Can a polemic start like a joke? Let’s give it a try. Here’s the set-up: a big-data analyst, a chartered accountant, a blockchain startup founder and a technology research leader sit on a podium. What is that? Answer: the Deloitte Art & Finance Conference. Funny? Not really. Not so far, anyway. It only becomes funny when you add that the most frequent introduction of the speakers is: “I am not an art expert”. Now that is definitely odd. An art conference without any art, but lots of tech instead?
The obvious conclusion is that these speakers are just looking for a new application – the content is irrelevant. But surely the question of whether “fractional investment in artworks by tokenised blockchains” could possibly become part of economic activity in the art world is hardly likely to be decided on the technology, but rather on the object – in other words, on the art (of which, therefore, one should also have some understanding).
An understanding of your market is crucial in any business, and here we have the perfect example. The great advantage of blockchain technology is that it creates digital identities that remain inextricably linked to the object of contract. This is a big deal in terms of transparency, without a doubt. However, although transparency in the art market is important, the need for discretion is even greater. This does not mean money laundering, but a natural desire not to reveal to the wider public what one owns – which is impossible in the context of blockchain.
Here (and in many other instances) some knowledge of the art market would be distinctly useful, but unfortunately at the conference this elephant in the room was completely ignored. Should this event not have taken place, then? In my opinion, no, it was right that it went ahead – after all, lateral thinking never hurt anyone. But it would be better if these experts combined their undoubted technical expertise with a working knowledge of the art market. However, I will go again next year!
Further information on the Deloitte Art & Finance Conference can be found here.