Legal aspects of collecting NFT and digital art – interview with Digital Art Fair Asia Co-Founder
March 2022 - Valencia Tong & Laurens Kasteleijn for Art Law Services
In this interview, Gillian Howard, Co-Founder of Digital Art Fair Asia, shares her views on the legal considerations for buyers and sellers of NFT and digital art.
Immersive art room by Refik Anadol
1. What are the legal aspects that art collectors, artists, art fair organizers and art dealers need to pay attention to when buying or selling digital art?
Gillian Howard (GH): As an art fair organizer in the Web 3.0 Era, my goal is not only to become the bridge between art collectors and artists, to educate the new generation of art collectors and artists on new technologies available, but also safeguard the smooth and safe experience of art collecting in the Digital Art Era to protect both sides. We verify the authenticity of the artwork and the identity of the buyers and sellers to ensure the legitimacy and sustainability of the art market.
Provenance and the authenticity of the artwork is the first and foremost consideration when it comes to collecting digital art, since digital artwork is easily transferable via the Internet, digital art collectors and artists should choose a reliable platform to purchase and sell the art, verify the ownership as well as the transaction history on the blockchain to ensure the digital artwork is the genuine piece from the artist instead of a digital copy before their purchases.
For artists who are selling digital art, you must ensure the work is your own original work.
Digital art installation by local artist Victor Wong
2. What has Digital Art Fair Asia (DAFA) done to promote awareness of digital art, NFTs and cryptocurrencies in the art world and among the general public?
GH: The key vision of Digital Art Fair is to educate, inspire the public through extraordinary experiences. In our inaugural fair in Hong Kong in 2021, we invited over 40 experts and talents from digital art, NFTs and crypto industries to share their insights on different topics in seminars and webinars, which are now available online. Notable speakers including representatives from Sotheby’s, Blockfi, Animoca, SCMP and more. We receive positive feedback from the audience commenting that the programmes are inspiring and valuable and we aim to continue doing so in our fair in 2022 and forward.
Another key programme in DAFA 2021 is the Woman Incubation Programme, which aims to nurture young and talented female artists to develop a sustainable career in the fine art industry. DAFA provides opportunities to introduce their works to a bigger audience with professional advice and provide Art Tech support to explore more possibilities in the digital art world.
At the same time, Digital Art Fair’s goal is to continue our community engagement. Last year, we made a donation to the City University of Hong Kong and kickstarted the internship programme to breed the new generation of art administrators and artists in the evolving world of digital art.
In 2022, locally in Hong Kong, we are also working with organizations like the Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong to advocate digital literacy in underprivileged children.
Blockchain piano by local artist Henry Chu
3. Which is your favorite piece at the inaugural edition of Digital Art Fair Asia?
GH: Machine Hallucinations - Space: Metaverse NFT Collection by Refik Anadol. The pieces present the perfect integration of art and technology. By using the AI data collected from space and generative art technology, Refik created such amazing pieces that proved the infinite possibilities in the future of digital art in the fine art world. The immersive room experience artwork is the first-of-a-kind NFT collection in the world, which brings so much surprise and inspiration to the digital art world.
4. What is your advice for people or corporations from the legal, finance or tech sector that would like to participate in the digital art market, especially those that may not be familiar with how the art market operates traditionally?
GH: Since the digital art market is growing bigger and bigger in recent year, always do your research and understand how it works behind the scene before you step into a market that you are not familiar with. Also, you have to understand your rights and make careful decisions in order to project your own interest.
Neon light art installation by Sharmaine Kwan from our woman artist incubation programme
5. How should collectors conduct due diligence when purchasing digital art and how has blockchain technology changed the process?
GH: When purchasing an artwork, there are always concerns about the provenance of the artwork, since digital files are easily transferable without a traceable channel. Non-authorized copies can be made and have gone viral in the market. The blockchain technology provides an authentication of the artwork for collectors to identify and provide a channel to trace the transaction record of the artwork. It can conserve the value and the rarity of a digital artwork.
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