Antiques: a first auction will certify its origin on the blockchain

Sent September 2, 2022, 1:30 pm

When we talk about blockchain, we think more of NFT than antiques. On the other hand, it is the very clever bet of the Parisian antique dealer Steinitz and the Christie’s auction house to auction off in London on 21 September about sixty lots of 18th and 19th century decorative arts registered in a blockchain. A novelty in this specialty.

“This will provide the buyer with secure, encrypted certification in the form of a permanent digital record, bundling important information about the work and irreversibly guaranteeing its authenticity, provenance and condition,” explains Benjamin Steinitz.

Art at work

Because the pieces on offer have prestigious origins: royal, aristocratic, or from the collections of great magnates (Rothschild family) and famous designers (Lagerfeld, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy). With the help of Artory, a leader in technologies for the secure registration of works of art, Steinitz and Christie’s are giving themselves the means to reassure buyers in a market regularly hit by scandals such as the fake 18th century furniture sold at the Royal Palace. of Versailles.

An operation prepared at length with Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s, who had already used the blockchain for Barney A. Ebsworth’s 20th century American art collection. But in the antique furniture, in the period vases or in the porcelain services brought back by Marie Antoinette, it is a small revolution …

Louis XV vase in Chinese porcelain (48,000-71,000 euros), Jules Porgès Collection which played a central role in the development of diamond and gold mining in South Africa.Christie’s Images Limited 2022

If this sale is of a modest amount (3-4 million euros), it is a new marketing move by Christie’s who like to break the codes. And for the antiques market, a way to shine the spotlight to “touch and interest a new generation of collectors around the world, consolidating those we already know”, acknowledges Benjamin Steinitz.

Disaffection of young amateurs

This antique dealer is one of the most renowned, with its restoration laboratory, its craftsmen and its experts. But other colleagues are going through a complicated period: young art lovers’ disaffection for antiques, less influence than his main fair in Paris, the Biennale des Antiquaires (on which his new ally Fine Art Paris, of the Les Echos group, will work restoration in its November edition) for the benefit of its Dutch competitor Tefaf, fake furniture …

“It is the attractiveness of the entire decorative arts market that will emerge as the winner of this auction, as well as the seriousness of the antiquarian’s work, through his in-depth scientific research” continues Benjamin Steinitz.

Weight of auction houses

The operation once again demonstrates the weight of the auction houses. While there have always been close relationships between them and the traders who buy and sell them in batches, such open cooperation has long been a taboo. Today it has become precious. A change made in a decade.

And Benjamin Steinitz even relied on Guillaume Cerutti to choose where to hit the hammer. “It was preferable to opt for London which will offer a lot of visibility because the Parisian calendar is already full of sales of decorative objects” underlines the managing director of Christie’s. The exhibition of the objects could also be longer across the Channel and cross that of the pieces of the famous Ann and Gordon Getty collection (1,500 lots), likely to attract beautiful people.

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