How a Berlin painter tries to save stolen paintings

Volker Mayr had heard of Bitcoin. From time to time, on the news on NTV; that the price of digital gold has crashed or hit new highs. This never interested the 80-year-old painter. Cryptocurrencies? NFT? The metaverse? These are terms from a strange, very strange world. Suddenly, he is drawn into her, against his will.

At the beginning of April 2022, his life’s work will be for sale on a crypto exchange on the Internet. Volker Mayr has an online gallery profile singular type, more than 10,000 artists and photographers are registered there, their images stored in JPEG format. Someone is offering Volker Mayr’s works as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on an NFT platform called Cashable unbeknownst to the artist. He wants to find out who is behind it. A week ago, he informed BTC-ECHO editors of the incident, which is doing its own research. An odyssey in a Kafkaesque system begins.

“Let Face The Future and Act Now” by Volker Mayr, oil on canvas, 2021.

Many already consider NFTs to be one of the greatest media revolutions of the 21st century. Any digital object can be transferred to the blockchain and sold. Artists and musicians open up new sales opportunities for their digital property. Last year, the market exploded 25,000% to $17 billion, according to NonFungible.com. Even traditional art houses like Christies got involved.

At the same time, media reports about artists whose works have been stolen from the internet and illegally offered on NFT platforms have been mounting for months. The extent of this new form of art theft is difficult to quantify, exact figures are not available. But only an online gallery, DeviantArtfound strong The gardians More than 80,000 works stolen from its customers on NFT marketplaces.

“It’s much easier to create forgeries in the blockchain space than it is in the traditional art world,” New York-based curator and digital art expert Tina Rivers Ryan told the British Newsmagazine. In fact, it’s so easy that bots now seem to comb through online galleries and do the stealing entirely automatically.

Stealing an NFT is hard to fight

Fighting against this is all the more difficult for the artists concerned, and it costs energy, time and money. Complaints online and in the media are increasing. Many victims feel alone in the face of the problem. There is great uncertainty: who to turn to in such a case? How to sue the anonymous owner of a crypto wallet? In which jurisdiction? “As a lone fighter, there’s not much you can do,” Volker Mayr tells BTC-ECHO over the phone.

Before retiring in 2002, he was a journalist, he once built this Free Radio Berlin with on. Today he lives in Grunewald in Berlin. During the day he takes care of his wife, in the evening he paints. Beautiful expressive images. Even his grandfather was a painter, says Mayr. He has handled the brush since childhood, organizes exhibitions, sells works and wins prizes since the 1970s.

90% of his works circulate as NFT

He first received questionable emails from an NFT exchange in Japan, which are also available for BTC-ECHO. He indicates that his works have been sold as NFTs for tens of thousands of US dollars. They’re willing to transfer the money to him, minus a commission, but they want data from him, proof of paternity. Mayr first hesitates, then finally cooperates, he never sees any money. The same has happened to other German-speaking painters on the platform, they tell him when asked. A scam, he thinks today. It’s just the beginning.

If his works are already sold in the blockchain space, he wants to at least make some money. So Mayr signs with Mintable, an NFT marketplace with a reputable reputation. But 90% of his works already exist as NFTs. Some are on sale at the time, one for the equivalent of $1 million in ether. Mayr creates his own account, spends the following evenings trying to figure out what’s going on there, clicking through the transaction history of his photos etherscan: “I was like a blind man at the piano.”

BTC-ECHO contacted Mintable support a week ago discord. An administrator explains that such cases are taken very seriously. Mayr must contact the team via his Twitter account and provide proof of ownership. He does so and gets no response. To date, it is unknown if Mintable has become active. Support admins on Discord have yet to respond to another request from BTC-ECHO yesterday afternoon, April 11, 2022.

He stays on the damage

Some of the stolen NFTs have since disappeared, Mayr said. He could complain about others directly through the portal, often for a fee. And the process doesn’t always work.

Sometimes a file cannot be created or the image does not display. A third of his works are now in his possession as NFTs, but they are worthless. No offers have arrived. Volker Mayr bears the costs. He spent a total of over a thousand dollars.

He hopes that at some point artists will join forces in class action lawsuits and that consumer protection will take action. Until then, he protects himself – with an absurd measure: before Volker Mayr uploads the next photo to his artist profile, he always creates an NFT from now on. This is the only way for him to feel safe from new thefts.

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