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Can NFT really solve many problems in the real art world, or will it create more problems?
Original title: “Will the crazy NFT boom change the art world? An undercover observation of an art practitioner”
Written by: Liu Yichang, founder of TABULA RASA Gallery, anchor of art podcast Source: Art News Chinese
It is said that the art market follows capital, and as a practitioner of the art market, I cannot avoid being vulgar. When I saw that the work of digital artist Beeple was auctioned for 3.5 million US dollars on the NFT encrypted art platform Nifty Gateway, and it was sold at a high price at Christie’s on March 12, I had to start to take this concept that I was completely unfamiliar with seriously, . Because I also run this primary market gallery, and also exhibit, represent and sell digital art. From my personal experience, I know how difficult it is to sell an invisible and intangible work. Does the emergence of NFT mean that all this is changing? And the feature of NFT encrypted art transactions that directly connects buyers and artists also makes me wonder whether the gallery industry will also be threatened?
Sales data of the encrypted art market from 2018 to the first half of 2021, image source: blockonomi
Before starting all the discussion, I still want to explain NFT clearly in my own language: NFT (non Fungible Token) is a non-homogeneous token, it is an encryption structured on the Ethereum blockchain Proof of digital equity. To explain in the vernacular, it is a property and fidelity certificate placed in the cloud.
NFT proof of equity is different from Bitcoin and Ethereum. They are unique. The same two NFTs will not appear in the world. They are indivisible. An NFT cannot be divided into several smaller pieces like a currency. The unit; it is safe and unchangeable, once all NFTs are formed, they will never be changed (including deletion, yes it will always exist in the online world).
Because of these attributes of NFT, it will naturally be linked to unique assets for use, such as identification, intellectual property, real estate and artwork. From the perspective of use, NFT has absolutely positive help. It guarantees the authenticity of unique assets and eliminates the possibility of fraud. These seem to be able to solve the problems that plague the art market. There is another usage scenario for the art market. Using smart contracts in NFT can automatically transfer the profits of the secondary transaction into the artist’s wallet according to a certain percentage. (There has always been Artists Royalties in Europe, but it is difficult to strictly enforce due to the difficulty and complexity of the operation). It sounds like NFT can indeed solve many problems in the art world, but will these problems really be solved by NFT, or will they create more problems?
Alice Bucknell, EZ Kryptobuild, digitally reconstructed the late Zaha Hadid as the AI ghost and unofficial mascot of Kryptobuild. Image source: Alice Bucknell
Thanks to clubhouse, it also allows us, the frog at the bottom of the well in the art circle, to really listen to the discussion about NFT encryption art in the crypto circle or the currency circle. This also allows me to discover the traditional contemporary art circle (yes, contemporary art is in In this context, the word “tradition” needs to be added) and the huge gap between the encryption circle.
When I was preparing art and reading podcasts, I had talked with NFT researchers in different industries. The technology circle believed that the traditional art circle had huge misunderstandings and prejudices about NFT encryption art. Likewise, this misunderstanding goes both ways. Next, I want to summarize some of my observations in the crypto circle and my thoughts.
The subject of this interview is the co-founder of Nifty Gateway, a well-known trading platform in the NFT crypto art world. He sees the depth of misunderstanding of the art market in the crypto circle. Image source: Crypto YC
The emergence of the NFT encrypted art platform can remove middlemen, allowing artists and collectors to directly connect, and both parties can benefit more
In many clubhouse and currency circle news, art practitioners like me are called the conservative, guarding an old world order that is about to be broken by new forces. The art world is a small society full of barriers and high walls, and the participants in the art market include layers of classes. Everyone in the industry knows that it is not possible to buy the works you want if you have money; I myself have been refused to buy works several times, which is frustrating. The sale of NFT encrypted art and the emergence of the platform made this wall collapsed overnight. There is no exclusiveness in encrypted art. Anyone can register an account on the platform. As long as the e-wallet balance is sufficient, you can buy anything you want. The desired encrypted artwork.
AMEX black card and identity background are not important in the world of encrypted art. The buyer’s identity is no longer you, a person with social attributes, but a virtual wallet name and a string of numbers. So when you want to change hands of a work, you no longer need to face the “expectations” of the gallerist or artist. You only need to move your fingers with two fingers to complete the entire transaction of the work in a few seconds, no need to think about it. Any favors and face issues. Such a world without “middlemen” is perfect, but it also attracts a large number of flippers to enter the market and occupy the transaction. In the current world of encrypted art, it often happens that works are changed hands within a few days. As long as there is a transaction demand, works can be traded several times within a few minutes. Everyone who handles the drums hopes that the drums will stop and the flowers will be in the hands of others.
Crypto Rain video work, Marius Sperlich, auction closes at 7 am on 3.16, Beijing time, photo source: artist twitter @mariussperlich
Continue to answer the question of removing middlemen. In the current encrypted art context, not only the middlemen in the transaction are removed, but all the intermediate links in the art ecology are ignored. We all know that the value system of the artist’s work needs to be replaced. The long process of space, commercial galleries, art galleries and biennial exhibitions and important art museum collections. The rapid rise of the crypto art market has bypassed the ecological infrastructure and directly entered the transaction between artists and collectors. “Transaction = value”. This is the answer of the artist aaajiao when asked about his views on crypto art. . Whether the transaction is possible and the price of the transaction have also become the only criteria for value judgment. So how long can the pure trading ecology established by the vacuum in the art ecology last? Beeple’s auction records did not show me a booming market, but a familiar bubble bursting.
