NFT + Digital Art
A take from mid-march 2021 (will quickly be out of date)
By Chris Coleman, Professor EDP @ U of Denver
CC - Attribution
Please use, remix, and share for educational purposes
Ideas at the core of this discussion...
Who owns and has owned an artwork. The value of art is connected to proving provenance. Traditionally this is done via galleries and museums with letters and documents of sale.
Many kinds of artwork are sold in “editions” or limited copies. Specific mediums are easier to edition, creating different levels of scarcity...
Limited by “objectness”, can be tested for “realness” via things like paint analysis, carbon dating, toolmarks. Scarcity is “actual”, storage and transfer is difficult. Lasts as long as the materials.
Unlimited perfect copies, no such thing as an “original” (only source files), scarcity is artificial - a choice. Artwork easy to store and transfer.
Long term viability issues (can become unreadable due to tech changes)
A database where each new piece/chunk of data ( a block) is locked to the data in the previous piece (chain) via a cryptopuzzle. If the data in an earlier block is changed, the crypto puzzle no longer checks out - creating a secure and public ledger of transactions.
A pyramid scheme that requires belief in escalating value (hype), constant new investment, to produce rewards for early investors. While ideal is a stable and universal currency, most cryptocurrencies are driven by greed and insane investment return expectations (to the moon). Was presented as a way to have decentralized international money (non-fiat), Rose to fame as digital money without rules - see Silk Road
Bitcoin and Ethereum
The two cryptocurrencies currently the most hyped. Bitcoin was designed to get harder and hard to mine and proposed to have limited editions/number of coins. Ethereum is driven by “gas fees” paid to the miners which fluctuate with demand. Ethereum has parts of its database made for inclusion of contracts/provenance. Globalization has moved mining operations to sites of cheap electricity w/ 65% currently in China. Only 26 countries in the world use more electricity than the cryptocurrency mining industry.
“one Bitcoin transaction is the “equivalent to the carbon footprint of 735,121 Visa transactions or 55,280 hours of watching YouTube” via NYT
Drops of artificially scarce things to build hype. Time x money x desire = flipping
Kevin McCoy and Anil Dash propose provenance on the Blockchain - monegraph
Originally released for free on ETH, only 10,000 will ever be made, categories of scarcity (eg only 9 are aliens)
Cat collectables that can also be bred with dna like qualities. Encoded into the ETH blockchain, brings it to a halt.
Startups start tying everything they can to the blockchain, making it more valuable and increasing the number of transactions. Effort is funded by early crypto adopters whose worth will grow as currency becomes more valuable. Danger abounds.
Hypebeast culture becomes digital. Insta artists cash in. So do crypto bros. (The house/platforms always win)
Bought by Winklevoss Twins in late 2019, are billionaires in BTC and ETH
Makes news by selling 3.5 Million in a 3 day series of Drops. Cashes in on his massive IG following
Artists and investors rush to the space, the ultra-hype is happening. Traditional art collectors want to know what the hell is happening
“Open Editions” - time limited
One of Ones
Random lottery drawings for a chance to purchase
Following the crypto-droppings, the fleet follows the whales (ppl who have massive amounts of early crypto and are spending 5-figures++ on NFTs) wherever they go. They are buying art as an advertising expense - success is news coverage and more ppl buying crypto. Also developing investment opportunities (new pyramid schemes) based on collective ownership of these works. Artists who strike gold from the whales are then min-whales buying the work of other artists - trickle down.
The Digital Arts War
Several well known artists come out against NFT due to Eco concerns. Others take Philosophical stances (not art!). Gatekeeping on platforms exacerbates issue. Public shaming and threats follow.
Headlines and the Old Guard
NyanCat Sells, Bluechip artists, musicians, and celebrities show up, Christies and Beeple, Whales as commodities
Artists are making money (so are platforms…)
Followers => cash (all that free content pays off!)
No (classical) gatekeeping (classic art market is not part of this scene)
Secondary market percentage (in theory, only if on same platform)
Blockchain as public ledger of ownership
Work is still shared and public (right-click save-as)
Potential for smart contracts
Easy to trade/swap/sell
Potential for more complex artist/patron relationships
Crypto currency POW is extremely ecologically destructive
Artificial scarcity is anathema to many visions of the digital world and the internet
Gatekeeping producing artist scarcity
“Art” is heavily affected by the crypto hype and memes, young male gaze
Contracts and media are connected to and rely on platforms
Blockchain only points to wallets and URL - nothing is archived
Market is being highly manipulated to benefit platforms and future business models
Metaverse as a capitalized and branded goal are being pushed
Physical Prime and Digital Prime
Easy to steal, copy, commodify things without permission
Cost to Mint can keep ppl out
Clean NFT (eg. hic et nunc), Galleries getting digital, minting pools, Reward Pool for cleaner solutions, Proof of Stake, digital editions without NFT, collective non-commodified support for the arts.
(Many thanks to Golan Levin for his help and edits.)