MICHAEL CAINE, Al Pacino, Sting and Ronaldinho are among the star-studded collectors of British artist Lincoln Townley who recently sold an entire collection for cryptocurrency over the course of a single weekend, using just social media.
The London and LA-based artist, dubbed by Michael Caine as “the next Andy Warhol,” snubs traditional galleries and auction houses by selling his work through WhatsApp and other social media channels to collectors all over the world, some of whom do not see the work in the flesh until after they purchase it.
In another unusual step, the majority of the self-taught artist’s sales are conducted digitally, with a preferred payment in cryptocurrency.
Mr Townley, whose latest collection, Behind the Mask, will exhibit at the prestigious Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale) on The Grand Canal next spring, believes artists should be looking for innovative ways to sell their work.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, he said: “I’m always looking at ways to do things differently in my route to market.
“There is no two ways about it. The people who invest in Bitcoin are without doubt speculators – they are looking at something with more of a risk.
“But that’s why I thought to myself, these are the sort of people that would be interested in purchasing my art as an extension to their investment portfolio.”
He added: “The best thing is it fuels my belief that galleries are secondary to an artist’s success – they just need to look at galleries as another string to their bow.
“There are so many other ways to get sales with technology.”
Mr Townley claims he is “shaking up the art world” by building an entire community of digital buyers who contact him directly using social media, waiving the need for galleries by cutting out the “middle-man” in the transaction.
The London-born artist revealed some cryptocurrency enthusiasts were already art collectors, but those he found were most interested were those who were looking for a tangible way to diversify their digital investment portfolio.
He said: “They are looking for a tangible asset they can put this newfound currency into.”
Referring to the network cryptocurrency has brought about, the club promoter turned artist explained a “crypto-community” surrounding the financial technology excited people.
Bitcoin is currently the most well-established cryptocurrency, with one Bitcoin equalling £5,350 (correct at the time of publication).
But the currency is subject to the ebb and flow of market conditions and has seen huge fluctuations in value over the past few years, sparking fears from some analysts that the digital commodity is set to enter the history books as one of the world’s biggest bubbles.
After an almost 60-fold increase over the past three years to just more than £15,300 in December, Bitcoin has tumbled by about 70 percent from its peak on concern that regulatory and security hurdles will prevent widespread adoption.
Of cryptocurrency’s volatile value, Yves Mersch, a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board, said: “At these speeds, if you bought a bunch of tulips with Bitcoin they may well have wilted by the time the transaction was confirmed.”
But self-styled “art outsider” and cryptocurrency champion Mr Townley believes the value of Bitcoin will only continue to rise.
He said: “I think there is a huge market for expansion, with it being something that is going to inflate in value.
“Therefore, inflating in value will give you more of a vehicle to purchase art in the future.”