Carrie Eldridge, the founder of ATO Gallery Carrie Eldridge, the founder of ATO Gallery

Carrie Eldridge, who founded ATO Gallery in 2016, started her career in the financial services industry before pursuing her passion for art. She realized that the art industry needed better clarity and accurate appraisals in order to monitor the increase in art values, achieve profitability for artists and prevent art fraud. At her gallery, she has implemented blockchain, a digital ledger of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, so that art values and artist's works can be properly tracked. In June 2018, ATO Gallery made the highest sale of a work of art using Bitcoin when Benjamin Katz's mixed media work Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights sold for 150 Bitcoin (equivalent to $1.25 million at the time).

Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights, Benjamin Katz. 2018, wax and paint. Courtesy ATO Gallery Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights, Benjamin Katz. 2018, wax and paint. Courtesy ATO Gallery

ATO Gallery is hosting its first New York pop-up titled Conduit at One Art Space (23 Warren Street) on Sunday, November 18 from 1-8pm and Monday, November 19, 11-8pm. The pop-up will showcase the works of four emerging artists, Nina Swistel, Paul Cooley, Adam Krueger and Mr. Star City, whose contemporary works incorporate a variety of mediums.

Here, Barnebys talks to Carrie about the blockchain phenomenon, what to know about the New York pop-up and what's next for ATO Gallery.

ATO is one of the galleries that is revolutionizing the art world by accepting cryptocurrency and leveraging blockchain technology. How is this transforming the art market compared to other art blockchain ventures? 

The ATO Platform will be the first blockchain ecosystem to allow art collectors to buy fine art and artists tokens, accurately track sale prices and protect against the emergence of a counterfeit market.

Scanning the competitive market, many art-authentication ventures are hyper-focused on the counterfeit and provenance market, which is discussed the most in media. The counterfeit market is believed to cost the art industry at least $7 billion a year. If these new tools like blockchain can help put a dent in that fraud, it would be incredible, but we don't see that as the biggest problem faced by the art market, or potentially even one that would 'transform' the entire market.

We are addressing the problems of helping living artists and the collectors that are building collections right now.

Through ATO Gallery, we are making art data transparent to increase the collector pool and are modernizing with new parameters for higher consumer engagement through transparency of data, funding and liquidity to collectors. We want to empower collectors through knowledge and access to a wider range of artists. Satisfying the thirst of a prospective collector’s knowledge base is our priority.

Our carefully curated algorithm and protocol evaluates dozens of variables to help determine WHY an artist’s work is priced the way it is and qualify expert opinions. With accessible data and transparency, we allow collectors to purchase artwork with confidence and enhance an artist’s token value that is uniquely their own.

As the artist's sales, showings and consumer demand improve, their token value increases as well. This is a true stock market for the art world. Our presence is ELIMINATING the barriers-to-entry in the art market. ARTISTS become the living assets; the art itself plays a secondary role.

What do you look for in artists you represent at ATO Gallery?

ATO Gallery seeks to make the art world more transparent and accessible. What advice would you give to young collectors today?

First of all, the first question you should ask yourself when considering a purchase is do you love it? After that, it's important you do your own research into the artwork provenance if you're buying from a dealer or private owner. Don't be afraid to ask for paperwork, auction records or access to the artists if you're purchasing from a gallery. I believe asking questions and exploring is one of the best ways to learn; it's time-consuming but think of it as an investment in your skillset.

Carrie in the studio of Adam Krueger Carrie in the studio of Adam Krueger

Are there any trends you've identified working in the digital art sphere?

As far as digital art specifically we see its popularity growing, but it’s still very new. Blockchain allows for traceability of digital assets so that buyers can feel confident in their value. Many people don’t know that Andy Warhol actually created some digital art, but because there was little to no way to trace it and protect it, it never took off. Blockchain will become paramount in protecting digital and physical artwork, but right now the art and tech community is still working out the kinks.

What should visitors know about Conduit before attending the pop-up show?

In the pop-up show, the word conduit has taken on a different meaning from the Latin conducere ‘bring together’. Conduit features four New York-based fine art artists, Nina Swistel, Adam Krueger, Paul Cooley and Mr. Star City, who range in age from early 30s to 40s. The artists are all different in their message, medium and purpose, but all have something in common. We want our visitors to find the connection and meaning on their own as to why these artists have been brought together. We want our visitors to come with an open mind and no expectations or preconditions for the show.

Carrie in the studio of Paul Cooley Carrie in the studio of Paul Cooley

What is next for you and ATO Gallery?

Our new website will be complete by the end of this year, so we are thrilled to launch it after testing. We are in talks with a number of renowned artists to add to the platform; we take what our artists say very seriously and they've been a major part of helping structure this so we know they will want to stay involved. We are looking forward to announcing all the artists that will launch with us next year. We are also currently raising our third round of funding in preparation for our launch, so it's going to be a busy end to the year.