What is really at stake in the debate over whether NFTs are art

The impression their quotes left on me was: Who cares? Questions of whether something is art or not, as Wang alludes to it, are as old and boring as time. Still, based on the uproar Wikipedia’s decision caused on Twitter and elsewhere, people clearly To do care. Why? What gives this decision such juice that people are spouting their opinions here, there and everywhere? What is really at stake?

It would be easy to say that what is at stake is money. People like Duncan Cock Foster, co-founder of the NFT platform Nifty Gateway, call it an “art emergency” because it affects their bottom line. If works by beeple (whose NFTs are sold on Nifty Gateway) were on par with works like the Mona Lisa, there would be no cap on their value. But that argument doesn’t quite hold water, because – with sums like $69 million and $91 million – there already seems to be little ceiling to what some people, or groups of people, are willing to pay for. the NFTs.

Separating NFT sales from traditional art sales has, in my view, less to do with whether NFTs are art or not, and more to do with preventing the former from making jump the seconds out of the water. If, in the first year of NFT circulation, two NFT sales broke records for amounts paid for works by living artists, then one can assume that it is only a matter of time before two become ten – and ten become fifty. So what’s really at stake are ideas about what art matters more. Because if a digital drawing of Buzz Lightyear with boobs was ever worth more than a , , or *gasp* , it would mean everything many people thought they knew about art, and by extension the world, would be upside down.

What is so offensive (at least to some people) about the high prices paid for works by Beeple, Pak and other NFT artists is how little their aesthetics and modalities align with the traditional values ​​of the fine arts.

NFT artists, for the most part, do not obliquely quote Western art history in a way that only MFA graduates can understand. They don’t worship museums like MoMA and the Tate, or galleries like Gagosian and David Zwirner. Their art references the history of video games, pixel art, comics, AI, science fiction, concert graphics, and other stories that have not been canonized by museums or universities. As artists, many prefer to be anonymous or use ambiguous one-word pseudonyms. Their work is split and sold into 30,000 shares, or done collectively using an AI algorithm. Their biggest collectors have profile pictures of poop-stained white underwear.

In short, tastes change. By that I mean that the tastes of people who have money are changing. It’s because Who has money exchange. A whole new class of crypto wealth has developed over the past few years, and this class is different from the wealth that came before it. Members of the new crypto elite did not necessarily grow up going to museums or attending galas. Many, if not most, grew up playing video games, taking psychedelics, and watching The matrix– experiences that have turned into a love of art that is accessible, gamified, owned or created collectively and interested in the Singularity. And now that they’re armed with more money than some royalties, they’re actively funding a world, with a cast of artists, that reflects their values ​​to them.

There is a precedent for this: the Italian Renaissance. The was preceded by the invention of the printing press, a technological innovation that removed many gatekeepers, leading to the rise of a merchant class – a class that patronized artists less attached to the Church and more concerned with rationality scientific, resulting in an art that looked very different from the medieval triptychs that preceded it. Am I calling what’s happening a rebirth? A digital Renaissance? I am. Strong and proud. Whether Wikipedia acknowledges this or not is irrelevant. Maybe they even have are acknowledging this, implicitly, by separating NFT sales from traditional art sales, denoting a clear before and after in this chapter of human history.

Just like in the rest of the world, there is a lot of work to be done to make the NFT world a more inclusive, diverse and equitable place, as well as to make it less destructive to the environment. If there is anything to worry about, it is not, in my opinion, the questionable status of NFTs as “real” art. It’s that so few artists, both in traditional art and NFT worlds – make up the bulk of the market volume, and that most of these artists are cis-het white males. Nevertheless, dismissing an entire cultural change because of these criticisms is not only futile, but dangerous. This leads to failing to shape this next chapter of human history for the better. ‘Cause it’s a chapter that’s coming—is happens, whatever, and it’s one that would be best served by involving as many conscientious voices as possible.

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