Arcual is a blockchain that makes smart contracts specifically designed for the art industry, as opposed to the NFT industry. A smart contract is a means of recording provenance, sales agreements, and distributing royalties, as well as providing digital certificates of authenticity to artists, galleries, institutions, and collectors.
“Arcual predates the hype of NFTs,” Bernadine Bröcker Wieder, Arcual's CEO, told ARTnews. “Three and a half years ago a conversation happened between some members of the team at Art Basel and those at the Luma foundation about problems in the art industry and how blockchain could potentially help solve them.”
Arcual intends to differentiate itself from its competition through the use of two-party verification. Typically, when a smart contract is created, the information input into it comes from only one wallet. Since digital artworks and NFTs are directly visible, this is not an issue. In contrast, with physical artwork, the buyer has no way of knowing whether the information contained in the contract or the artwork it refers to, is authentic, other than to trust the reputation of the contract's author. A contract and a certificate of authenticity are created by two parties - typically the artist and the gallery - to ensure that every subsequent buyer receives an authenticated item.
“The agreement can be made by an artist and a gallery simultaneously so that there’s a certificate of authenticity that ensures the artwork actually exists,” said Bröcker Wieder. “Typically, information entry on decentralized public blockchains is not monitored much and we needed to address that.”
Bröcker Wieder envisions a truly decentralized blockchain ecosystem independent of institutions such as the MCH Group and LUMA.
“The whole point of this is to be decentralized and that the information can be stored across servers that are hosted with different entities of the art world,” said Bröcker Wieder. “Right now, MCH and LUMA are the nodes that we are starting with, but as more art world participants join in we can build the first actual blockchain ecosystem where the money being circulated goes to the art industry rather than the crypto industry.”
A beta version of Arcual is being offered to some galleries.
Art Basel's launch of Arcual raises questions about whether or not it will continue to work with Tezos, its blockchain partner at fairs in Hong Kong, Basel, and Paris. According to a spokesperson for Art Basel, while MCH and Arcual share the same parent company, MCH Group, Arcual does not interfere with Art Basel's ongoing partnership with Tezos. According to the spokesperson, Tezos and Art Basel will indeed be partnering again for the next Miami art fair.