Essay on the NFT Art movement
NFTs artists’ success stories show the hype machine around digital trends and new ‘drops’, along with an important price discrepancy in crypto art sellings (from 100$ to 69 M$). To determine the price of crypto art, as the number of views should correlate with price, it is highly essential to investigate the current aesthetic standards for the audience, crypto buyers or neophytes, as well as artists and collectors. How do they estimate different released works of NFT Art as expensive works of art? How do they consider high or low art?
In traditional fine art, the question of the artistic arguments and rules is as complex as it can be in the digital realm. Arbiters of taste and value are most likely to be the keepers of the gallery and museum institutions and the auction house system. Who will curate an exhibition, select an artist, or what will buy the famous collector, all of this will serve as a quality measurement. Furthermore, the levels of technicity (in a drawing, digital painting, video, 3D art, etc.) appear as important as the aesthetic or the conceptual idea in the appraisal of the final product.
Thinking about the Beeple sale or the CryptoKitties or CryptoPunks, it seems that the first blockchain art sales frequently featured pop culture and internet references, memes, and other products of the cultural industries. The works which tended to represent the image of crypto art were various pixel/glitch crossbreed looks. It would be more currently characterized, in this early crypto art scene legacy, by a multidisciplinary and creative toil of various aesthetics in the NFT art scene. Traditional genres meet retro styles, pop aesthetic, surreal, futuristic, sci-fi themes, neo surrealism, augmented-reality images, etc., in the legacy of Jeff Koons, Kaws, and Warhol. Nonetheless, aesthetic and thematic hallmarks of valuable NFTs or digital artifacts are not mathematically foreseeable, as in the contemporary art marketplace. The new platforms supporting NFT art curate more challenging work engaged with art history and advanced technologies.
The technology – Art as an experiment
NFT art is presented as the terminal point in the dematerialization of the art object, pointing to the end of the physical parameter. The technology process (minting, turning the media into a token) requires different skill sets than the physical art transaction. It is also that particular medium, and how an artist can play with it or its concept – art addressing the technology – that is validated by the tech crowd. If we look at Cryptopunks, they have been sold for higher prices for the longevity of their data on the blockchain, as such, they symbolize rarity as the first NFTs more than art collectibles.
Thus there is a difference between repackaged works in NFT form and NFT-designed works. Many emerging artists who are willing to make their debut in the crypto art market are facing the challenge of translating their production into this intricate technological context and radical change in the way art is now economically exchanged.
Numerous blockchain art projects challenge the technological medium and its applications and compose conceptually sophisticated narratives tied to code or blockchain. Artists work by creatively engaging the blockchain and using Artificial Intelligence to create original machine-made output into art. NFT based on scientific data, made by or in collaboration with researchers and scientists is increasing.
Progressively more and more direct and playful engagement with the buyer is sought, like Sotheby’s collaboration with anonymous digital artist Pak. The Fungible Collection, (sold for more than US$17 million (£12 million) incorporated “The Switch”, a monochrome 3D construction whose purpose is to be modified by the artist at some unspecified moment in the future.
What makes a NFT valuable and what determines its price?
The value of any NFT is speculative, but what has been firstly visible is the ascendency of a superstar economy. The most famous contemporary artists are diving into the hype, like Damien Hirst who is selling 10,000 NFTs. The marketplace platforms, auction houses, crypto museums, and digital galleries have embraced the market in such a way that they will inevitably become indispensable for an artist to sell his work at a high price. It is thus expected that renowned names have an already existing leverage for the high price of their new works turned into NFTs.
But of course, the artistic practices already existing in the internet creative scene did not wait for the traditional renowned names to join. Self-taught “3d” art artists who are used to sharing their work on NFT platforms were complying with their community’s culture of anti-establishment. They present themselves as a niche movement with their own aesthetic languages and values at the margins of culture. As some forms of digital art were indeed excluded from the art world or elitist institutions, those artists – especially those who are not supported by museums or galleries – are less willing to adapt their work in order to be sellable in the contemporary art market. What is evident now is that those artists – and the internet – are reshaping contemporary art in the NFT space. Because the aesthetic trends are moving as fast as the internet, they are hoping that their works and the aesthetic they have worked on for so long will be finally given a financial value.
One should not overestimate the prices of the vast majority of NTF sales: more crypto wallets are engaging with NFTs, in other words, the base of NFT collectors is broader, and more works are being bought now at lower prices. It seems what has surely changed are the NFT collectors’ profiles. They give visibility to aesthetics that were previously absent from the traditional art world. NFTs have disrupted the entire art market economy, as well as the notion of what is valuable – turning upside down the dynamics of good taste and bad taste – and this applies not only to artists and works of art but to everything digital.