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Episode 22
Art & Tech Expert Anne Bracegirdle

  • 1 min read

Episode Description

01:06 - Anne Bracegirdle discusses navigating the waters between the legacy art world and the crypto art world. Anne spent a decade at Christie’s where she spearheaded the auction house’s Art+Tech initiative, before diving headfirst into arttech at Superblue and co-founding the Art & Antiquities Blockchain Consortium. She is a frequent speaker about the confluence of art and technology and now serves as the VP of Business Development for Metaversal.

28:11 - The week's top art headlines.


Craig: [00:00:11] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with legacy art world and crypto art world conduit Anne Bracegirdle, and spent a decade at Christie's, where she spearheaded the Auction Houses Art and Tech initiative. Before diving headfirst into art tech at Super Blue and co-founding the Art and Antiquities Blockchain Consortium, she's a frequent speaker about the confluence of art and technology and now serves as the VP of business development for metaverse oil. At the end of the episode, I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, bridging the art world divide with Anne Bracegirdle.

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Craig: [00:01:06] Anne Bracegirdle, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. You have kind of been at the forefront of a lot of the conversations around art and technology for for a number of years. I was wondering if you might be able to just for the sake of of my listeners kind of give us kind of a snapshot of your background and how you got to where we are today.

Anne: [00:01:28] Sure, I'm happy to. And thank you for having me on the show. I'm really excited to be here and always happy to talk about the merger of art and technology. So my background is entirely within the commercial art world. So I was in our history major and photographer in college, and then I spent about a decade working as a specialist at Christie's in New York. And in that capacity, I helped people buy and sell art essentially, and I became fluent in the incredible inefficiencies within the art market and became intimately aware of how difficult it is to be a buyer and a seller in the art market. And in about 2017, I discovered blockchain through a friend and quickly realized the many ways in which that technology can revolutionize the art world and so many of the sort of antiquated difficulties within the industry. So I spiraled down the blockchain rabbit hole, became involved in the digital art scene and community in New York, and just basically spent all of my time outside of my working hours focusing on educating myself, becoming more involved in the community. And then Christie's allowed a colleague and myself to organize a conference about blockchain in an attempt to educate people within the industry about the tech. And that was in twenty eighteen in London. And since then, I've I've been involved in the space, and now I've found my way into a full time day job focusing on NFT. So very excited to have made it here.

Craig: [00:03:08] How would you say your background has provided you a unique insight as to the future of art and blockchain? You come from a legacy art world, but you know you've kind of. And I guess that's what a lot of the conversations I'm having with people in this new NFT space is missing. Is that knowledge or history or awareness of the legacy art world, it's it's such a new space and so many of the players are kind of native to this new space. Can you kind of talk about your unique insight that you bring to what you see going on in terms of blockchain and art?

Anne: [00:03:48] The reality is that I, I would not have become so passionate about the potential of blockchain if I had not worked for 15 years with clients, art advisors, people who were trying to sell their collections or acquire collections if it had not been for my for my time being ingrained within the art world that I wouldn't have realized the true potential of the tech. And I think. Unless you've been engaged in the in the art world and tried to participate, it's hard to really grasp the complexities and how digitally antiquated the system is overall, how hard it is to have a sense of value, right? Many people try to penetrate the art world and come to an art fair and see a piece selling for $100000. They look it up online. They see that it's sold at auction the previous year for $30000 and the reality of understanding how that value is created. Unless you are, you have forged close relationships with people in in the gallery space. In the auction world, it's hard to really understand how it functions, and that's specifically why it is so perfectly suited for blockchain because it has functioned within this space of opacity and and trust. It's a system in a market that is unregulated and entirely functions on trust. And so. It is that sort of innate understanding that. Makes me sort of. I'm instinctively understand how blockchain is going to really revolutionize the art world and make it an open it up to a much wider audience.

Craig: [00:05:45] That's one of the questions I have about the legacy art world. Entering this space is the question of opacity and transparency. Is the legacy art world ready for the level of transparency that kind of comes along with the blockchain. There are certain people who have made careers around knowing where the bodies are buried. Keeping data very murky, like "my value is that I can help you navigate that" versus, you know, a blockchain is very transparent. And so do you think there will be resistance from the legacy art world in terms of just how transparent the blockchain is? Or will they really embrace, you know, the ability to manage all this data and have real time transparency about provenance and those sorts of issues?