Encrypted art is not exclusive, everyone can create a new world of art and consumer art
The inclusive community repeatedly mentioned in the encryption circle, is this really the case? On Open Sea, the largest NFT item trading platform, you can see more than 10 million items (not only art, but also other collectibles, virtual real estate, domain names, and game skins, etc.). If you find something you like among thousands of choices, then the importance of the platform will be reflected. Among the more active and large-scale platforms, each platform has its own focus. Like Rarible, anyone is welcome to “on the chain” to participate, but works are quickly buried in the waterfall of the library. There are also invitation-based and application-based art platforms like Nifty Gateway. The number of fans on social media and the existing influence of artists are key conditions for review. In this way, does the new world look more and more like the old world?
NFT trading platform Open Sea website: Open Sea
What NFT encryption art wants to create is to subvert contemporary art, a brand-new aesthetic standard and value system
We now see artists and their works active in the world of NFT encrypted art, which cannot even be called artists and works of art in the traditional contemporary art world. Most of their backgrounds are designers, cartographers, CG animators, etc. (including Beeple, who may be called a commercial artist in the field of traditional art). The works flooded with encrypted art platforms are almost the same as free image sites such as Giphy and DeviantArt, so why should we spend six figures to buy these freely downloadable gif images?
A work imitating Banksy sold for 900,000 US dollars on the crypto art trading platform, photo source: Rarible
The answer I got at clubhouse is that this new aesthetic taste may not be understood by us in the old world, but it represents the standard of the new world. I have a sense of the fearlessness of the ignorant. Because of the lack of understanding of art and art history, many trading platforms are filled with a large number of works that are directly downloaded from Giphy and sold without copyright, let alone a bunch of infringing masters. GIF pictures of works and celebrity portraits… Think about the previous news that a work imitating Banksy sold for 900,000 US dollars, who should I talk to to make sense?
The authenticity and traceability features of NFT make all transactions open and transparent, which can solve the fundamental problems of black-box operations in the art market and false data.
NFT’s transaction records and prices are all available, which seems to solve the problem of black box operation or opaque prices in the art market. But is the transparency we see real? Encrypted art transactions show the name of the wallet instead of the real name of the owner behind it. One person can own countless wallets, making right- and left-hand transactions a breeze. Beeple’s landmark auction results on Nifty Gateway in December last year were finally reported by the media. Among the 12 bidders, 11 were from the same buyer (Id: metakovan) with 11 different-named wallets.
A photo of metakovan used as a profile picture on Twitter
The last lucky bidder was nervous and raised $400,000 more than expected, and finally bought a work. So can we assume that if there is no last oolong incident, all the works will be bought by the same buyer, and we are looking at the information of twelve bidders. And the buyer ID for the nearly 70 million US dollars of beeple works auctioned by Christie’s on March 12 is metakovan. That’s right, it was the one who bought 20 of the 21 beeple works at Nifty Gateway in December. Here, have you smelled the familiar taste in the traditional art market?
The official website of Christie’s auction house announced the on-chain information about the auction of Beeple, including the virtual wallet address of beeple. Anyone can check all the transfers of the wallet. The screenshot is at 12:00 on March 16, 2021. Query record
What’s even more powerful is that the NFT fund metapurse, which was founded by the person with the ID metakovan, issued a token called B20 (full name: The beeple 20) in January this year. A cryptocurrency for the distribution of ownership of pieces of beeple works. After the Christie’s auction ended, the price of B20 tokens skyrocketed. This also means that it is very likely that Metakovan did not spend much money, and instead earned a lot of platinum from this news event, presumably this trick, the art world really can’t learn it.
B20 tokens will be released on January 26, 2021, with a total issuance of 10 million, of which Metakovan holds 59%. The initial price of the token is 0.36 US dollars per coin, and its price is the same as the 20 auctions in December 2020 The price of Beeple’s paintings is anchored. As of 5 pm on March 16, the value of a single currency is US$14.78. Picture source: metapurser
Slow down and build a basic ecology
At this point, you must think that I am the gatekeeper of the old world and resolutely resist the new world created by NFT. But what I have to clarify is that what I am opposed to is the use of NFT and blockchain technology to create the so-called “new world of art” that is full of contradictory structures and words.
Lars King, “Microchip Capsule-I AM NFT”, 2021, image source: Lars King
In the past two decades, the art market has always wanted to win the upstarts into the art collection field. From Silicon Valley in the United States to Shenzhen to Beijing 798, the art market has never opened the door to the technology circle. Take Beijing 798 as an example. Even if there is a large Internet company nearby and 798 is only separated by a wall, it is very difficult for people from Internet companies to enter galleries and art galleries. The birth of encryption art undoubtedly made it possible to buy digital art. Familiar operation methods and convenient trading make art trading less remote. I believe that although there are many speculative participants now, the craze has receded. When truly good digital artists and art institutions start to use the innovative technology brought by NFT, more people will be willing to collect digital art.
Sarah Zucker, “What Now” (What Now), 2020, animated Gif Source: Sarah Zucker
In fact, in China’s art industry, there are already curators and scholars who have seriously studied blockchain technology and are working hard to promote the infrastructure construction of the new ecology. Shanghai’s New Timeline Media Art Center (CAC) has been committed to the research, creation and academic exchange of media art. Recently, they are also doing the art practice of artificial intelligence. Last year, the curators Bi Xin and Cao Jiamin of the museum also planned The exhibition project “Encrypted Manifold” based on blockchain technology was launched. The Times Art Museum in Guangzhou also established a media laboratory in 2019, specializing in the practice and research of combining art and new technology, and blockchain is also one of their research directions. These studies not only start from the application value of the blockchain, but also participate in the perspective of artistic creation from the bottom of the logic. Only when the basic art ecology is built well, the convenience of NFT transactions is worth playing a role.
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