Hajime Sorayama’s new Sexy Robot Floating collectible arrives this week, embedded with an NFC (Near-Field Communication) chip that could fundamentally transform ownership for his fans and the next generation of art collectors. We spoke to the legendary Japanese illustrator about why he’s using blockchain technology and ZHEN.’s digital authentication app in the fight against counterfeiters.

Sorayama began developing the Sexy Robots series in 1983. His futuristic airbrushed figures have gone on to inspire Kim Jones, Thierry Mugler, and subsequent generations of illustrators and designers. Though his erotic robots have reached worldwide recognition, the cult artist explains to Highsnobiety that they remain close to his heart, stating: “They are all variations of my daughters.” Unfortunately, the multi-billion dollar counterfeit industry represents an existential threat to his artistic progeny: “I just don't want my daughter fucked up,” he declares.

For years, Sorayama and gallerist Shinji Nanzuka lamented as counterfeit Sexy Robot works entered the market. Eager to tackle the issue of fake art, they’ve partnered with ZHEN. to bring collectors a new and radically different ownership experience, one where purchasing the latest Sexy Robot collectible is secure and protected. “It may be able to save my real fans,” Sorayama tells us. “I hope so.”

Ahead of ZHEN.'s official debut on the app store, Nanzuka has opened a lottery for Sorayama’s new limited edition collectible. In the past, top auction houses have hired experts to validate and ensure the authenticity of collectibles. But with ZHEN.’s new app, the authentication process is made radically transparent by using ERC-721 Non-Fungible Tokens on Ethereum. This blockchain technology allows for independent, decentralized verification, thanks to a ledger that can’t be altered. This contributes to a never-before-seen level of security. 

Co-founder and CEO Leslie Chow explains: “Digital ownership is as important as physical ownership. To an extreme that if you are holding a genuine item with a ZHEN. chip inside, if you do not have the digital ownership, you do not actually 'own' the item.”

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Each piece released through the ZHEN. app is implanted with a unique ZHEN. NFC chip that corresponds to an NFT (non-fungible token) containing the item’s unique metadata. By scanning the chip, collectors can validate, authenticate, and review the provenance of the piece. Sorayama believes that this transparent new system will “develop a more trustable market.”

ZHEN. creates value for stakeholders in each sector of the market. It brings peace of mind to artists like Sorayama. He jokes: “It will be good for Nanzuka to kick out fake products” — and he’s right. The counterfeit trade costs the UK economy alone over 16 billion pounds, and the value of fake goods worldwide is estimated to be over 506 billion dollars.

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Lawmakers around the world are putting more and more pressure on platforms to take action against third-party vendors selling fake goods. In turn, these platforms are turning to human or AI-based visual inspection methods that are still prone to error. By leveraging the latest blockchain technology, ZHEN. is helping to regulate the art market while bringing value to creators as well as galleries and auction houses.

Most of all, though, it places more power and possibility in the hands of the collector. In addition to the radically simple verification scanner, they’ve built features that encourage collecting and socialize ownership. In the future, your ZHEN. Cabinet will double as a portfolio — you'll be able to use it to track the valuations of your collectibles, so they’re both an investment and a collection.

With its forthcoming Augmented Reality feature, ZHEN. plans to expand the collector’s experience of an object from the physical world into the digital. Every collectible will be AR-enhanced, so you can preview how a work might look in your home before you commit to the purchase. The potential of ZHEN.'s AR and blockchain innovations go beyond the art market — the clarity and security of this new technology has the potential to disrupt the counterfeit sneaker and fashion market, too.

For now, though, ZHEN.'s access to the world’s most desirable artists, galleries, and brands make it a pivotal player from day one, and the launch of Sorayama’s new Sexy Robot Floating collectible offers his fans the chance to get in on the ground. The lottery for his new piece closes 23:59 Japan Standard Time on August 25. Sign up here.

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