Formatted as a panel discussion on the impact and effects of new technologies on the collectors’ market, guest speaker Jakub Krcmar, Co-Founder of Veracity Protocol shares his insight with moderator James Goodwin, Academic and Founder of Arts Research.
James: What limitations does technology pose to this rather odd business – the art market?
Jakub: I have a short experience in art which gives me the option of looking in from the outside. What I see is a broad market where it’s hard to innovate and start something new. I believe a bigger change is needed in the infrastructure, typically caused by fear or force.
Regarding the technology, we already have it in place – we have smartphones in our pockets. Someone just needs to come and interconnect them all and determine what we do next. The biggest obstacle at the moment is that change needs to come from the largest areas.
James: What is the fear you refer to? What fear do you think people have about technology, apart from our age?
Jakub: One key aspect is that we need to keep learning. This takes energy and time so the most common reaction is to avoid change and keep things the way they are. That’s where the force comes in, a bigger company explains that this is the future. You are then left with the fearful choice, adopt the new technology and integrate, or be left behind?
James: Can you foresee any problems arising from the use of such technology? Have there been any case studies where the outcome is “Don’t do this, do that – these are the results”.
Jakub: The way everyone always talks about technology refers to the way it will help us. There is also a darker side. The technology keeps getting better which also facilitates the circulation of fakes and false data. Online trading trails, like Amazon Art for example showcase so-called genuine artists but there are no direct links verifying their claims. If there is no way of regulating, then creatives may face a threat and it may lead to less creative art.
James: Will it be resolved with powerful businesses in charge, with so much fragmentation underneath? Do you see a lack of clarity being a retainer of power in the hands of big businesses, or do you see it as an incentive for them to change too?
Jakub: What I see is that people are more engaged in technology – blockchain, VR, AR, AI – and how it’s all connected. Big companies are currently launching their experiments and they are prepared to take the lead. That said, it will always be the power of communities which can override these big players.
James: Do you have examples of this technology being put into effect
Jakub: What we see happening with blockchain is that the power dynamic is in the hands of its users, the community. Distributing tokens (which are used in numerous ways), means that this technology will support a stronger infrastructure which a big player will not be able to monopolise in the market. Tokens are defining a functional ecosystem and making the market more widespread.
James: Is there something in the market today you see developing into something bigger?
Jakub: You don’t have a lot of secrets in this part of the market yet. It’s about connecting everyone and integrating with an open-plan infrastructure. As a collector and artist you can own the physical asset. With fractional ownership there’s a guarantee that it’s not a fake.
Blockchain is the scary world. It is a buzzword at the minute and speculation always comes with new technology. It brings immutability, new forms of economy and benefits including tracked artists’ resale rights.
James: VR, AR, AI – how might that be applied?
Jakub: Currently nobody has reached the programming level of AI to that of human intelligence but there are definitely specialisations to identify and solve situations. In the collectible market, such technologies are ideal for image-based searches. But if we take it one step further, we can use AI to connect the physical artwork with its digital material. AI is basically a rocket-launcher on every program if it is applied accurately.
VR and AR connects us with digital art and immersive experiences and this already exists.
Another application of new technology is machine-learning, currently used as a forensic technique in attribution with brushstroke analysis. You show the computer the portfolio of works that have been produced, it learns the brushstroke technique and signature style and is then able to identify whether a new painting can be tributed to its author.
With technology it’s all about data, data, data and making it more precise.
James: One thing I introduced in my course about 3 years ago was neuroscience and looking at art, which at the time was quite an immature study. How do you perceive that technologically? Advertisers from the 1950’s or so have studied how people are attracted to a thing. Is anything in tech that’s coming up able to determine our tastes beyond our intuitions and experiences?
Jakub: There is no access to data that spots trends and behaviours in the market cycles at the moment because that’s one of the most valuable things in the art and collectibles market. No one wants to share it, which then prohibits any advancement in this area.
* This article is a transcription of the live discussion during the inaugural Art World Forum London event and is a part of a larger discussion.