Anne: [00:06:33] What they're already open to that we're seeing is a willingness to engage. Suddenly, this new group of collectors who have never participated in the traditional art world but who connects deeply with NFT, who are very comfortable with crypto and now suddenly provide access to this new buyer pool that the art world has never seen before. And that's naturally compelling and interesting. And so that I think they're already seeing that right with Sotheby's opening a new metaverse platform. And obviously, Christie's has been providing a lot of support for new projects and a lot of NFT events. And I think there's also, I think clearly a willingness to consider. What the potential of NFTs have as a medium. I think we're a long way from many of the legacy institutions really understanding what success means for an NFT projects, but there's clear interest in in looking into that. And much of what makes what makes an NFT project successful is how conceptual it is. And that I think can resonate really well with people who have an appreciation for modern art, for conceptual art, et cetera. So I think I consider this movement that we're in right now to be a gateway for the industry to wrap their heads around how the technology can benefit and benefit everyone in other ways. I genuinely believe that. If there is more transparency with regard to provenance tracking and value consolidation, I imagine that the industry being, you know, opening up to a much wider audience and people feeling a lot more comfortable buying art, starting a collection. So if that's going to result in galleries and artists, having more people know their work and interested in it than that, then all the boats will rise. But I think it's going to take some time for people to recognize that. Ok, so blockchain has provided a new medium for this digital art, but let's also take a step further and look at the technology itself and what else is capable of

Craig: [00:08:49] In the legacy art world. There are public auctions, and then there are private sells through galleries and art dealers, and the auctions seem pretty democratized. But the private sales are usually very restricted. You know, I'll talk to late career artists, and the thing that they're most concerned about is their legacy. Getting into museums and what they've always been told from their gallery is we're not going to sell your work to every collector. We're going to sell it to the right collector, the collector that intends on moving your work into museums. And so a lot of galleries, even if you had the money to buy a particular piece, they're not going to sell it to you. I'm just wondering, do you feel the blockchain will aid in democratizing this process? Or do you think these exclusionary processes will carry over to this new space?

Anne: [00:09:43] I think at a minimum. Having transparent provenance and transparent values consolidated throughout the market will expose an artist's work to more people. Which I think will expand the potential buyer pool and provide more access to more people, which I think an artist would agree that they would be interested in. Naturally, there is still a role to play for that dealer who is going to help the artist in seeking a relationship with the museum and finding spaces for them, for their works, for the artist's work to be in a museum's collection. So I think there's there's clearly there's still a role to play for guidance within the market that dealers provide to artists. But it's hard to say, I'm not entirely sure. How? How we'll see the level of control play out, whether much of the industry will embrace a permissioned blockchain first to ensure that they have that sort of a tighter control over who ultimately acquires the piece? I think that's to be seen, but at a minimum, I do believe that it will quote democratize the process more and it'll provide significantly more access for more people.

Craig: [00:11:18] I read an article earlier this week about Constitution DAO's effort to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution at auction, and I know this falls more into the category of collectible. But the fact that 20,000 people kind of came together over the course of just three days to raise forty seven million to bid on something seems like a radical shift. Can you talk a little bit about how the blockchain will challenge our preconceptions about what we define ownership of art to be?

Anne: [00:11:50] What's interesting is that currently there are people, for instance, groups of dealers who come together and buy a piece of art collectively. So interestingly, that sort of collective purchasing has happened previously. But again, if you think about the reasoning behind why they would do that, ultimately it's to benefit the say there's three dealers, you know, it's to benefit them, they're going to sell it together. The three dealers will provide the funds of the eventual next sale. But what was so beautiful about Constitution Dow was the reasoning behind why they wanted to purchase the Constitution. Basically, the acquisition of that being symbolic of the ethos of Web3. And so the reasoning behind why they wanted to collectively own this piece was a drastic shift from a general sort of just commercial enterprise. It was entirely to keep the document for the people to house it in a museum for the people, and an acknowledgment again of what people find to be one of the most beautiful elements of the future of decentralization and Web3. And so I think the reasons behind the why of ownership are evolving in real time. And I think that's incredibly exciting.

Craig: [00:13:08] So tell me about your your current day job with Metaversal. What does Metaversal do?

