The largest galleries, auction houses, collectors, artists and designers are interested in the virtual art market. Dr hab. Mikojaj Lewicki and Felix Tuszko of the Sociology Department at the University of Warsaw explain how unprocessed tokens can change the way we think about works of art.
When the auction of American artist Mike Winkelmann’s work under the pseudonym of the Bible ended on March 11, 2021, the industrial media, as we know, announced the end of art, critics shook their heads and artists declared a revolution. What causes such emotions? First, the price. The work sold for an astonishing $ 69 million, placing a relatively vague artist in the top three highest-earning contemporary artists. Second, form. The work of the Bible … does not exist. At least not in the material world. “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” is a virtual collage of 5,000 images created over the next 5,000 days.
Minutes after the auction, Google showed a record interest in NFT and NFT art slogans. Users around the world wanted to know what was hidden under the mysterious acronym Beeple, which signed the digital image. What are the signs of inactivity and what is the application of this technology in art?
Blockchain, NFT, cryptocurrency
To understand what NFT or non-fungile tokens and related art workflows are, we need to know the concept of a blockchain system. – Blockchain is a solution that allows you to authenticate various types of transactions and exchanges (from money through works of art, to knowledge) without the intermediation of an authorized entity, such as banks or payment systems such as PayPal. Each operation performed within the system is stored on the disks of all users of the system, which allows you to verify and verify the authenticity of the transaction at any time, regardless of whether the transaction is, signing a contract or creating a file with it. is a work of art. This solution shortens the current process and occurs between all exchange users. This is a revolutionary change in the world of art – dr hub explains. Mikojaj Lewicki, Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw.
It was the blockchain system that allowed NFT technology to create non-transferable or non-convertible tokens assigned to virtual works of art. – NFT is a piece of code created through a blockchain system that represents a specific activity. This technology creates new value for the Internet, ie scarcity. NFT guarantees uniqueness in a world where we can reproduce and reproduce images without restrictions – Felix Tushko from the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Warsaw explains. – Let’s take the example of Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”. There are thousands of copies of a painting in the world, but one original artist has a canvas. NFT technology allows you to recreate this situation in a virtual system – adds.
Interestingly, NFT allows you to encode any work of art, both tangible and intangible. – With this technology, you can sell rights to real canvases, sculptures or installations, as well as various digital works – pictures, gifs, movies, music and even tweets. – Tuszko says. The “converted” business goes to the virtual art market, where it can be purchased for cryptocurrencies. – The currency used in the cryptoart industry, ie NFT art circulation, is Ethernet, for which we can obtain works of art. The cost of an Ethernet varies from a few hundred to even a few thousand dollars.
Chances and dangers
Although the art of NFT became popular only this year, the beginning of this technology dates back to 2010. For more than 10 years, cryptocurrency has been a niche phenomenon that has to offer new opportunities to sell and buy works of art. – At first, the art of NFT was met with great enthusiasm. We were talking about the art of the future, a more democratic and accessible art, because anyone can turn their work into NFT and anyone can get them. In addition, it is a transparent system – every transaction made within the system is stored there forever and cannot be deleted (each of us can check how the price and ownership of a particular token have changed). Let’s add to this the rarity and uniqueness that allows you to create a virtual circulation of known art, perhaps even more perfect. – Tushko explains. This solution was especially important for the creators. – NFT allows you to certify authorship for a specific job. The technology also allows the artist to save an integral part of his property and thus his income for subsequent operations. – adds.
– Over the years, cryptocurrency has managed to stay away from the radar of gallery owners, critics and auction houses. He had to ensure greater autonomy and spontaneity of art. There are no ready-made and obvious hierarchies. Thanks to this, at least in theory, each of us can choose from endless possibilities, guided by individual taste, and perhaps discover a great name or a real pearl of the future. – Lewicki adds.
It soon became clear that even such a perfect system had no shortcomings. – Here we face known dangers from the material world. Hackers soon proved that they could “steal” such works. Moreover, such thefts are not returned. It is impossible to return such a work to circulation – adds. Less than a month after the historic Beeple auction, hacker artist Monsieur Personne was able to create a fake token that entitles him to “Everydays: The First 5000 Days.” He then handed them over to a user nicknamed Arsen Lupin, referring to the legendary thief. In this way, the artist tried to break the blind belief in the perfection of NFT technology and show the risks associated with it.
Criticism was soon raised that the blockchain system, and thus the storage of NFT, was extremely harmful to the environment because it required incredible energy. – Joanie Lemercier, a French sculptor who sells her work as NFT, tested that the 10-second operation consumed 8.7 MWh, the same amount of energy she used in her studio for two years. – Tuszko says.
Big names and surprising prices
Despite the shortcomings of the system, NFT is becoming increasingly popular and the largest galleries, auction houses, collectors, artists and designers are interested in the virtual art market, and the works sold reach dizzying prices of millions of dollars. Only recently have there been five projects from Dolce & Gabanny’s Collezione Genesi collection, iconic photos from Ellen von Unvert in the ’90s, a triptych from Kate Moss, new songs from The Weeknd, and even an Instagram post by Emily Ratajkowski. The model wrote a high-profile essay for New York Magazine. Each of the works sold for millions of dollars. There is a group of celebrities who start collecting virtual art every week – Paris Hilton even recently opened her own NFT art gallery, and Elon Musk created a work inspired by the art of cryptocurrency. that he prefers to keep for himself.
Completely new art galleries and auction houses (including portals such as the Foundation, Nifty Gateway and OpenSea), as well as magazines, consulting blogs and consulting agencies have emerged in the virtual art market. In 2020, the oil market tripled in value to $ 250 million, according to the latest estimates. The topic arouses great interest and great emotions. The controversy was sparked by a recent auction of Jean-Michel Basquia’s works, which sought to give the buyer of the virtual work the right to destroy the physical original. The owners withdrew from the idea under pressure from criticism.
The existence of NFT art is in favor of NFT art. To start collecting virtual art, it is enough to create an account on one of the auction portals. After the purchase, the system itself will convert our money into Ethernet currency and give us a token of the selected job. For artists who want to sell their works online, special signs have been created on all auction portals, which will help us to code any work step by step.
Evolution or revolution?
Since March, there have been ongoing discussions about how the oil market will change the traditional art world. According to Luikki, no revolution can be expected here. This situation can be compared to the changes made by those who influence the fashion industry. – Their activities have changed the shape and balance of power of the industry, especially in relation to existing experts such as journalists and critics. The balance of power changed, and the activities of those who influenced it forced a change in the fashion calendar. The market had to accommodate new players and they had to adapt to existing rules and hierarchies. The same thing will happen in the art world. Both orders will change each other and become more and more influential he says.
– What NFT can change is the permitting process and a certain degree of independence or disobedience to classical institutions. Circulation will be faster, giving the show more fluidity. At least until new hierarchies and institutions are created that will bring the cryptocurrency market from traditional circulation to the realities known to us. – Tushko adds.
When “Everyday: The First 5000 Days” went on sale, Beeple and her family watched in disbelief as the amount increased. When the slogan “Sold” was celebrated, the artist shouted: “Virtual art will stay here!”.