When it comes to art I’ve often wondered if I am a philistine. Maybe it goes back to my abysmal performance in Art O Level at grammar school where I achieved a low-grade E for my efforts. Most of the time I just don’t get it. In fact, my lack of appreciation of the arts generally does make me wonder, am I just a Luddite? I don’t like opera, I am not keen on theatre unless it is a musical and I don’t particularly like classical music apart from the all-time classics. I don’t like reading the heavy tomes of the greatest authors either.

As for modern art well, I just think artists such as Tracey Emin are fooling us. I don’t care what anyone else says but the exhibition of an unmade bed is not art in my opinion. Nor do I consider a cow and a calf preserved in four tanks of formaldehyde by Damien Hirst to be art either. These artists remind me of the story of the Emperor’s clothes. You have to be really gullible to fall for such nonsense.

Give me live sport, give me heavy metal music, give me a live rock and roll concert, a top West End musical, a brilliant film, a great book, a fantastic podcast, a superb David Attenborough wildlife documentary any day. I love them all. I really relate to these types of entertainment. They make me feel alive, energised, stimulated, excited, intrigued. I really get it.

Having said all that I have to confess that yes, as I get older, I am beginning to appreciate the arts more but I am probably still a philistine. I have begun to appreciate works of art and have even been to a few art galleries in recent years as well as some museums. I’ve even secretly listened to some great classical music whilst reading and found it very uplifting. So maybe there is hope for me yet.

I know there is a market for alternative assets such as vintage cars, wines and whiskies and works of art but if I were to start investing in such assets I really wouldn’t know where to start. The prices achieved for the greatest works of art truly astound me. The painting of Salvator Mundi by the great Leonardo Da Vinci sold for $450.3m in November 2017. A truly astonishing price. Interestingly Da Vinci painted some of the most famous paintings historically such as the Mona Lisa, yet painting wasn’t his main profession. His career was mainly that of a designer. He is by far my favourite genius of all time. An extraordinarily gifted man with amazing creativity, ingenuity and foresight. He was literally centuries ahead of his time but I digress.

I have often wondered why certain works of art are just so outrageously expensive especially when you view such art first hand. I had the great privilege of viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvres museum in Paris when I was still in the sixth form. I was very disappointed. It was a small painting, dull and uninteresting but hey what do I know? I am aware that there are of course several reasons why an asset such as a painting can be so expensive. Supply and demand, rarity value, a new style of painting, an investment etc.

What really piqued my interest recently was my discovery of digital or Crypto Art. Of course, due to my ignorance of art, this new type of art was not already known to me but apparently, it has been around for a number of years already. How very interesting.

My next thought was why would somebody pay a lot of money for digital art which would be easy to copy and paste? How do you as the owner of the crypto art secure its high value? Well by the use of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of course! So what is an NFT? It is essentially a special token with a unique ID that is impossible to replicate. NFTs are used to create verified ownership of a digital asset in the worlds of crypto art, crypto collectibles, and all sorts of other crypto assets.

The token is, like cryptocurrencies, part of the blockchain, a permanent digital ledger accessible to anyone with a computer and internet. As a contrast, an example of a fungible asset is a five-pound note: I can use any five-pound note for exchange, and it will not change a thing to you. With NFTs, you can buy a digital picture, prove your ownership of it, and sell it later on.

So what’s to stop someone downloading your image online? Well, nothing really! However, the image on the person’s computer is worth nothing without the token. You have the original, with the value that comes with it. Using the same logic, you can buy a poster of a Da Vinci painting. It looks the same, but it is only worth £30 because it is not the original. In this regard, any downloaded image looks pretty but holds no value.

However, many people ask why some pixelised versions are reaching higher valuations than the originals: how does it make sense that infinitely reproducible pixels are worth more than the original physical copy?

Well, it surely does not have more value, however, it is far more accessible. Digital works of art can be displayed in many more ways than in a gallery: online galleries, digital frames, streaming, in a VR world, and so on. Also, as they have no weight they are much easier to transport than any given painting or statue. Finally, there is hardly a way to break them. Digital art does not fear careless manipulation, fires, floods, nor your annoying friend who never understood that watching did not have to involve hands. All you need to access it is a key that can be stored on the cloud or even in your head.

So in spite of my limited interest in works of art in the past, I may foray into investing in crypto art one day. Who knows? Certainly, the world is becoming increasingly digital and changing rapidly before our very own eyes. So do keep informed about technological developments. You know it makes sense.*

*The contents of this blog are for information purposes only and do not constitute individual advice. All information contained in this article is based on our current
understanding of taxation, legislation and regulations in the current tax year. Any levels and bases of and reliefs from taxation are subject to change.

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