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The Impact of Provenance on Art Value in the Web3 Space

In the traditional art world, provenance - the history of ownership, creation, and sale of a work of art - has been largely the domain of wealthy collectors, gallerists, and a few influential tastemakers. The value of artwork would get determined by this small class of people while the general public was often left out of the loop. However, with the advent of blockchain technology and the rise of NFTs, provenance is evolving in new exciting ways. This new form is not only transforming how we track the history of artwork ownership and transactions but also delivers a profound impact on how art is valued in the Web3 space.

The Conventional Art World: A Lack of Transparency and Public Engagement

The record of ownership and sales history of artwork was often hidden from the public eye. Unknown creators would sell their artwork to influential collectors in hopes to build their reputation in the art space. 

However, the public would rarely get to see these artworks and instead rely on trusting the discerning eye and baseless promise of wealthy collectors. This meant that those who determined the value of art were mostly a small class of obscenely wealthy people who bought, sold, and traded artwork among themselves to inflate value and generate profit while leaving artists out of the equation. 

Lack of transparency and public engagement kept the direction of culture in the hands of a few and often resulted in the suppression of emerging talent.

A New Era of Provenance and Art Value in Web3

In the crypto art space, the artwork's on-chain provenance is transparent and accessible to all. Even those who can’t afford to buy the artwork can leave a lowball bid, adding their appreciation to the on-chain record of the work. The new form of provenance is not directly tied to ownership, but rather an interpersonal curation, where community members, including those who do not own art, can influence the tastemaking and therefore the perception of value. 

In this way, on-chain provenance is able to transform provenance from a private matter between collectors to a social experience that involves the public in the process of art valuation.

NFT edtions by Guido Di Salle
Editions by Guido Di Salle. Courtesy of Tim Salikhov.

There are several notable NFT artists who are leveraging Web3 opportunities to redefine the concept of provenance. XCOPY, Guido Di Salle, and AlphaCentauriKid are among a few to accumulate $20 million of net value for more than 4,000 collectors using editions. 

The use of open editions is one of the most recent examples revealing how the status quo can be challenged by removing barriers to entry and creating a deeper connection between artists and collectors.

For a long time, editions were mainly used for providing an affordable entry point even though unlike a premium 1/1 or a unique collection piece, they were not regarded as valuable artwork. Nevertheless, as NFT technologies evolve and their applications expand, editions are unlocking new utilities where collectors can get rewarded for holding them while artists have the opportunity to build larger narratives through recurring NFT drops and burn mechanics.

The difference between off-chain and on-chain provenance
The difference between off-chain and on-chain provenance

Priced at a significant discount to premium 1/1 art, editions allow artists to onboard hundreds of new collectors, without diluting the value of their work. Collectors, in turn, get a chance to collect pieces from the most coveted artists at a fraction of the price of their premium 1/1 art.

Not only this strategy dismantles the barriers of traditional art provenance but also provides a space to form communities around the artists, their art, and the collectors.

The Future of Provenance and Art Value

In Web3, the provenance of art is no longer hidden behind closed doors. Now everyone can check the artwork, and its sales history, or even participate in shaping its value. This has created an unprecedented level of transparency and engagement that has the potential to empower emerging artists and give a voice to the general public interested in art.

The advent of on-chain provenance in the Web3 space is transforming how we understand and value art. The traditional art world was dominated by a select few gatekeepers who had the power to determine the value of art and keep it hidden from the public. However, with the rise of NFTs and blockchain technology, provenance is becoming more accessible, transparent, and social, with the public having a greater say in how art is valued. 

We're witnessing a significant shift in the power dynamics that are set to empower emerging artists and create a more equitable and inclusive art world.

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