Anne: [00:13:13] So Metaversal we have two arms of our business? On the one side, we are an investment company, so we invest in iconic NFT projects. We also invest in startups that are enabling the Metaverse. And by that, I mean, we invest in startups that are creating infrastructure to build the future of NFTs and the future of the Metaverse. And we're also investing in non-profits to do the same. And the other part of our business is our studio and the studio co-curators and co-produces NFT projects with artists, creators, brands, basically anyone who holds IP and isn't quite sure how they want to translate this IP or their legacy into the future of NFTs, into the Metaverse, and they need a partner in doing that. And the way in which that studio is related to the investment arm of our business is that we take on the risk capital and we engage with partners. So we cover the cost of production and really manage the entirety of the production and execution process in collaboration with the partners. So we're not a platform. We're not a fund. We're not an advisory firm where we're really partners in helping bring content essentially into the NFT space and into the metaverse more broadly.

Craig: [00:14:37] Well, you know, the conversations I've had with folks on the art side, my impression is that this is how the legacy art world is going to enter this market. It's through collaboration and through, you know, like what I try to equate it to our notions of fabrication in legacy art world, right? If somebody like Anthony Gormley or KAWS is building a 50 foot sculpture, they're not going out and doing that themselves. They have a team that specializes in those materials to fulfill that vision for them, right? That's very much how I think that the artists from legacy art world will wind up entering this space is through a studio relationship like you described. And so. So you said, there's studio. There's what about not you described a nonprofit side. What? What's going on there?

Anne: [00:15:32] Before we dove into that, I wanted to just say that I completely agree with what you just said to what sort of legacy the art world needs as far as assistance. And I think it's also super important for both sides is that there's a translator and an educator to help both sides really understand the value structure and the value system that is underpinning the other industries. So what I mean by that is, you know, there's a real need often for education when it comes to, OK, well, what? Why isn't NFT projects successful, right? There's you know, as we're seeing, there's so many legacy players expect that, OK, they can just associate an NFT to a physical, physical artwork and sell a digital twin. And that's that and it will be successful. And the reality is that there's a significant likelihood that that will just fall flat and there won't be any awareness of of the even selling. So there's a need to really curate projects. So that is sort of what what we what we consider ourselves as like experts in doing is we have a team of crypto natives. We understand the NFT space and can educate people on, OK, we need you to think about the reasons why community is so important here and within the NFT world. And in addition to just helping with the technology and the execution of the project, there's also a need to help educate both sides. On the different value systems within each industry and what success really looks like. Yeah, and as far as as far as nonprofits are concerned, we want to build an open metaverse that we're proud of, that we're happy to exist in, that is more equitable, that is more diverse. And we really want to support nonprofits that across all cultural sectors that are building a future of culture that we're proud of. And so that's also part of our of our investment strategy longer term.

Craig: [00:17:31] You know, the investment side, I mean, are you operating like a small venture capital fund or is it more? Are they smaller investments into specific blockchain related projects?

Anne: [00:17:45] So we're not a fund. We're a C Corp holding company and we're investing a significant amount of the capital we've raised into acquiring essentially a corporate collection. And again, also investing investing in startups. So we have an analyst team and an investment committee, and the function of those two roles is to figure out the ideal investment strategy when it comes to which projects you want to acquire and what we believe to be. The most iconic projects with the most potential and the works that are sort of aligned with our values as a company and an example of one of our first acquisitions was was a noun we acquired noun number nine. And because we really believe in that project as representing so much about what we love about the NFT community and the potential of these projects,

Craig: [00:18:40] What hurdles do you think need to be overcome for the NFT space to become everything it's capable of being?

Anne: [00:18:47] I think there needs to be a lot of education on both sides and by both sides. I mean. The traditional art world and the NFT community, I think there's still a lack of understanding from both sides of the most beautiful and exciting elements of the other. You know, as I mentioned earlier, many people within the legacy art world just see these massive sales and have no idea why they should just be excited by a tape, for instance, and they're thinking of it in the traditional sense of just purely esthetically without understanding. The collective nature of the project, the utility aspects of the tokens, right, I think there's still such a lack of understanding of the utility of NFTs and the potential to engage and reward and incentivize your collector base, who also then defines a future of the project, right? It's that nature of active collective ownership. But I think there's there's still a lack of understanding of that, and I think, you know, on a very basic level. The traditional art world has never existed on Twitter. You know, going back to the Constitution, though, Brooke Lampley, who was the ultimate winner of the Constitution, the specialist of Sotheby's, she just made a Twitter account last week to engage with the with all of the hype that was sort of on Twitter about her. So on a basic level, there's a need for people with the legacy art world to engage with the NFT and crypto community to understand.

