Connoisseurs of Pablo Picasso will soon be able to own a share in one of his paintings for less than US$6,0a 00 — although that would not buy them the right to see the work, which would be stored under lock and key in Switzerland.
Fillette au beret is to be sold — or “tokenized” — via blockchain in what Sygnum Bank AG, the digital asset-focused Swiss bank organizing the sale, said is a world first.
“This marks the first time the ownership rights in a Picasso, or any artwork, are being broadcast onto the public blockchain by a regulated bank,” said Sygnum and co-organizer Artemundi, an art investment company.
Subscriptions for the 4 million Swiss francs (US$4.37 million) sale are expected to open at the end of this month, with tradable shares in the painting available for SF5,000 and above.
The 1964 painting depicting a beret-capped child in bright colors on canvas was last sold for 21.4 million Swedish krona (US$2.48 million at the current exchange rate) by auction house Uppsala Auktionskammare in 2016.
It is not the first painting by the notoriously iconoclastic Picasso to rub shoulders with blockchain.
Driven by a surge in the market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) this year, often focused on digital-only artworks and other virtual items, Sotheby’s flagged an NFT-linked sale of Picasso’s Le peintre et son modele last month.
The painting sold for ￡2.25 million (US$3.12 million), although plans for the joint sale of an NFT — a one-of-a-kind token that exists on a blockchain — that would link ownership to a digital version were scrapped, the auction house said.
Also last month, NFT art market Unique.One opened an auction for an NFT tied to a Picasso print, Fumeur V, which in April sold at Christie’s for ￡15,000.
The print — one of 50 of the same work — was first displayed at a gallery in Denver, Colorado, before being burned to create the NFT The Burned Picasso.
However, in the Fillette au beret sale, the tokens are fungible — or exchangeable — and no Picasso would be burned.
However, no physical artwork is to change hands either, as the painting, while being available for loan to museums and exhibitions, would be stored in a high-security facility, the organizers said.
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