U.K. art auction house Christie’s is launching a venture-capital arm to invest in startups that make the exchange of art easier including blockchain companies.
Christie’s Ventures aims to wager on startups deemed too risky by traditional venture-capital firms. Funding flowing into startups decreased by $109 billion in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter. Christie’s first investment will be into LayerZero. This Canadian company helps digital asset holders spread their holdings amongst multiple blockchains.
Christie’s was ushered into the era of digital art and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) when an NFT of Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,’ sold for $69.3 million in 2020, after having an initial estimated value of $100. The company has been eager to embrace art and its digital expressions, hosting the annual two-day Art+Tech summit since 2018.
We want to be on the cutting edge
Being the first art auction house to register the sale of artwork on the blockchain, Christie’s hopes to continue this technological momentum through future investments.
The global head of the auction house’s venture capital arm said that the company wants to invest in firms with solutions to problems that have plagued the art industry. These include the verification of the authenticity of an artwork, recording art owners on the blockchain, and the safe storage and sale of NFTs.
The new initiative is also intended to promote new forms of encountering art. In the spring of 2022, the company beamed a hologram of a bronze statue of a ballerina to its showroom floors in Hong Kong and San Francisco, which later sold for $42 million.
The venture capital head, Devang Thakkar, said it is time for Christie’s to go beyond hosting the annual two-day Art+Tech summit, set to commence on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. He added that it is time for the company to be at the coalface of innovation where it has rapid access to bleeding-edge technologies shaping the future of art.
New tools are needed to help people open and use digital wallets and to protect their assets from theft, he went on to say.
LayerZero’s CEO is confident in his company’s ability to streamline art shopping across multiple blockchains.
Hard times for NFT art
Christie’s sales of NFTs fell after the 2021 boom, dropping from over $90 million in the first six months of 2021 to a paltry $4.6 million in Q1 this year as the cryptocurrency market experiences an extended winter.
At a charity sale in June, Christie’s business director of digital art sales said that NFT buyers are being more selective with their choice of artists, creating a catalog of artists that will survive the bear market.