Anne: [00:20:31] The value system, which currently feels very different from the value system of the art world. Another quote I read Fanny Lockerby in her weekly newsletter made a joke about how, oh, last week the art world learned how to have fun, and I think there was this sense of fun with regard to the Constitution bidding and. Generally speaking, the art world has been, you know, it thrives a bit on exclusivity. It can be a bit impenetrable. Again, it's hard to understand there's a lot of elitism that drives the space and there's it's really quite the opposite in the Web3 community and and so I think there's a real opportunity for both sides to get to know one another. You know, I don't want to necessarily just say that that is the entire value structure within the art world, because the reasons why we are all so moved by art like that is, of course, very real. There's also a need to educate the NFT, Web3 and crypto community on the beauty of fine art as well, right? So there's I think there's still a ways to go before those two worlds really collide. I'm hoping there's more. I'm hoping there's openness to to educating on both sides.

Craig: [00:21:47] In the past, I've given an analogy to to folks in, in conversations, at dinner parties about when somebody enters the art world, whether they're a teenager or, you know, a grown adult that has really, never really spent a lot of time thinking about the art world. They kind of come to it with, you know, a taste, a palette that you know is more akin to McDonald's and what they find is that a lot of the art world has developed this refined taste for sushi, and it takes a while for people to, you know, establish this palette, right? You know, we probably see some evidence of a divide. I feel like the crypto space has really kind of emerged from what would be called the lowbrow art movement, and there's a bit of a divide between there and the legacy art world. I think you're right that the bridge where both people can appreciate what the other is doing kind of lies in work that's far more conceptual. I think everybody kind of appreciates projects that push the bounds of of what the medium can do, whether that's generative art or what have you.

Anne: [00:22:58] Yeah, I completely agree. And there are some artists, some incredibly iconic artists like Sol Lewitt, for instance, for Marcel Duchamp, who were creating work in much of the same vein or even, of course, the pop art movement. There's so much synergy between those movements, for instance, and what we're seeing in the evolution of crypto art, and I think taking the time for the for the McDonald's consumer, as you said, to take the time to experiment, to read more, to educate themselves, to go to museums and ask hard questions and be comfortable asking What should I be feeling when I look at this and why? In the same way that. People with no legs, the art world should be reading articles, should be following people on Twitter should be asking some really uncomfortable questions about what do you mean by that averse? Are we in it now? Who's making it? There's a lot of discomfort that we need to plow through because again, as you said, this is all in many ways very conceptual and exciting, and that level of intellectual excitement, to your point, exists on both sides. The reasons why Marcel Duchamp is so intellectually stimulating is the same reason why a project like the Nouns is intellectually stimulating, right? And so if we can align in this interest and just the future of creativity in the future of culture as being, well, let's celebrate what is making us think the hardest and appreciate human creativity, then I think we'll come to a meeting point at some point. I hope

Craig: [00:24:43] So. Is there a particular artist or project? We should keep our eye on something we shouldn't miss out on. What's you seem to have your finger on the pulse of these sorts of things? And what what should we not miss out on in 2021?

Anne: [00:24:59] I'll answer that question in two ways. I think with regard to what we're going to see evolve in the NFT space, I think we're going to see an evolution of loyalty programs and membership structures, which I've always personally been really excited about. But I think, you know, we'll see hospitality companies and restaurants and, you know, member clubs thinking about how to engage their their member base with NFTs. And so I'm personally excited about that right now. And then from an artist and creativity perspective, key names that have been around for a while. I am personally, I've always been like a groupie fan of Sarah Meyohas and Bitchcoin. And full disclosure she's Metaversal's first artist in residence, which I'm really excited about, but I'm I'm excited about what the future of bitcoin will be because we're seeing a lot of momentum behind female creators in the NFT space. It's really exciting being a woman in this industry right now. There's so much goodwill and support, and we're seeing people like Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow coming in and buying gold of women. And so I think that Sarah is going to create a really exciting future of bitcoin that's going to be a lot more encompassing of many different female artists. I hope we'll see. So keep an eye on Sarah. And then also, Michael Ju is another artist that I became close with during NFT NYC, and he was a co-creator of Ojai Crystals in that project, and that's he's actually is putting a plug in. You'd be a great person for one of your podcasts because he himself was a traditional sculptor and artist and collaborator with a technologist to create O.G. crystals. And they I think it's a perfect example of the merger of two minds a beautiful artistic mind, a beautiful technology mind and bring them together, and they created this really special and epic project called R.G. Crystals. So those are two that are on my mind right now.

