Codex Protocol

Just one day left until the Art + Tech Summit! We are looking at one last innovative company that was founded in only September of last year and is already being recognized for its innovations in the art world with their technology. Vastari asked Jess Houlgrave, the Co-founder, and COO, a few questions in anticipation of the event tomorrow. Codex Protocol is overjoyed to support the event and is very pleased to see Christie’s hosting an event that helps “the art ecosystem to understand blockchain.”

Jess took an interest in blockchain technology and its implications within the art world several years ago when picking a Master’s thesis topic. Although it was new territory then, she has found it to be rewarding to see an ever-expanding interest in blockchain technology. An event like the symposium tomorrow, “the art world will be talking about a decentralized trust-building mechanism with extraordinary potential, and already, that is a prospect worth being excited about.” It was clearly appreciated that Vastari and Christie's got together to create the Art + Tech Summit, to make sure that "auction houses and other stakeholders create a more efficient art market using blockchain technology".

Codex Protocol is one of the few innovators that implements blockchain everyday within their company and for those of us that are new to blockchain and how it works we asked Jess to explain how they use the technology.

“Codex Protocol uses non-fungible digital tokens which live on the Ethereum blockchain as digital identifiers for unique assets like works of art. This enables information about the item, such as appraisals, sales records and insurance certificates, to be verified using cryptography so that it is private but provable. Third parties can only view information revealed to them by the owner, but they can integrate either directly to the Codex smart contracts or through an API to interact with the Codex registry. The art industry has an opportunity to showcase the power of a decentralized registry to the world, as provenance information is known to be a perfect use case a distributed ledger and is often spoken of as an example of an area where the benefits of the blockchain can be truly realized.”

The open source nature of blockchain technology allows Codex to work with partners across the entire ecosystem from auction houses, galleries, and artists to asset-backed lenders, and insurance companies. This enables an artwork to have a complete digital picture, if you will, within the Codex registry which can only build trust and transparency within the art world. With companies like Codex Protocol, Paddle8, and Bidpoc creating decentralized systems we wondered if a centralized system to connect all of the registries was necessary. Jess says no, blockchain allows an ecosystem, like the art world, to control and maintain the information itself without the need for a centralized third party and goes onto say “that’s why Codex is open sourced and why governance is being devolved to its users.”

“The beauty of blockchain technology and cryptography is that information can be verified without being public. This means that documentation associated with a Codex record can be verified and time-stamped but can also be only held off-chain, either on a personal or decentralized server.” For any private off-chain records, “information for Codex records is totally private to the person who holds the keys. In a sense, it’s the perfect way to preserve privacy.”

Codex’s registry might contain the information of ownership of a particular artwork, but Jess says the Codex Team don’t have access to this ownership information and “it is entirely at the discretion of each owner to release their information.” In this way, the most essential information about the art world is digitally preserved while allowing the collectors to control the distribution of their data. For Codex Protocol, this digital preservation of the art world’s information parallels with the origins of the “codex” - a book made of multiple sheets of paper, most often referring to old manuscripts.

“For us, Codex resonated for a few reasons. Codices themselves are prized objects, collectible items that people own, but the early Codices were used to record important information. In many ways, the blockchain, a ledger, is a modern-day digital Codex.”

Codex is not just creating a modern-day digital Codex they are also showing the art world how cryptocurrency and the art world can coexist and possibly thrive. In May, Codex hosted a record-breaking live auction of cryptocurrency-themed art, where bidders were paying in either cryptocurrency or USD. This was the first application of what Codex calls “Biddable” technology.

“The response for the Ethereal auction was overwhelmingly positive. The auction sold for over 3 times the high estimate and was a whirlwind success in terms of raising money to launch the Foundation for Art and Blockchain”. All proceeds from the auction will go to support artists working at the intersections of art and blockchain, through this registered non-profit beneficiary.

After the success of the Biddable application at the auction, they have since had “several other auction houses start using Biddable - I think the art world is excited to be able to accept cryptocurrency from the newly minted crypto-wealthy! Moreover, it gave us an opportunity to showcase some of the amazing work being done by artists in this space.” When asked if Codex has any more events like the Ethereal auction later this year we were happy to hear a resounding, “Yes, we are! Follow us on Twitter @Codexprotocol to stay up to date!”

Codex admits they are just at the start of understanding all of the possibilities and implications of blockchain technology within the art world but are excited to see the community engagement thus far. Over the next few years, they hope to recognize and understand both its full potential and limitations. Not having yet met their one year mark as a company, Codex was already a finalist for the Europas award for Hottest Blockchain DApp category. Codex was proud of being the youngest company by a few years but additionally proud of the showing within the category by art + tech companies.

“It was particularly exciting for us that both the winner, Verisart, and another finalist, Ascribe, also operate in the art world and yet this was a non-art specific category. It showed how much progress is happening made in the art & blockchain space.”

For the last time before tomorrow, we asked what does Art + Tech mean to you?

“For me, it is about finding ways to make the art ecosystem more efficient and more accessible. Most importantly though, it is about finding ways to ensure that our artists, who are fundamental to our culture, are adequately rewarded for the work they do, something the art world sometimes fails to do.”

We look forward to hearing more from all of these innovators tomorrow at the Art + Tech Summit. Tickets have sold out but anyone interested in this subject will have access to the videos from the event, on the Christie’s Art + Tech Youtube channel.