ATO Platform: The New Art Asset Management Standard

A wealth manager, a technologist, an angel investor, and an art patron walk into a bar, what do you get? No, seriously, what do you get? To those who have been grappling with how to drag the $55B art market out of the dark ages and into modern asset management practice, it is no joke. In fact, it is as close to the Holy Grail as we have seen in the last 370 years.

The five-year saga to launch ATO Platform – a souped-up, tech-abundant asset management solution – is a harrowing story that will make for a great novel. Spoiler alert: the final chapter shows the triumph of financial logic and price transparency over greed, pricing intrigues, and economic exclusion. The ATO Platform has been built to lead in the areas of art sales tracking and authentication. Its mission is to broadly apply technology and asset management practices to support artists, encourage fair dealing, and create a sustainable distribution of profits within the arts ecosystem.

Why do we need ATO?

ATO is transforming the market by addressing the pricing information problem that has plagued the art world since the 1650s when intermediaries – art dealers – came on the art scene. With unregulated intermediaries, sales data to price fair buying and selling of art is inaccessible.

The recent explosion of counterfeits is also an issue. Those who profit off the artists’ life work is a concern as well. The 1860s mark the inception of counterfeiting and exploiting artists.

To say there has been a demand for this type of solution is a gross understatement. Why has it taken so long? For the exact same reason that 96% of the companies from the 2016 FINTECT BONANZA failed. The Art Economy is not easy. Even the most silver tongued, over-capitalized technologists won’t succeed just by “showing up and teaching the art industry how to use technology.” The players in the industry are extremely well entrenched. A frontal assault on the business of art – just like so many FINTECHs tried to attack the financial markets – simply won’t work.

ATO is the asset management solution for the art world

First, a workable business model needed to be created. The vision – artists, dealers, and collectors each had a path to a better business. The development – ​​long, hard, complicated, and requiring several drawings and rewiring over the last five years. ATO Platform serves artists and encourages fair dealing through transparent sales data and artist resale royalties. It discourages counterfeits through community-backed and artist-supported tracking. In simple terms: it authenticates, tracks, and provides artists a valuable new income stream.

ATO supplies the financial resources and tools for artists to manage their creative careers and bodies of works. And of course, the financial windfall for patrons and collectors is very attractive. What was once an uncertain, untraceable collection may now be managed much like any of their other portfolio investments. With ATO, buyers and collectors leapfrog from having an unverifiable price to having an authenticated Bloomberg-style investor’s report on their collection.

The core of ATO’s mission is to advance artists’ careers while demystifying the experience of collecting art. Founder Carrie Christine Eldridge has developed the holistic art asset management business model advised by an impressive list of executives, board members, and advisors. This is not your usual “new venture team”. Lisa Koonce – Advisor with 35 years experience in the art industry; Monica Pajarin – Sales Executive with 12 years in the art industry and gallery Director experience; Bennet Grutman – Chair of the Board with over 40 years experience in the art industry; blockchain governance prepared by Prysm Group – an economic advising firm, including the 2017 Nobel Prize winner in economics. The company’s Chief Technology Officer, Benjamin Stewart has launched the platform on Polkadot’s parachain, Moonbeam. The technology strategy is to secure new developments within the blockchain space and advance with the technology adoption.

Eldridge is a former wealth manager at Morgan Stanley and one of the very few black female founders in the blockchain and art space. Research shows a staggering financing gap between male and female start-ups. The latter receive up to 50% less funding, and male founders vastly outnumber female founders. Business Insider notes that as of 2020, only 93 Black women had raised $1 million or more in venture funds. The statistics for founders of color are dire. Eldridge comments: “We leverage technology to provide equal opportunities for artists. Statistics on representation of female and BIPOC artists are discouraging. Artists want to be recognized for their vision, not burdened with additional hurdles based on their gender or the color of their skin. The same goes for tech founders.” ATO Platform is funded by art industry insiders, the executive team, and individual blockchain-savvy investors. Other key team mates include a robust list of blockchain engineers, artists liaisons, accountants, and the full staff you would expect from an “Avengers type” group uniting.

Letting the numbers talk

ATO’s primary revenue streams are from the tagging and tracking of physical and digital art. Included is a share of royalty collections made from registered artists and their artworks. According to ATO’s survey of 3,000 artists, over 89% are willing to pay up to $300 to record the authenticity of their work. This also creates the ability to receive a royalty when their art is resold. Eldridge predicts “The market potential is massive. By acquiring 5% of the target market of contemporary artists, ATO’s earnings will exceed $270M per year by Year 7 post-launch.” Active since 2016, ATO has consistently been at the forefront of developments in blockchain and art. The company engages across the entire value chain – artists (and their art schools), dealer-intermediaries, and buyer -collectors. What makes ATO special is the same thing that turned the few successful 2016 FINTECTs into unicorns– the effort and attention needed to change the industry from within.

Where does this confidence come from? In 2018, ATO Gallery facilitated the world record sale for the most expensive physical artwork ever purchased with Bitcoin. “As we launch the ATO Platform, high-stakes, high-value collectors will continue to turn to us to securely track transactions and their art asset value appreciation,” noted Eldridge.

So, what do you get when you put a wealth manager, a technologist, an angel investor, and an art patron into the same venture? Just watch the art industry headlines and you will certainly see.

Benjamin Katz, Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights (2018).

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is an art critic and cultural strategist. She is the founder of Cultbytes an online art publication and culture-focused comms agency. She is also the Deputy Director of The Immigrant Artist Biennial and is curating its 2023 edition. Anna Mikaela has held curatorial positions at the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Arts and Design, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and Bard Graduate Center. She holds dual Master’s Degrees in Art and Design History from Stockholm University and Bard Graduate Center.

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