Will crypto NFTs kill traditional art?
The internet killed the yellow pages. Netflix killed Blockbuster. Will crypto NFTs kill traditional art?
What I'm about to share with you in this article may make you angry, especially if you are an art purest. You may disagree. But it's crucial you hear it. So buckle up, and let's begin.
In the last decade, we saw a great shift in entertainment. For almost 100 years, the studios decided which actors would be lucky or talented enough to become stars. But then in the 2000's, everything changed. The cameras turned from focusing on actors, to focusing on every day people. With Reality TV, soon it wasn’t a trained actor who was getting famous, but your classmate, co-worker, or next door neighbour. For the first time, anyone could become a star. For better or for worse!
But then, 2010 saw the arrival of Instagram and YouTube with podcasting and social media becoming mainstream. As people turned the cameras and microphones on themselves, the studios became powerless. Now, someone like American YouTuber, internet personality, businessman, and philanthropist Mr. Beast could build a more sizable, much more engaged following than the biggest TV or film star.
Journalist, correspondent and radio host Guy Raz could have more daily listens than the biggest radio stations. And those who used both social and reality TV, like Joe Rogan and the Kardashians have built empires.
Brands rushed in to make deals with this new batch of stars, further cementing their standing as the "it" folks of our generation. And before we knew it, 75% of kids want to be social stars when they grow up! Again, for better, or for worse 🤨 And now, in this decade, we are seeing a similarly sized shift beginning to happen in the art world.
What is the point of art?
This question is far too big to answer, at least for me. Our species has been making art since the beginning. Art has served religious and political purposes, propaganda purposes, it has been made as social commentary and pure aesthetic expression, and that's just from the makers side.
When you look at a piece of art or live with it, it may speak to you, even move you, though perhaps in a way that doesn't move anyone else. What art likely wasn't meant to be was a product in a market that has become extraordinarily top heavy, a market where just a handful of top artists sell for millions of dollars, with the spoils going to billionaires, the spoils going to museums and the public largely left out.
For hundreds of years, kings, queens, and noble folk decided which art was relevant. Those works they chose live on in importance today. Then, for the first time, in the Victorian era of the 1800s, galleries, museums, and collectors began to move markets. Fast forward to the late 1900's. By the time the public learns about Warhol or Basqiat, their work has become expensive, the best pieces gobbled up by known collectors and market makers. The general public left only with less desired works, prints and editions, unless of course they paid up handsomely. And this is not just in the major markets - London, Paris, NYC - but globally.
I read recently about a man who grew up in Morocco. As he described it, in Morocco there are 5 dealers who make up the "art mafia". If an artist gets on the bad side of one, they are done.
A new art paradigm
But around 2018, a new paradigm began. In NFTs, there are no museums. No galleries, other than the marketplaces, and the galleries made by collectors themselves. And thanks to tools like Oncyber.io, anyone can create a stunning metaverse gallery in about 15 minutes.
Sure, there is the "stamp of approval" when an artist is approved to a top platform, such as SuperRare, AsyncArt, WithFND, Rarible, or Niftygateway.
But you’ll also see artists like Larva Labs snapping up multi-million dollar sales with no museums, no galleries, and no market makers in between you and the art. Not to mention the million-dollar plus sales that take place on the NFT marketplace Opensea, every single day.
And it is not just well-known projects on Opensea, any artist, from any where in the world, with no invitation, can mint a drop.
So now, with NFTs, for the first time ever YOU can decide which artists will define this generation. YOU can access their art before they get big. YOU can make them big, by voting with your wallets. By showing them in your own galleries or simply displaying them as your Twitter profile photo, as many people are now doing. Or in your social feed, which pioneering crypto artist XCopyArt who got his start on Tumblr, calls, "The digital streets."
So while just a few years ago, a talented artist in a remote village could perhaps have their highest aspiration to be the most noted artist in that village, this same artist can now build a global following, and international community around their work.
Not by getting a museum show - but by producing great art, and cultivating a community using digital tools, like Twitter and Discord.
Now, you may be wondering is there real size, and real provenance to be achieved this way?
Well look at Justin Aversano and his Twin Flames series, which regularly sell for over $1m USD a photo, and have been featured in auctions at both Christie's and Sotheby's.
Or the previously mentioned XCopyArt, a Crypto Art "OG" who has been minting art on chain perhaps as early as 2016, and has had individual works sell for $3m, $4m, $6m, and $7m... all in the last 3 months or so.
The game has already changed. And whether you knew the old game or not, makes no difference. Because soon, it may not be here any more.
Just as in the last decade, when the social media masters seized the star-making power from the studios, NFT is seizing power from the institutions.
Artists and creators are the market makers now. They create their own museums. They decide which art defines this generation. They are the digital renaissance. And this space is just getting started.