Nik Schulte is co-founder and chief creative officer of ZHEN. blockchain enabled new solution for art authentication. ZHEN. is being used for authenticating world-renowned artists: Hajime Sorayama and Daniel Arsham to name a few.
“Authenticity and provenance are at the heart of what makes an artwork valuable to its collector.”
Please tell what inspires you to build ZHEN. and interest in the art market.
(Nik Schulte) Authenticity and provenance are at the heart of what makes an artwork valuable to its collector, yet the current process of authenticating an artwork and recording its provenance is done in such a way that, in our opinion, was not taking advantage of existing technology solutions such as blockchain — especially NFTs. Furthermore, every product that we could find that was trying to solve this problem was designed and developed in a way that was not really user-friendly and easy to use. Having an idea and building a product is one thing; creating a solution that enables mass adoption in a way that the user feels like it actively adds value to the experience of owning a piece of art is a whole other thing. But with our collective backgrounds in marketing, creative, finance and blockchain, we as the founding team, felt like we had all the building blocks to tackle this issue in a meaningful way.
“We implant a NFC chip in each physical artwork or collectible. At the same time, we create a unique NFT on the blockchain that contains all the artwork information, as well as the link to the NFC chip in the physical product.”
The product is built on Ethereum blockchain ERC-721, please explain the technology behind ZHEN.
(NS) We are really proud of the simple solution we came up with to solve the earlier described issue of authenticity and provenance of artworks and collectibles. We implant a NFC chip in each physical artwork or collectible. At the same time, we create a unique NFT on the blockchain that contains all the artwork information, as well as the link to the NFC chip in the physical product. So essentially we are creating an exact unique copy of the physical product on the blockchain. Now the only thing the users need to do is to download our ZHEN. app and scan the NFC chip within the product to check if the product is authentic and see all the product information. We have applied this solution to 3D works like sculptures, as well as 2D works like paintings.
“The immutable nature of blockchain, which builds authenticity into the technology.”
Why was it important to build on Ethereum, not on other technology?
(NS) There are two parts to this answer: First, our decision as to why we chose to go with a blockchain solution, and second, why we specifically chose Ethereum as our blockchain solution. The immutable nature of blockchain, which builds authenticity into the technology, made it the perfect solution to combine the two important factors of authenticity and provenance. We also wanted to make sure that our technology would be able to seamlessly integrate with as many other products as possible and offer a proven reliability. Since Ethereum is widely considered as the industry standard to build atop, it made a lot of sense to go with Ethereum.
“Incidences like the Rothko scam highlight the biggest flaw: human error.”
Authenticating artwork has been a major topic in the art market, and even major auction houses like Christie’s would wind up with a fake Rothko scam, how this new way of art authenticating prevent art fraud in the future?
(NS) Auction houses like Christie’s have specialised teams that authenticate each piece before it goes up for auction or sale. This process can be extremely time consuming and expensive, depending on the artwork and its rarity. And yet incidences like the Rothko scam highlight the biggest flaw of this solution: human error. With our solution, the NFC chip is attached to the artwork from the beginning in such a way that would destroy the artwork, should you try to separate them from each other. Each embedded NFC corresponds to one unique NFT on the blockchain, which stores all the artwork information as well a record of ownership, and is (by nature of the blockchain and NFTs) indestructible and non-fungible. With this combined approach, we are trying to prevent such fraud as seen with the Rothko scam.
Can ZHEN.’s solution be used for digital arts as well?
(NS) We are actively developing our purely digital product solution, and I can’t wait to share some really exciting news soon.
Hajime Sorayama and Danieal Arsham to name a few, many of world-renowned artists are now with ZHEN, how has it been onboarding artists?
(NS) It’s been truly amazing to see those incredible artists understand what we are doing at ZHEN. and being a part of it by using our solution for their artworks and collectibles. Every time we onboard a new artist onto ZHEN., we are really excited that we are another step closer to changing the way people own and collect art.
“One thing I think a lot of people are missing is that NFTs themselves don’t have any value. The way value is created and perceived by collectors has not really changed — NFTs just enable digital scarcity.”
NFTs, sales of digital arts like Beeple’s have been record breaking recently, what are your thoughts on the future of art sale and ownership?
(NS) Beeple has really paved the way for NFT-powered art, which is extremely exciting for us. When we started, we thought it would take at least three to five years until this technology would hit the mainstream and people would start having a general understanding of what an NFT is. One thing I think a lot of people are missing, however, is that NFTs themselves don’t have any value; just because you attached one to something doesn’t automatically mean it is worth anything. The way how value is created and perceived by collectors has not really changed — NFTs just enable digital scarcity, making digital art a new compelling medium to artists and collectors.
What are you interested in these days?
(NS) I’m extremely interested and passionate about new technology, especially blockchain, with its many different potential use cases for the future. Another arefa that I really closely follow is gene editing, especially synthetic biology, as I think this will drastically change how we manufacture anything and might be the greatest solution to climate change within the next decade. One last thing I really enjoy is minimal architecture, whether it be experiencing it in person and going to a museum or art gallery, or watching YouTube videos that tour beautiful modern homes around the world.
To discover more about and download ZHEN. visit, zhen.io