Codex CEO Mark Lurie Talks Ethereal and the Future of Blockchain Art

mark lurie

Mark Lurie, Codex Protocol CEO

mark lurie headshot

Mark Lurie has an impressive resume: Harvard alum, Lofty founder, and now, Codex Protocol CEO. Codex is a blockchain-powered registry for unique assets. It establishes a permanent record of provenance for items ranging anywhere from fine art to bottles of wine.

About a month ago, the Codex team organized a blockchain art auction at the Ethereal Summit in New York in which they raised over $190,000 towards the Foundation for Art and Blockchain. The highlight of the auction: an ultra-rare CryptoKitty fetching a $140,000 final price tag.

Coin Central’s Steven Buchko recently sat down (virtually) with Lurie to talk about the auction and get a better sense of the value blockchain technology brings to the art world. They also touch on Lurie’s entrance to blockchain and art as well as his plans for Codex moving forward.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Codex protocol, we dive a little deeper into the project in our interview with Codex COO Jess Houlgrave.

Lurie’s Entrance into Blockchain

Lurie is no stranger to the art world. After receiving his MBA at Harvard, he started and sold Lofty, an online marketplace for fine art and collectibles. It was during that time that he learned the ins and outs of the industry and experienced first-hand the difficulty in dealing with art collectibles.

Blockchain has been on his radar for a while as well. Lurie notes, “I bought my first Bitcoin in 2011. I then lost it all in Mt. Gox. But I was interested in what was happening, and I knew that blockchain could solve a lot of the problems in art collectibles.”

However, the growing popularity of tokens and ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) is what led Lurie to create Codex. “The token can actually ensure adoption and adherence to a shared standard because it aligns incentives. That [adherence] enables a blockchain-based solution that solves a lot of the problems I saw at Lofty.”

codex network

Even though Lofty and Codex live in the same industry, Lurie faces a new set of challenges in working with blockchain technology.

“In startups, we learned a long time ago to be lean and iterate fast on technology. But with blockchain, you have to plan more ahead because it’s much harder to iterate.”

You would think that a non-technical industry such as art would be adverse to adopting new technology, but that hasn’t been the case. Lurie outlines that the key is to describe the value that the technology brings, not the technology itself.

He adds, “Sometimes we get distracted by explaining blockchain first when we should take it back to business fundamentals and explain the value proposition instead. That’s how we’ve been able to get a lot of our adoption and get engagement from the art and collectibles world. You’ve got to make an easy-to-understand user experience.”

Ethereal Art Auction

As mentioned earlier, Codex co-hosted an art auction with the R.A.R.E. Digital Art Network at Ethereal in May. When asked about the goals for the auction, Lurie responds with a few objectives they had in mind.

The first was to launch and showcase the Codex product. The bids and payments were all done in cryptocurrency through the Codex protocol. And they successfully generated the first art titles on their blockchain registry.

Another goal of the auction was to endow a foundation dedicated to supporting creative endeavors related to blockchain and digital art. Lurie comments, “There’s going to be so much digital art that arises due to blockchain because you can make it scarce. It’s exciting to see a whole new category and new medium-rise up. So, we’re really excited about that part of the blockchain foundation.”

Lastly, the auction exposed many people to the blockchain art world and demonstrated the growing popularity of new art classes like digital collectibles.

In response to the $140,000 CryptoKitty, Lurie explains, “People value scarce art. Is it so strange that a CryptoKitty goes for $140,000 when a Picasso can go for $100 million? The fact that you can make digital art unique means it can have collectible value which is an amazing thing. I think there’s going to be a lot more art and collectibles like CryptoKitties…and one day it’ll meet the levels of mainstream artists and art.”

Codex’s Affect on the Art World

In today’s art world, you need to consult an expert to track and prove the authenticity of a piece of art. It’s slow, expensive, and prone to error. Codex is changing that.

Lurie describes the protocol as “a decentralized registry for unique assets, starting with art and collectibles… We store provenance information so that everyone can easily do business with those assets. Once you have a title, you can prove where you got it. And that means you have verifiable information about it and get access to services that read that data – insurance, asset-backed lending with liens, artist royalties, buying and selling, escrow.”

Lurie believes that these improvements will lead to a creativity boom.

He continues, “That’s going to expand art and collectibles enormously because it’s cheaper to transact, you can get loans against your art, and you can prevent fraud. So the market expands, and what’s amazing about a growing market is that it leads to more money in artists’ pockets.”

And this isn’t just a pipedream. The Codex team plans to have the protocol integrated into 5,000 auction houses that sell $6 billion worth of artwork each year. They’ve also partnered with ten companies (so far) that are building apps and services for Codex title holders. These services include overnight appraisals, fractional ownership, and asset-backed lenders to name a few.

One Final Message

When asked for any parting words to our readers, Lurie only has only one point to make,

“If you’re a crypto holder, art is a really cool thing to own and to invest in. It’s an uncorrelated store of value, and it’s something that I think your readers should seriously consider. And if they do want to consider it, Codex is a great place for them to go to make sure they’re doing it in an easy, trustworthy way.”

Thank You

Thanks again, Mark, for speaking with us and working to further blockchain adoption. We know that the Ethereal auction was just the first milestone in a long list of things to come. We wish you and the Codex team the best of luck.


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Based in Austin, TX, Steven is the Executive Editor at CoinCentral. He’s interviewed industry heavyweights such as Wanchain President Dustin Byington, TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Josh Constine, IOST CEO Jimmy Zhong, Celsius Network CEO Alex Mashinsky, and ICON co-founder Min Kim among others. Outside of his role at CoinCentral, Steven is a co-founder and CEO of Coin Clear, a mobile app that automates cryptocurrency investments. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRealBucci to read his “clever insights on the crypto industry.” His words, not ours.