Meet the Innovators: Niccolò Fano on Arcual and blockchain mass adoption

December 18, 2023

We sat down with the Founder of Matèria Gallery, Rome, to discuss what technological innovation looks like in a city with such a rich artistic heritage.

Are art collectors in Rome more comfortable with technology than other regions you’ve experienced?

I would say less, if compared to the US and Northern European landscape. Rome in particular has such a strong art history heritage that it makes contemporary art itself a complex sector to operate in. Nevertheless, Rome also has a visionary and experimental tradition within the arts, meaning that technological advancements usually find niches of excellence through which they can develop.

What trends are you noticing about how collectors interact with artists and artworks today?

I am noticing a return to the importance collectors place on personal relationships with artists and galleries. After a lengthy honeymoon with the online method of collecting and researching, more and more collectors want to build meaningful and longstanding connections with the artists they collect, through a gallery they trust. This seems to be an encouraging sign for smaller and mid size galleries who strive to support emerging artists.

What needs to happen for the art world to become more oriented towards championing the artist?

Artists face long standing issues alongside newer ones that require robust art criticism and reporting - detached from the often too close relationships with artists and economic codependency from market players. That would enable a much needed analysis of the role of the artist today in the context of the art market, and the socio-political dynamics that characterise contemporary cultural production. 

Alongside this, we need to place greater attention to the support structures currently available to artists. In regards to my own sector, I believe galleries have strayed from a production model and have moved to a commercially centred one, where short term gains are prioritised over a long term (and ofter harder) trajectory. I would personally like to see galleries return to a model where investment in production and in the artists is the first leading principle.

Do you believe that technology can play a large part in facilitating that shift?

I believe technology can be a major factor, if not the only one to allow for an alleviation of structural issues that cannot be solved without a breakthrough such as the blockchain. Our current system has not been able to address the secondary market for artists and the royalties associated with the circulation of their work. The guarantee and automation of royalties is a special innovation that may allow a new layer of economic stability for artists, whilst ushering in an era of greater transparency for the market as a whole. The applications are extensive, from archives and proof of ownership, to cite two clear examples. Mass adoption for what can be defined as on-chain migration might be slow, yet inevitable if the upsides can finally be quantified by those who have the capabilities of assessing and implementing them.  

What do you feel are some of the benefits of Arcual’s technology?

I see Arcual as a very interesting answer to a problem I have been trying to resolve for some time, despite the not so novel availability of the blockchain. I believe the platform is positioned at the correct intersection to reap the benefits and lead to mass adoption. I have always felt that this process of mass adoption will eventually occur, only through the meeting of traditional art and the blockchain that carries within it new artistic mediums - such as generative art - attracting a broader, younger community that has sprung up from that intersection between internet culture, technology and art.

What is your favourite art fair to explore?

Other than the spectacle of Art Basel Unlimited, I believe Artissima in Turin is a Fair that has managed to fuse organisational professionalism with a strong yearly overview of the Italian contemporary art landscape, enhanced by an excellent selection of international galleries.  A great Fair requires a city that supports it; Turin is perfectly sized and has a great number of prestigious institutions that choose to open major shows during Artissima week. This makes our yearly trips to the fair an occasion for research and discovery.

Any artists you are particularly admiring the work of, currently?

I am conducting slow yet extensive research on the on chain generative art landscape. Despite not having someone I feel comfortable singling out, I would recommend keeping an eye out for pioneers of the medium and artists that are organically fusing their traditional practice, with the innovations that smart contract technology allows for.

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