If you haven’t heard about NFTs, don’t worry, most people still have no clue what it means and how it works. However, for the sake of this article, think of it digital asset that uses the blockchain to be able to be sold or leveraged like a physical asset.

One of the industries that has adopted NFTs quickly is the art world, with digital artist Beeple selling an NFT for USD 69 million earlier this year. Yes, we did not make a mistake, it was USD 69 million.

But, as the question always goes, does this even matter to Southeast Asia and our still fledgling art scene? It apparently does and here’s why. We found out about RtistiQ, a mobile app and website art marketplace, is the first in Singapore and Southeast Asia to leverage technologies such as blockchain, non-fungible tokens (NFT) and near field communication (NFC) for art authentication.

To get a better sense of the industry and what they are doing, we spoke to Jothi Krishnan Menon, co-founder and CEO of RtistiQ, about the industry, NFTs and more. His platform now has over 200 artists from approximately 29 different countries across the globe on board, with roughly 2,500 art assets and US$8 million worth of merchandise value.

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Building this collection is no simple feat. Traditionally, artists would have physical representations of their artwork at on-site galleries and online art galleries have not really kicked off that well in the region. However, the global pandemic has pivoted the scene towards online representations where artists are increasingly looking for a trustworthy platform to showcase their artwork.

RtistiQ prides itself as an artist-friendly marketplace that not only provides artists with an online platform for sales, but also addresses their concerns such as untrackable provenance, the absence or delayed royalties received, copyright infringement, and the lack of transparency in the primary art marketplace.

Congrats on the new launch? Could you share how the technology used in RtistiQ platform works?

Thank you so much for the wishes. Art attribution has always remained a challenge for the Art industry, and it suffers from a lack of central governance and is a subject of research for Authenticators. Given its decentralized nature, blockchain technology can create a permanent record of ownership and future transfer, publicly verifiable without
compromising security.

Artworks added to the platform are registered to the blockchain as an NFT and signed by the original creator to mark its authenticity and uniqueness. It acts as a digital Certificate of Authenticity for Artworks, and with each acquisition, a transaction record to reflect the ownership transfer. Tokenized as an NFT makes it easier to keep track of who is in current possession of the artwork, allowing owners to exercise better control over their works and protect against others appropriating it without permission, copyright infringement, and delayed or absent royalties.

We also offer NFC (Near Field Communication) stickers attached to physical artwork to create an additional layer of authentication. They are tamper-evident and stop working if anyone tries to remove them. A scan by any smartphone lets users verify the artwork once it is shipped across, and for future authentication as the work of art changes hands.

RtistiQ - Chain of Ownership
How NFTs work to improve authentication

What is the potential for digital art in Southeast Asia?

Digital Art has entered a new space of recognition with the NFT technology to mark the authenticity and be the original work created. Given the digital nature with no logistics involved, it can be quickly traded without the need of any middlemen (excluding the technology providers). Digital Artists worldwide hold massive potential for Southeast
Asian artists, given the penetration of the internet and mobile technology in the region and opening up a global stage for the artists to display their works. NFT’s have given three significant benefits to Digital Art: authenticity, exclusivity, and liquidity, which provides a broader audience for the creation and increases the investment potential.

Even art galleries are participating in the movement, evolving to support the realm of NFT with galleries. KÖNIG GALERIE’s recently had their first-ever NFT auction of 29 digital artworks. Additionally, collectors are warming up to the notion of NFTs, especially those already familiar with Web3 and crypto. Colin Goltra and Gabby Dizon, who started out
as collectors of both NFTs and crypto art, partnered and started Norra Gallery.

Do you think we’ll be able to find the next Beeple in the region or continue to find buyers for NFTs in the region?

A Beeple like event in the near term would be a long shot as it was led by multiple firsts and was wonderfully marketed as being the most exclusive Art and extremely contested for making a statement. However, the region is definitely seeing wider acceptance for NFT’s and is supported by the fast-growing crypto market compared to the west with a growing number of artists adopting the use of NFTs for their works.

Are there any specific markets that you are seeing the potential for growth in terms of buyers?

Right now we are heavily focused on growing our presence in Singapore and making sure we are able to promote a variety of creative Styles as well as access to Artists from different parts of the world. We are exploring extension into Hong Kong and Australia and looking at making the Brand known across APAC.

What’s next for RtistiQ?

At present, we have international artists from 29 different countries on the platform, currently housing approximately 2,500 art assets and US$8M worth of merchandise value.

We are currently working on bettering the visual experience and providing interest-based recommendations through use of proprietary algorithms, as we try to increase the user base of Art enthusiasts on the platform. There are a few exciting tech innovations we are working on to be brought out for the Art community and would be duly shared.