Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be used to create works of art, videos, and even TweetThey prove the existence and ownership of this item through data records on the blockchain ( Distributed ledger technology).
Since the NFT debuted in 2016, many artists have tried and marketed their work with this new digital device. NFTs are almost always paid in cryptocurrencies (e.g. ether currency). It is this concept of blockchain-enrolled certificates that distinguishes NFTs from standard digital works.
The public and media debate about NFTs is polarizing. In the eyes of NFT’s most ardent supporters, NFTs represent the future of art, while detractors see NFTs as a huge rip-off and a waste of energy.
How can you characterize this NFT phenomenon? To what extent does it challenge established norms of contemporary art?
As a researcher specializing in media studies and cultural sociology, I will briefly introduce the situation.
Crypto evangelists and crypto skeptics
On the one hand, there is a camp that can be called crypto evangelists. They cling to a narrative that presents NFTs as a radical revolution that will change everything.
This is the narrative surrounding the sensational sale of artist Beeple (a collage of vignettes created by digital software) that sold for nearly $70 million at famed auction house Christie’s in 2021.according to 2 main buyerssaid the purchase was “a symbol of an ongoing revolution” and marked “the beginning of a movement carried out by an entire generation.”
On the other side are cryptoskeptics. This is the standing position of Hito Steyeer, who is widely known as a media artist. She believes NFTs are “the equivalent of toxic masculinity” and that their development is due to “the worst and most monopolistic actors” who are “stealing labor away from precarious workers”. I’m here.Take too much care and use up all the oxygen in the room”
This polarization means that the true potential of NFTs, and their equally very real flaws, tend to be masked by caricature principle positions. However, within this ecosystem of his NFTs exists a rich set of multiple artistic practices.
new creative scene
The NFT format clearly represents a new type of object to be traded. It is based on a new type of contract (called “smart”) that is the result of innovations in blockchain technology. In this way, the NFT format has created a new creative scene. Rather, the plural scene is characterized by great effervescence, but also by a certain contradiction.
The ‘native’ scene of the NFT format, i.e. the scene created by the invention of this format, is characterized by strong media recognition, large and far-reaching financial investments and, for some actors, criticism of the established order. By doing so, the will to reshuffle the cards of the art world.
The majority of NFT creators come from 3D modeling, graphic design, animation, or video game design practices, the creative industries sector. In recent decades, the sector has created a very large skill pool. creative surplus Not only do we find a way to express ourselves in NFT format, but we also find additional sources of income to help us cope with the often precarious situation of creative work.
There are many figures in the native NFT scene, Sociologist Howard S. Becker, an outsider (newcomer) compared to the established art world. That is, they interact in circles outside the organized art world, and in many ways they break that rule.
A more equal art world?
The discourse of the main purchaser of Beeple’s sensational work is very enlightening in this sense. MetaKovan and Twobadour (his two investors in the crypto world, both from India) revealed in an interview:
From an early age, we have been conditioned to think that art is not for us. …We have always been against the idea of monopoly. The metaverse has it all. … the Metaverse, where everyone has the same rights and powers, becomes legitimate. … it is especially equal.
But there is a big contradiction between the egalitarian discourse they advocate here and its implementation in the projects of these two investors.For example, at technical art events Dreamverse For their 2021 event in New York, nightly admission prices ranged between $175 and $2,500, not affordable for many amateurs. Rather, this price hierarchy leads to a reproduction of the logic of exclusivity in favor of the luckiest.
the museum is cautious
The gap between NFT market value and museum value is unprecedented. While the former has reached unprecedented heights, the latter is still at rock bottom. In fact, museum collections of his NFTs remain a very minor practice to this day. Only a handful of NFTs are integrated into museum collections. Some of them were acquired after their exhibition in the museum and displayed on digital screens hanging on the walls.
Cultural legitimacy is affected by the disintermediation (exclusion of intermediaries) and remediation (introduction of new intermediaries) that characterize the world of NFTs. In its destructive impulses, the declared NFT revolution has broken away from the established chain of legitimate intermediaries: gallery owners, curators, art critics, traditional collectors, and public subsidies. is included.
It replaced them with new intermediaries, mostly “whales” (investors who made big money in cryptocurrencies) or celebrities in popular culture. These new intermediaries overinvest financial capital in the production of NFTs either to gain collector’s fame or to enrich themselves by increasing the value of their works. However, they often lack the social and cultural capital to find ways to access museums, exhibition spaces and collections.
However, these works are public, as all NFTs are freely searchable in the buyer’s electronic wallet. Some collectors buy pieces just to speculate. Others gain visibility by displaying her NFTs in metaverses such as: Decentraland Also space.
In the spring of 2022, a group of artists, curators, collectors and NFT platforms will Decentral Art Pavilion, in parallel with the Venice Biennale. Staying outside the official program, the exhibition aimed to place his NFT in the trajectory of this important contemporary art event.
Recognition of NFTs by the consecrated art world will likely come in other ways. Documenta Art Exhibition in Kassel, Germany This year, or through art movements in developing countries, ballot projectcriticized using NFT Expropriation of works from the Republic of the Congo by American museums.
Recognition can therefore go through the margins. But in these cases, marginalized players have easy access to established art worlds because they share code.