Craig: [00:27:15] I'm going to have to promise my listeners that I didn't put you up to that because I've already scheduled Michael and his collaborator to be on here in the next couple of weeks.

Anne: [00:27:24] So perfect. Perfect. Well, there you go. Free advertisement. Brilliant.

Craig: [00:27:31] Awesome. So and I really appreciate your time this morning. And just to be willing to just kind of open up and talk about this space and kind of give us the temperature on where we are and where we're headed. And, you know, I really appreciate your insights and in your transparency, and I really appreciate you being willing to be on the show.

Anne: [00:27:52] My pleasure. There's really nothing else I'd rather be talking about right now. So this has been a joy. Thank you for your time.

Craig: [00:28:05]  And now the news.

Craig: [00:28:10] After months of anticipation, we're finally getting to experience Pace Gallery's NT plan. The platform, called Pace Verso, launched yesterday with the availability of a handful of works by artist Lucas Samaras that work from his XYZ series, which was created nearly a decade ago as being repackaged as NFTs. That work was natively digital and is a logical fit for being sold as an NFT. With an accompanying physical copy of the work leading up to Art Basel Miami Pace Versa will drop additional digital assets from artists like Glenn Kaino and Drift. The first NFT is on the platform sold out in short order at a price of ten thousand each, with a promise that the prices are only going up. Keep an eye out for real deals, posing as copies to different headlines this week. Remind us to look closely the next time we're at an estate sale. First up, the story of a quintessentially British landscape painting that was sold in Cincinnati last year as a John Constable copy. Turns out it's not a copy, but the real deal. It will be going to auction in the coming weeks with a low auction estimate much higher than the fifty four thousand originally paid low auction estimate. Three million dollars. But that's nothing compared to the whopper of a story coming out of the Agnew's Gallery in London.

Craig: [00:29:31] The story goes that an unnamed party paid thirty dollars for a drawing that the person believed to be a modern average outdoor reproduction at an estate sale for architect Jean-Paul Carlhian. Turns out, Carlhian's family had made its fortune in selling antiques in his ancestors have been quite the art collectors. For whatever reason, it didn't dawn on the next generation that the dour drawing might actually be the real deal. And of course, if I'm telling you this story, then you've already figured out that it was actually an authentic pen and ink drawing by door dating back to the 15th century. It turns out that door used a particular stalk of paper that had a specific watermark. Examination not only found this watermark on the paper, but the ink was consistent with other durable works, and it was determined that was iconic ad monogram was added at the same time as the drawing. So what's the going price for an original drawing on paper from the art world's first rock star? Well, the pre auction estimate has been set at Are you ready for this? Fifty million dollars. As I mentioned earlier in my conversation with Anne, there was an interesting headline this week associated with a Dal's attempt to purchase a rare early copy of the United States Constitution.

Craig: [00:30:52] A DAO (D-A-O) pronounced "dow" like you would the Eastern Spiritualism term tao, is a decentralized autonomous organization. That's a lot of syllables, but what does it mean? In short, it's an organization whose financial records and program rules are available transparently on the blockchain and whose ownership is distributed across any number of parties that have contributed to the DAO. You can think of it as a crowdfunded entity that operates as its own democracy. In this particular case, the Constitution DAO was created with the purpose of purchasing the copy of the U.S. Constitution, with the goal of keeping the document in public view instead of spirited away to a collector's vault. Plus, there's something romantic about the people's document being purchased by a democratically governed group of citizens. But it wasn't to be. Even though Constitution DAO raised $47 million in roughly three days, it wasn't enough to acquire the document. The winner of the auction was billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, who secured the piece for $43 million. You might ask why constitutionnel didn't win the auction if they had raised $47 million. Well, that's because they needed to be able to hold back enough funds to cover the cost of housing, insuring and displaying the document if they won at $43 million.

Craig: [00:32:16] The math just no longer works. But several things were accomplished. One. A billionaire hedge fund manager took a hit to his pocket book because a collective of everyday people who contributed a median of $206 each and to the world, especially the art world, is on notice that dals are a powerful force that are able to quickly insert themselves into unforeseen situations. We may even see a DAO get the best of Bobby Axelrod on the next season of Billions.

Craig: [00:32:58] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening.

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