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Christie’s puts up cash to invest in art-tech

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Christie’s Ventures // Illustration by Kate Walker

Christie’s puts up cash to invest in art-tech

 

The Future. Christie’s is breaking precedent by becoming the first auction house to open a venture-capital arm. The goal will be to provide funding that can transform the art world physically and virtually through tech. With rival Sotheby’s also experimenting with investing (although not through a dedicated VC vehicle), the auction houses may provide a fresh perspective to the tech innovations already transforming the industry.

Fine tech
Christie’s is betting on tech startups.

  • According to WSJ, the world’s largest auction house is launching a VC arm called Christie’s Ventures.
  • The fund’s goal is to provide seed funding for new startups that can help bring art collecting into the digital realm and companies that can solve persistent art-collecting issues through tech.
  • That includes startups that can help authenticate works, help with tracking and cataloging both pieces of art and collectors, and make the sale of digital assets safer and more efficient.
  • It also includes companies that help customers experience art differently, such as Christie’s recent experience in displaying a bronze sculpture as a hologram at two different showrooms so that the piece didn’t have to be shipped.

To start, Christie’s Ventures has invested an undisclosed amount into Web3 startup LayerZero Labs, which allows users to move their digital assets across multiple blockchains. It plans to invest millions more into additional companies over the next several weeks.

Crypto on the pedestal
Christie’s got its first taste of all things crypto, Web3, and NFTs when it auctioned Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days digital illustration collage as an NFT back in early 2020, which ended up turning heads with a $69 million sale. For much of the mainstream art and tech market, that event kicked off the NFT speculation craze, minted new millionaire artists, and sent NFT-company valuations skyrocketing.

The NFT market has cooled significantly since then — Christie’s own NFT sales fell from $93.2 million during the first half of last year to a mere $5 million in sales during the first half of this year — but the auction house may be sensing what the future of fine art is, and wants a hand in shaping it.

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