• J McGlynn and M Bacina

Fine art meets blockchain - crypto connoisseurs or corked craziness?

With the booming trade in non-fungible token (NFT), relatives of Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné's (1888-1944) have sought to auction off an NFT for one of his paintings "Abstract Composition". The auction will reportedly take place through Mintable, "an online NFT marketplace that recently received an investment from billionaire Mark Cuban." The twist is that the winner of the auction will also receive the original artwork.



While 13 years ago, Baranoff -Reossine's artworks were selling for roughly $5 million a piece, according to an expert in Russian paintings, "the bottom has totally fallen out of his market" and just 40% of Baranoff-Rossine's art have sold after 100 auctions. This being the case, reportedly "Baranoff-Rossiné’s descendants, who have a large collection of his work, are taking his market into their own hands". The painter’s grandson - who is also named Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné, has agreed with these reports, commenting:

In terms of the NFT, it’s about being able to showcase my grandfather’s work to a different audience—and a wider audience.

For those who know about graphic designer and motion artist Beeple's NFT efforts, mixing fine art and new technology isn't unheard of. However, Baranoff-Rossiné grandson says what makes this NFT auction something that's "never been done before" is the fact that the NFT is the focal point of the auction.


Zach Burks, Mintable’s founder and chief executive officer explains the perhaps semantical distinction stating:

This is an auction for an NFT that happens to come with a painting. It’s not a painting that’s auctioned that comes with [an] NFT.

He further said that it was “unlikely” that someone would be bidding for the painting itself and not the NFT. Given that the purchaser has to pay in crypto-currency, the buyer is most likely not going to be a traditional art collector, but will be likely to be a crypto-native user.


Fittingly, and "unlike most fine art auctions" the artwork/NFT hybrid won't come with an estimate value. "Theres no estimates for NTF's", Burk explains:

[t]he Baranoff-Rossiné painting [comes with], a starting bid of 6.5 ETH, which—as of 4:45 p.m. East Coast time on Tuesday—was worth about $11,050.

It will be interesting to see if the family of this 1920's artist decision to hitch their ancestor's reputation to NFT's to try and restore value in his artworks that aren't selling now will be enough to boost the price. We tend to think that it is more likely that the value of the art is better reflected in the broader reach of an NFT, rather than the NFT craze being likely to help to revive interest in a lesser known classical artist.