Interview with Timo Niemeyer: Value Manifesto

By Etienne Verbist - Thursday, October 24, 2019
Interview with Timo Niemeyer: Value Manifesto

"I believe in a fundamental structural change in the art world and its market due to the fourth industrial revolution. Nowadays, we are not only in the age of the digital revolutionbut also in the age of the fundamental economization of artworks".

Image courtesy for Timo Niemeyer

 

ArtDependence (AD): What is the manifesto about ?

Timo Niemeyer (TN): The Value Manifesto declares its own commercial valueto be art; leaves any symbolism behind and concretizes its self-purpose on its own trading value; is the first crypto-multiple in the history of art; is accessible to everyone and can be traded through its own highly secure market place without intermediaries and collusion.

It is traded transparently as an non-forgable crypto-multiple on blockchain basis with an editionof 250 units.

The Manifesto displays its current real-time value in Swiss Francs on hand crafted IoT Nixie decryptorsas well as online on your desktop or mobile. It serves as an interdisciplinary experiment of the pioneering age of blockchain and IoT technologies. The experiments insights shall be used for establishing the presence of blockchain technology in scienceof art.

AD: Who are you and why do you do what you do?

TN: I am Timo Niemeyer, born in Finland, raised in South of France and the Black Forest/Germany. I work as an art historian, curator and art market expert.

Coming from the Niemeyer artist family, I experienced the joys and traumas of working in the arts in my direct environment. This experience made me a lobbyist for the cause of art and the artist. Growing up in a business environment which has profited from transparencies forever. 

 

Image courtesy for Timo Niemeyer

 

I believe in a fundamental structural change in the art world and its market due to the fourth industrial revolution. Nowadays, we are not only in the age of the digital revolutionbut also in the age of the fundamental economization of artworks.

With Value Manifesto we want to provide an example of how Blockchain technologies could accompany art into a decentralized future. It will be one of the pioneering scenarios where art is suddenly fully transparently available and tradeable with no collusion.

Only one topic seemed sacred in the art world: the prices of its own market.             

AD: What is your goal?

TN: The development of a supply oligopoly for art market data and market presence has been emerging for several years and poses a risk to many art market participants.

The reasons for the current development are obvious: the implementation of digitalization processes in the art market are expensive, IT professionals are occupied by other industries (Fintech/Legal Tech), standards and transparent information are missing.

Most art market participants are simply overwhelmed by the technological approaches and principles around Blockchain technologies as well as artificial intelligence.

With Value Manifesto, my goal is to contribute an idea which can make the art market a more transparent place where goods and information are exchanged and traded efficiently - this is not only in favor of the artist but the society in regards of information, science, sustainability and economic matters.

AD: What will be the impact of what you do?

TN: When I created the concept for Value Manifesto, my goal was to draw an experiment on how people accept an intrinsic digital art edition which is only defined by its market value.

Wondering what would happen if every art edition and artwork could handle information like a Value Manifesto edition.

 

Image courtesy for Timo Niemeyer

 

The impact of transparency provided by digital technologies such as the Internet and Blockchain about availabilities will not only change the way we trade but as we curate, communicate, research, publish and collect art.

AD: What is the future of art?

TN: If we consider art as a mirror of society, I believe the future of art will be a digital and decentralized one. The art world of the past was defined by centralized accesses: the academies provided access to education, the museums access to exhibition facilities and the public, and the gallerists and fairs gave access to the market. Today, these accesses are more and more distributed: no longer centrally but increasingly decentralized via the internet of communication and the internet of things.

AD: Tell us about the art market?

TN: We need to be aware that the art market is still a dinosaur in the worldwide economy. It is one of the few markets that are still incomplete, non-transparent and thus in a way also inefficient.

The crucial information about demand, offer and pricing communicated at art fairs and auctions is hard to get.

That show has been done since the Middle Ages. The art market has lived well for centuries through a lack of transparency, and a few have made a lot of money.

The digital revolution of the art market will change that. The concept of transparency and decentralization is not appealing to many participants. They see their small economy only surviving with the old models. 

Cryptography has the theoretical potential to transform business, government and society. Blockchain technologies could strengthen especially the individual participants role at the art market in making supply and demand more transparent, guarantee authenticity and provenance, organize/manage droit de suite and publishing rights, help researchers with information access, supply insurance companies and restorers with detailed condition reports and reduce bureaucracy as well as costs within institutions. Even if many aspects of the potential of Blockchain technologies are still a futuristic vision, Value Manifesto uses nowadays potential of the Ethereum blockchain to guarantee safe and transparent transactions - it ensures trust in its value.

AD: What is your dream project?

TN: The establishment of a decentralized data cloud for art and cultural heritage by the international community.

Boundless exchange of information about objects that define our culture.

This step must not be left to the big global tech-players. Such a platform would revolutionize research, make education more accessible, and probably also question our previous understanding of art as an asset class, as well as property and its necessity in general.

AD: What role does the artist have in society?

TN: Artists should be allowed to practice against prevailing social conventions - and document the non-materialistic world.

AD: What memorable responses have you had to your projects?

TN: Art dealers tend to be scared of the applied technology - one told me this year this edition is a diabolical object. It is maybe the naked and unfiltered representation of value, of bare money, unsettling many spectators. People are accustomed to encrypting values by using status symbols.

On the other hand, I have experienced fascination and interest for a real, touchable and experienceable use-case for a rather abstract technology such as Blockchain which we provide with Value Manifesto.

