Interview with Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, co-founder of blockchain.art

Just a couple of years ago Blockchain was like “oh my god, this is from a different planet, we are really far away”. And now it's a reality.

Blockchain is a relatively new technology, which is rooted in distributed data structure shared on a decentralised network. It promises greater accuracy, security, speed and transparency for every electronic transactional or record-keeping process.Currently we are still at the early adopter period, which prepares society for the real Blockchain revolution.

Blockchain is on track for transforming various spheres of our life, including the art industry. This technology can be used for identification, attribution and payment for digital art works.Another important aspect of it is providing visibility of ownership rights of digital property on the internet.

.ART talked to Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, international art curator, director and co-founder (along with Micha Anthenor Benoliel) of blockchain.art, an innovative digital platform for galleries, artists and collectors. We covered her ambition to make art industry’s operational system accessible and efficient, and her love of digital art.

Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt

Christina, could you tell us a bit about the launch of blockchain.art? How did you come up with the idea?

I’ve been running art fairs for ten years. Within that time, I came across different inefficiencies around art trade. At the same time, I fell in love with digital art. I’m a strong believer that art should be bought and should be sold by artists and galleries. I wanted to make this process as easy as possible. In 2016 I started coming to the Bay area, San Francisco, a lot. This is when I came across the Silicon Valley Blockchain society. Various industries were engaged in a conversation about the use of blockchain and technology maximizing the efficiencies. I thought that this was an amazing solution which can be applied to the art industry. When I met my co-founder Micha Benoliel in San Francisco we started talking about how this could look like. And we came to a solution, which we are currently building. It’s a system for galleries and artists which one can integrate on a web page and sell digital art. It’s a payment solution on Blockchain, which means that you can easily track artworks and their provenance. Technology should make our life easier. It should definitely not take time from galleries and from artists.

And you are making the whole system very transparent. In the project description it says that you are working with blue-chip artists. Is it correct?

We are not launched yet. Our first goal is to show galleries the benefits of this technology. That’s why we reach out to galleries in the first place before we go to artists individually. I love the art industry and I am very passionate about what the galleries are doing, so I want to make their life easier with the help of this solution.

What I learned from my Silicon Valley experience is that it’s basically insignificant how a particular technology is called or how it operates. What’s important is what it does, how it helps.

So far, what is the response that you are getting? Do galleries understand what Blockchain can help them with?

At the end of 2016 I had a vision of what I wanted to create. In 2017 I started talking to galleries about it. Back in 2017 it was like “oh my god, this is from a different planet, we are really far away”. I was still running the Vienna Contemporary art fair. I could see how the audience changed, how behavior and buying behavior were changing. Within the last 1,5 years there was a very rapid development. People are very interested. Some say, “I am too old, I am not going to be around long enough in order to really use it”. But people who understand that the lifespan of their business is another 10 to 20 years are definitely interested. Many artists who produce physical works have some sort of parallel digital works which they create. They experiment in digital art production. So, it’s relevant for them to learn how to sell it, how to monetize it.

One of Christina’s favourite digital artists Arvida Byström

What is the geography of the project so far?

We are based in US. Our target market is the galleries in US and Europe. I only talk to galleries when I see that they have a need for this kind of product, I am not trying to convert anyone. When I see that there is potential use for our product, I go and talk. What I learned from my Silicon Valley experience is that it’s basically insignificant how a particular technology is called or how it operates. What’s important is what it does, how it helps. No one talks about how Excel works, it just works. No one talks about how PowerPoint works, it just works. And it does save time.

There are a few projects out there which are dealing with Blockchain and art. What differentiates blockchain.art from all of them?

I am going after the art industry; I am not going after the artists. I want to save the energy of the galleries and make it possible for them to engage in the sphere of digital arts. And they are not going to lose money on testing it out.

What is the commercial model of blockchain.art?

Transaction fees. I really want art industry to have an easier operational system. There are a lot of new people, both young and old, who want to participate in it one way or the other. I want to make it possible for them.

I guess it was a no brainer for you to use a .ART domain name for this project because it identifies what you are doing right away?

My co-founder bought this domain name pretty much before we even incorporated the idea, just to have it.

Learn more: http://blockchain.art

Daria Kravchuk
Daria Kravchuk
is a curator and art manager with an MA in Museology from Amsterdam University. Her international projects are focused on the intersection of contemporary art, architecture, urban planning and anthropology. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.