Christie’s at the forefront of art and tech with new venture capital fund

Christie’s auction house took another step last week to secure its position at the forefront of the intersection between art and technology. They launched an in-house investment fund, ‘Christie’s Ventures’, which aims to offer financial support and guidance to startups in the developing field of technology and fintech.

Over the past few years, Christie’s has firmly established itself as one of the most prominent art institutions in the area of art and technology. In 2018, the auction house’s inaugural conference Art+Tech Summit was held, and each year since the summit has explored new themes in the art and technology world. In its first year, the conference theme was Exploring Blockchain, and since then they have addressed topics such as the AI (Artificial Intelligence) Revolution, Mixed Reality, and NFTs and Beyond. They were also the first auction house to accept cryptocurrency and to sell an individual NFT when they sold Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days in March 2021 for $69.3m with fees.

According to Devang Thakkar, Global Head of Christie’s Ventures, who spoke at the company’s Art+Tech Summit last week, the new venture capital fund will focus on three emerging areas in the art-technology world: “We have three pillars we’re looking at, one of which is Web3, one of the other pillars is investing in better ways of viewing art, that is, technology that improves how you consume art. The third pillar is around the financial innovation in the art market, technology that makes it easier to actually acquire art objects.”

Christie’s Ventures has already invested in Canadian company LayerZero Labs, a company which “enables the realization of cross-chain applications” – essentially allowing for people to move digital assets across different blockchains. Bryan Pellegrino, co-founder of LayerZero Labs, said in a statement: “we look forward to working with the [Christie’s] team to find new and innovative ways to create the most accessible, frictionless experience with assets indexed over multiple blockchains”.

On the auction house’s motivation for embarking on this new project, Thakkar explained, “we’ve been at the forefront of technology for a long time, for example we’ve had live auctions where you can bid from your phone. Then our thinking shifted over the pandemic. We decided, we can’t just take what someone builds and plug it in, if we want something that is very customized, we should actually take an investment position and guide the founders to make something that is the right thing for the art market.”

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