Artifract, fine art NFT pioneer, secures seed investment from tech industry veteran

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“Going once, going twice – sold!” exclaims Brian Poe Llamanzares, a founding partner of art dealing company Unit 256 Ventures, as the gavel goes down on yet another successful art auction. The winning bidder: Elmer “Jojo” Malolos, tech veteran and most recent investor in Unit 256’s latest innovation. The lot: a digital collectible from National Artist Vicente Manansala’s very first NFT collection. As with all Unit 256’s auction events to date, the collection sold out.

What began as a shared love for fine art became an obsession with making that art more accessible to the general investing public. Celebrated artists like Juvenal Sanso command dizzyingly high gavel prices on auction – and rightly so, given their incredible artistic and cultural value. And yet, the founders asked themselves, shouldn’t every person have the chance to own and appreciate a part of the greatest works of human creativity?

Democratizing masterpieces

Founded in 2022, Unit 256 Ventures is a leading innovator in the world of asset tokenization. Asset tokenization refers to the process of converting rights to an asset into a digital token on a blockchain. This process makes it possible to divide an asset into smaller, more affordable shares that can be easily and securely bought and sold. The group’s five founders are: Brian (concurrently CEO of Pantheon Holdings), Edison Tsai (President of Seedin Technology), Magellan Fetalino (Entrepreneur-in-Residence of UBX Philippines Corporation), Stephanie Oller (Managing Director of Market Connect, Inc), and Marvin Agustin (CEO of Yummyverse Holdings, Inc).

Leveraging the founders’ strengths in startup ventures and frontier technologies, blockchain became the logical path to democratizing access to fine art masterpieces. Soon, Artifract was born through a partnership between Unit 256 and UBX Philippines Corporation, the fintech company of the Unionbank of the Philippines.

Artifract is a pioneer in Fine Arts NFTs in Asia. Working alongside art estates, museums, private collectors, and artists, the company digitizes fine art masterpieces into NFTs, then fractionalizes them into one-of-a-kind tiles, turning these artworks into limited collections. 

This model is built on a concept called fractional ownership, wherein several unrelated parties can share in ownership of a high-value tangible asset, such as real estate or fine art. In this case, it refers to dividing a piece of art into smaller shares – or tiles – that people can buy, thereby owning a “fraction” of the artwork. Regular tiles from these collections are often sold on their website, along with a limited edition giclee (or high quality reproduction), for P30,000 to P50,000 each. Premium tiles, highlighting special details or artist signatures, are auctioned off during events. In one case, a signature tile netted P250,000.

A global movement

Bringing this level of innovation to a traditional art market was no small task. But the Artifract team found ready partners in like-minded, forward-thinking institutions. Since its inception, the company has partnered with leading art estates like Fundacion Sanso representing celebrated national artists such as Juvenal Sanso, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, and Abdulmari Imao.

And these partnerships aren’t limited to local masters. Today, Artifract is the exclusive Asian partner of Belvedere Museum. One of the leading museums worldwide, Belvedere is home to some of the most celebrated artworks in history, including pieces from Monet, Van Gogh, Rodin, and Gustav Klimt. Through this partnership, Filipino art collectors can log on to the Artifract website and purchase their very own piece of Klimt’s most famous work—The Kiss, as part of Belvedere’s The Kiss NFT initiative. 

“It’s a partnership we’re very proud of, and one that we feel really captures the incredible new world we’re hoping to shape,” said Edison, Artifract’s president. “One where anyone, wherever in the world they’re from, can claim a part of the greatest works of human creativity—democratizing access to our shared global cultural heritage.”

A new vision for fine art

It’s precisely this vision that caught the attention of veteran tech investor Jojo Malolos, whose bona fides include being the former CEO of Wing Bank (digital bank in Cambodia), the former CEO of JG Digital Ventures (the venture arm of the Gokongwei Group), the former Chairman of Gotyme Bank (digital bank of the Gokongwei Group), and currently the CEO of payments solution startup Paymongo. Jojo has since joined Artifract as a seed investor, supporting the company as it grows beyond auctions and digital tiles.

“There is definitely something here, and I want to be part of things I know can be big in the future,” Jojo said. “I am also a believer that art should be for everyone.”

Today, Artifract has set its sights on more ways to utilize blockchain technology to democratize access to fine art. While there is much promise in minting and fractionalizing authentic digital versions of masterpieces, the team is now looking for ways to use this model of fractional ownership to allow investors to own portions of the actual physical artworks as well.

“Artifract is set to change the art landscape regionally,” Edison said. “And we are looking for more like minded people to join us and invest in that vision.”

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