A share of Ensor for all: KMSKA uses “Art Security Tokens” to capture top work

1. Buy a Ensor in pieces, why?

“Carnival de Binche”, is the title of the masterpiece by James Ensor, which the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) wants to exhibit at the long-awaited reopening on 24 September. But instead of pulling an astronomical sum out of his inside pocket to buy it from a private collector, the museum is trying a new-fashioned way: Art Security Tokens (abbreviated ASTs)

You can think of these ASTs as digital shares in an existing work of art. They are controlled and secured via blockchain technology, which allows anyone to control all transactions. You do not have to be remarkably communicative or influential to buy a token, which can ultimately put even a very expensive work of art in the hands of a large group of people. The ASTs are exchangeable and negotiable, just as shares on the stock exchange would be.

2. Does the museum also buy ASTs of the painting itself?

No, KMSKA only has “Carnaval de Binche” on the way 10 years on loan and is therefore also responsible for its thorough preservation. The actual owners are therefore the owners of the tokens.

Because the principle of ASTs is so new, in practice the purchase went a detour. The painting is from a private collection purchased by a group of investors. The whole operation was coordinated by Rubeya new Belgian collaboration platform that includes tech entrepreneur Peter Hinssen.

A quarter of the ASTs that these investors now have will be offered to the public

KMSKA in Antwerp, which has been under renovation for years.  It reopens in September.


Antwerp Tourism and Congress

3. How much did the painting cost in total? And how much does an AST cost?

The private investors paid 1.2 million euros to work. But because ASTs run on blockchain technology, it also costs money. The painting is therefore divided into 1 million ASTs worth 1.41 euros† So the total value is like that in practice 1.41 million euros

We want to make it easier for museums to make top works from private collections available to the public

Gwenn Rubeys Miststone

Interested will can buy ASTs for at least 150 euros and “Carnival de Binche”. From 2023, the painting’s ASTs will also be freely traded.

4. How does this principle differ from NFTs, which are generally seen as somewhat controversial?

NFTs, non-fungible tokens, are certificates of ownership of digital creations. They are unique, and so not replaceable† Read: if you switch from one to the other, you will no longer have the same NFT. Also the market for NFTs not regulated

ASTs behave more like equities at the fair: they represent a piece of a (so far normally physical) work of art. so are they interchangeable: an AST of a particular work of art is identical to another AST of the same work.

Trade in ASTs is also regulated† This means that investors in Art Security Tokens have the same legal protection as investors in, for example, shares, bonds or other securities.

5. What are the benefits of ASTs?

At Rubey, they want to emphasize in particular that in this way you can really make art possessions and investments democratize† “A large group of people can invest in art this way and not just the wealthy,” explains Gwenn Nevelsteen of Rubey. “We also want to make it easier for museums to do that to make masterpieces from private collections available for the general public. “

Everything stands or falls with the trust and truth of the party offering the tokens

Real Estate and Media Lawyer Andries Hofkens, Baumbauer

Lawyer Andries Hofkens, who specializes in real estate and the media, agrees. He also sees benefits from the use of blockchain technology, thanks to the use of blockchain technology security and transparency in the art trade† ”In addition, the offered art will probably first have to go through a reliable institution that the authenticity and origin of the work certify. “

6. Are there any risks involved?

Hofkens sees some legal challenges. “Everything stands or falls with confidence and truthfulness party offering tokens“, he analyzes.” So you have to take a closer look. They also go well estimated value after work from which you purchase ASTs. “

“This is brand new, genuine pioneering work. So I would recommend you try the traditional ‘Terms and Conditions’ do not just click away. What are your rights as a co-owner? Who is responsible for working condition† And what if someone buys 40 or 50 percent of all tokens? Can he hang it in his house? “

To suddenly answer the last question: at Rubey, they point out that in this case, the loan agreement with KMSKA has already been entered into for the next 10 years. “Rubey and KMSKA are, however, obliged to communicate annually about the condition of the painting and, for example, also movements to foreign exhibitions.”

7. What happens to the work after the 10-year loan?

“As mentioned, it is a regularized market,” says Nevelsteen. “So we have to offer shareholders a tough exit. That means it the loan expires after 10 years and from then on work can be put up for sale again† Of course, there is a chance that it will be resold via tokens. Much will also depend on the relevant legislation, which is likely to evolve significantly over the next 10 years. “

8. Do Art Security Tokens have a future?

The principle is still very early, so we can only speculate. It was only last year that ASTs got a kind of breakthrough when a painting by Pablo Picasso, “Fillette au béret”, was “tokenized” by a Swiss player , as it has been stamped with a terrible neologism. At the time, these tokens cost as much as $ 6,000 (at the current rate, well over 5,600 euros) each. And the colorful work is now stored somewhere in a dark vault.

A painting by Pablo Picasso,

Rubey’s goal is just the opposite: to make more private works of art accessible to a wide audience in the museums’ collections. “Our goal is to offer this concept to many more museums,” Nevelsteen emphasizes. In the end, they hope at Rubey that in the long run it is no longer necessary to first have to buy the art through private investors, as has now happened, but simply immediately in public go.

Hofkens suggests that the concept may also have value for new artists in the long run. “Compare that to what MP3s have done in the music world: you could be one marketplace can see the emergence of ASTs by individual artists outside the gallery circuit. “

See the performance of “Carnaval de Binche” in KMSK:

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