Antiques: The first auction will see their provenance on the blockchain

Posted on September 2, 2022, 1:30 PM

When we talk about blockchain, we think of NFT more than artifacts. However, the very smart bet of Parisian antiques dealer Steinitz and auction house Christie’s will be auctioning in London on September 21 about sixty pieces of decorative art from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries registered on the blockchain. The first in this specialty.

Benjamin Steinitz explains: “This will provide the buyer with a secure, encrypted certificate in the form of a permanent digital record, collecting important information about the business and irrevocably guaranteeing its authenticity, origin and condition.”

Arturi at work

Because the pieces on display have prestigious origins: royal, aristocratic, or from the collections of big businessmen (the Rothschilds) and famous fashion designers (Lagerfeld, Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy). With the help of Artory, a leader in techniques for secure registration of artworks, Steinitz and Christie give themselves the means to reassure buyers in a market regularly plagued by scandals such as counterfeit 18th-century furniture sold at the Château de Versailles.

A process has been set up for a long time with Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s, who actually used the blockchain for the American group Barney A. Ebsworth in the 20th century. But in antique furniture, antique vases, or ceramic services brought back by Marie Antoinette, it is a small revolution …

Louis XV vase in Chinese porcelain (48000-71,000 euros), Jules Porgès collection that played a major role in the development of diamond and gold mining in South Africa.Christie’s Images Limited 2022

If this sale is modest in value (3-4 million euros), it is a new marketing move by Christie’s who loves to crack codes. And for the antiques market, the way to spotlight is “to touch and intrigue a new generation of collectors around the world, while uniting those we already know,” admits Benjamin Steinitz.

Resentment of young amateurs

This antiques dealer is one of the most famous sellers, with its own restoration workshop, craftsmen and connoisseurs. But other colleagues are going through a complicated period: young art lovers’ resentment of antiques, and the less influence of its flagship Paris gallery, the Biennale des Antiquaires (which its new ally Fine Art Paris, from the Les Echos Collection, will restore in the November edition) in favor of Dutch rival Tefaf, fake furniture…

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

Auction house weight

The process once again shows the weight taken by the auction houses. If there were always close relations between them and the merchants who both buy and sell them, then such open cooperation has long been a taboo. Today it has become valuable. A change made in a decade.

Even Benjamin Steinitz trusted Guillaume Cerutti to choose where to hit the hammer. “It would have been better to choose London which would provide a lot of visibility because the calendar in Paris is already rich in sales of decorative objects” asserts Christie’s CEO. Objects can also be shown longer across the canal and crisscrossed with pieces from the famous Ann and Gordon Getty (1,500 Pieces) collection, likely to attract beautiful people.

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