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Christie’s Venture will focus on early-stage financing for companies developing Web 3.0 and related technologies, innovations that make it easier to consume art.

By Abby Schultz
Wed, Jul 20, 2022 4:47pmGrey Clock 2 min

Christie’s announced on Monday that it’s now investing in leading-edge technology related to the future of the art market through an internal strategic venture fund.

Christie’s Venture will focus on early-stage financing for companies developing Web 3.0 and related technologies, innovations that make it easier to consume art—including digital art, and on financial technologies that make it easier to buy and sell art.

“We’re particularly interested in founders who are doing things that reduce friction in our space—whether it be buying and selling, provenance, security, or technologies that help people consume art better,” says Devang Thakkar, global head of Christie’s Ventures. “Those are the kinds of areas that we’ve identified where we can help move the needle.”

Thakkar began advising Christie’s CEO Guillame Cerutti and the executive team during the pandemic on a range of digital considerations, including web and mobile applications, trends in nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, and digital ownership.

“With the growth of that area last year, we had a front-row seat to the development and innovation that founders were bringing to us,” he says. At the time, Christie’s didn’t have a way to participate in these fledgling businesses, so Thakkar pitched the idea of a venture fund.

The vehicle’s first investment is in LayerZero Labs, which Christie’s describes as a “cross-chain interoperability company.” In other words, LayerZero is developing technology that will allow people to move assets between blockchains such as Ethereum, Solana, and Algorand.

There are more than 1,000 blockchains currently in existence and Christie’s expects consolidation in the sector will reduce the number to 20 to 30 within the next year-and-a-half. LayerZero should make it easier for individuals to move their holdings without going through several steps and paying lots of fees. It’s technology that should benefit any crypto holder, not just those who own NFT-based art, Thakkar says.

Aside from such Web 3.0 technologies, Christie’s will also invest in technology that makes it easy to consume art, whether it’s through today’s computer systems, advanced screens, or something else, he says, adding, “It’s an area of investigation for us.”

Concerning financial innovation, Christie’s, which has its own art financing division, is looking outside of traditional art lending to the selling of fractionalized shares in fine art and other innovations that make it easier to sell art.

The fund is launching at a time when cryptocurrencies have fallen sharply, taking the value of many NFTs down too. Ethereum, which is the basis for many NFTs, was down nearly 66% through Friday.

But Thakkar says this “crypto winter” actually makes it “a little more realistic to invest in this space—the fog of speculation and high-price points have tapered down a bit.” He points to Andreessen Horowitz, a US$33 billion California-based venture firm that began investing in leading-edge tech in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis.

Christie’s Ventures is seeded from the auction house’s balance sheet and will not include other investors. Legal and financial due diligence will all be handled in house, too.

Thakkar, who has been investing in companies on his own for 10 years, worked at Microsoft for a decade and was a former executive at Artsy, and he says, he also grew up around art. This new role at Christie’s is “a perfect blend of every fabric of my being,” he says.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 18, 2022


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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”