artwork in its collection, and Maecenas' crypto-based auction of Andy Warhol's "14 Small Electric Chairs" concluded in September.