Comment | Art Basel is not just an art fair, it is a technology platform

For 375 of us, Art Basel Week kicked off in Zurich at NFT Art Day, an almost heroic attempt to move beyond novelty and sensation into a common understanding of the art world of digital art. NFT was present in Art Basel, but they were not fiery – probably mature or subdued. The crypto value is collapsing, and yet we were in Switzerland, not Miami.

NFT platforms – where indispensable tokens are bought, sold and resold – such as fxhash, Tezos and Pace Verso had events and noisily branded areas in Basel. And yet, in fact, the most successful technological changes in the art world are constantly happening smoothly through its existing powerful players like Art Basel itself.

Although at first glance it is an art fair, the property of MCH Group Art Basel is a multi-level technical system that controls access not only to the first glance at the works for sale, but also to the data from the art world. While the Liste satellite fair partners with Artsy for its online market, Art Basel integrates the fair and technology platform into the house.

What does a platform do?

Technology platforms allow users to run applications seamlessly without worrying about the technology that supports them. Following the success of Facebook and YouTube in the mid-2010s, many companies in Silicon Valley tried to convince investors that they were platforms. When GoPro went public in 2014, it did so, according to a company that not only made a camera that you hung on your chest while skiing, but also as a platform.

This is because platforms have users and users create data and the data can be sold and used to sell even more things to users. More importantly, much of the value of the platform is created by its users, while infrastructure, network effects and switching costs are created by the platform.

Initially, Amazon, for example, made it easier for small businesses to sell their products to their vast online customer base. After decades of analysis data, Amazon now sells many products directly to consumers, cutting out the business that initially made the platform popular. After their user base was huge, both Facebook and Twitter abolished application programming interfaces that allowed third-party companies to build on them. Immediate platforms. As more and more power in the art world is mediated by platforms such as Artsy, Artnet and SuperRare, it is worth noting that there is no reason to believe that the art world will use technology in different ways.

These platforms are already competing with each other. Winning art platforms not only collect and use data productively, but manage our networks, customer relationships, and payment flows. Both Artsy and Artland charge a percentage of sales and charge gallery subscription fees, while NFT platforms charge 5% to 30% of sales.

Platforms in the art world can be divided into those whose business models depend on galleries, such as Art Basel, and those that do not, such as SuperRare. Unlike auction houses, art fair platforms such as Art Basel currently have an incentive to work through galleries instead of seeking to connect collectors directly with artists. Just as an artist cannot place an ad on Artforum, a trader without a physical location cannot apply for most art fairs, with the New Art Dealers Alliance being an important exception.

Are art platforms good?

The art world is taking advantage of the way platforms nurture professionalism and create sales pressure on galleries. Platforms usually have larger, more diverse teams than most galleries and institutions. From an interview with Artsy, it seems that this is a particularly good example of a diverse company that opposes both technological and norms in the art world.

Because companies, the platforms pay their employees better, have real human resources departments and operate on clearer trading principles than most galleries. Ultimately, acting as a platform, whether in the arts or the technology industry, is a game of accumulating and using energy. With the accumulation of power, we must always ask ourselves: who controls access and what obligations does it have to the consumer, let alone to art?

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