AD: What do you dislike about the art world?

TN: Unfortunately, the art world is often artificial scenery - hypocrisy of values and backgrounds that often do not exist. It is a big problem that there are no art critics anymore to show what a huge part of the art world is a bluff and fraudon humans and often on the artists themselves. We need more discussions and more opinions.

AD: What research do you do?

TN: I am active with artists foundations and curating exhibitions with privates and institutions all over Europe. For me, the need for a more efficient exchange of art information is not a potential scenario but a necessity that I experience in my daily business. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of candidates and concepts in the area of Blockchain art data exchange, so the research in legal and regulatory aspects can be considered a new territory.

AD: What's the best piece of advice you have been given?

TN: Quite a simple one: honesty is the best policy.

 

Image courtesy for Timo Niemeyer

 

AD: Which technologies do you use and combine, why?

TN: We use IoT (Internet of things) technology to connect the value of each edition to the 250 circulated displays.The Value Manifesto’s trading platform is based on the Ethereum blockchain where each of the 250 editions is represented by an ERC-721 token. The decision for ERC-721 tokens was based on their non-fungible properties when compared to ERC-20 or ERC-223 tokens, which are fungible. When an edition is traded, the corresponding ERC-721 token is assigned from the seller’s account to the buyer’s account on the blockchain. As a result, all ownership transfers of the Value Manifesto become public record on the Ethereum blockchain. That’s the key for the project: full transparency and no collusion.

AD: What is the role of the people, the crowd in your project?

TN: Value Manifesto is an interactive art edition, so the people are essential for the project - they define supply and demand.They can purchase and sell Crypto Editions through the platform. The interest directs the project and becomes the project. No fascination, no interest, no demand and everything crashes - the Value becomes Zero. The provocative approach plays a certain role - it’s all about the financial value of the editions and the human individuals interacting with it in terms of ownership and desire.

AD: How can they participate in your project?

TN: The most important participation is interaction. As users need to make an effort to participate in Value Manifesto with registration, paying a security deposit and finally placing a bid, it is not only an interactive genre but can be considered as a collaborative art. The grown interest and communication will lead the way towards a functional project, people together sharing their independent art market. The motivations can be very different: Value Manifesto may attract art collectors, art market sceptics, speculators, anti-capitalists, show-offs, gamblers, makers, sociologists, cynics…

AD: How are you connected with the people or the crowd?

TN: It’s a mixture of personal interaction and digitally communicating community. Now, at the very beginning of the project, the connection is still very much defined via our networks. This circle will grow in the next years through exhibitions and further publications.

AD: The crowd economy creates meaningful experiences and shared value. How do you see it for your work?

TN:  We have a very special aspect of the crowd in our project: we built the whole project as a community and without capital (besides the cost of establishing the company which was equally shared). Dalibor Farny builds our displays - using his fantastic nixie tubes. To implement contributed to the platform, they have proven their expertise in IT.

Matthias Frank, being a mechanical engineer, took over the technical realisation aspect and management while I am responsible for the artistic part, the concept and its’ communication. In the beginning, it was important to convince all participants about the values of the project - those we share today with our team and in the future with the crowd. With the realisation of Value Manifesto, we believe to have created a meaningful experience which was worth investing time, energy and money.

AD: How do you use the crowd?

TN: The crowd demonstrates how Value Manifesto works, and therefore shows to its participants and the public what it is.

AD: How do you interact?

TN: With Value Manifesto, we interact passively through offering a platform and a new matter/condition which needs to be discussed.

AD: How do you handle feedback?

TN: This project exists through feedback. Feedback is important for product and service development.

 

Timo Niemeyer, Etienne Verbist, courtesy for  Etienne Verbist

 

AD: How do you create the interaction?

TN: The interaction starts by opening a discussion, whether it is done by sharing information about the project or raising questions concerning the state of the digital world we live in. Mostly these interactions have been taken place in art fairs, press, crypto community, art community, exhibitions and conferences.

AD: What are the results?

TN: Results show us as interest and involving communication, and as further engagement, such as bids and transactions on the platform.

AD: How do you measure results?

TN: Activity on the platform can be easily measured, but also the changes seen in the communication and attitudes towards the current art and art market are considered as a victory for this new step in the art history we are making.

AD: How do you measure the effect?

TN: Digital and non-manipulatable form guarantees cheap and transparent platforms costs. Transactions are also fast to deliver, as there are no intermediaries between. Overall, our model brings the art market to a more efficient state.

AD: Why participate in your project?

TN: Value Manifesto is a pioneering art project in the era of blockchain and IoT technologies. By participating, you become a part of the change. Together, through this piece of art in an independent art market.

AD: On which segment is your activity or platform based on the segmentation of the crowd economy?

TN: Value Manifesto has multiple elements of the segmentation. Civic Engagement and the principles of Sharing Economy are our long-term visions for this project. Mass Collaboration of different groups made this project possible and Open Innovation such as the Ethereum Blockchain gave us the platform. And speaking about Crowd Currencies… Value Manifesto is a tradeable edition of 250 units - hey, it’s still an art edition, so forget about crowd currencies.

 

Etienne Verbist is an authority in the field of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. After a well filled career with companies such as GE, Etienne was an early adopter of crowd sourcing. Etienne is manager Europe and Africa for Crowd Sourcing Week, a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology, curator of the Disruptive Art Museum – the smallest museum in the world – and columnist for ArtDependence Magazine.

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