Non Fungible Tokens have exploded the crypto world in 2022, but are NFTs just a scam?
In terms of working artists, the benefits of NFTs are almost too numerous to mention.
Martin Lucas Ostachowski, an artist and internet chronicler has compiled the definitive history of blockchain art (both before and after NFTs) points out that some artists are even using the medium for activism. “Mexican artist Lucho Poletti for instance, analyzed propaganda art and used its language to create multi-language artworks to educate about cryptocurrencies,” he writes.
Simon de la Rouviere, meanwhile, created This Artwork Is Always on Sale (2019), which requires the owner “to pay an annual 5 percent patronage fee based on the last purchasing price,” Ostachowski writes.
Then there’s artist Jonas Lund, who launched his own Jonas Lund Token (JLT), which is broken up into 100,000 shares to gives owners—shareholders, really—the chance to vote on the future of his practice. “Similar to a corporation, one share equals one vote and owners of the tokens become part of the Jonas Lund’s board of trustees and will be consulted each time a strategic decision needs to be made,” Lund’s gallery, Roehrs & Boetsch, states. “By creating 100,000 shares that gives each shareholder influence and agency over his artistic practice, and giving up his majority share, Lund is interested in subverting the traditional power structures that informs the contemporary art world.”
Similarly, Kevin Abosch tokenized himself into 10 million works of art on the Ethereum blockchain in January 2018. His works are often coded with hidden meanings and messages, but he also has a hell of a color sense, and the works operate aesthetically as well.
These are entirely new ways of making art, and they take into account new opportunities and realities. Alysia Courtney Davis, who works under the name 8bit_titty, is a multimedia artist focused on Artificially Intelligent generated imagery. Themes of identity and sexuality permeate invented situations and memories. As part of her process, her artist statement was created by an online generator (maybe I should write my articles in the same fashion). Some platforms are also trying to take into account bigger-pictures problems: The Tezos blockchain, which claims to make no adverse environmental impact, could be a model for the future of crypto currencies and NFTs alike.
There’s also a healthy infrastructure springing up around NFTs—take, for example, the Center of Art and Media Museum (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, which is at the forefront of exhibiting and collecting digital art. In the 2017 exhibition “Open Codes,” organized by ZKM IT specialist Daniel Heiss (who I Zoomed with recently), the museum set up a miniature Bitcoin mining farm and distributed the proceeds to the artists who helped shepherd them into crypto art and initiate the museum’s groundbreaking NFT collection. The ZKM has also sold some NFTs to subsidize further acquisitions.
On a less happy note, Heiss was transferring two CryptoPunks between the museum’s wallets when he accidentally sent them to an irretrievable ETH address. The two Punks, worth a fortune, are now forever stuck in the smart contract address of Larva Labs, the Punks’ creators—a digital no man’s land where they are both alive (i.e., viewable online) and dead (they can’t be moved… ever). So it goes on the blockchain.
Schachter wouldn’t be him if he neglected to mention his own efforts in the field, most recently “METADADA,” which inaugurated the new Crypto Kiosk of Nagel Draxler Gallery in Berlin when it opened last week. Richard Prince termed his installation (in an Instagram comment) “post place.”
A survey of recent paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and an installation, all derived from digital files, it showcases works that employ humor, comment on NFTism, and give form to ideas and experiences codified on the blockchain. Anyone who buys a file has the opportunity to render it in the real world however they see fit: a Duchampian readymade, only a had-it-made.
A fascinating (revolutionary?) aspect of the whole enterprise is that, because artists control the tokens on offer, it turns the traditional artist-gallery relationship upside down: rather than the artist’s historical reliance on being paid by the gallery, the gallery has to wait for the artist to pay them.
Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? During the opening, whenever Schachter was asked questions about what was afoot, a ring of people would inevitably congregate around him, the likes of which he’s never experienced at an opening before. Besides the give-and-take exchanges that took place, the audience was comprised of artists, collectors, critics, and coders and mathematicians. Schachter has also never seen such disparate people, from all walks of life, to have coinciding interests, beyond the norm of gallery-goers sporting art blinders. Sorry, Troemel, I remain more crypto-enthusiastic than ever.