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NFT Artists Are Not Selling ‘Digital Art Objects.’ They Are Selling a Story

One of the hosts of the Nifty Alpha Podcast recently joked, “It’s very clear to us these days that NFTs may not be the future.” “For example, it’s the future, but not just today.”

The Nifty Alpha Podcast is a fun and candid news source for NFT investors. Nifty Nick was kind of nitpicking here, but he’s referring to the bigger truth: The NFT market is dying. Yes, orphaned spikes for this or that project will quickly fade away.

It’s been about a year and a half since NFTs started to become mainstream, and a few months into the first winter of NFTs.

Parts of the NFT universe are very offensive. Influencers launch and cash in projects they secretly invest in. An endless supply of business hacks wearing the cloak of digital art—it’s easy to have a lot of schadenfreude.

But I really don’t think NFTs will go away. They are only mutating under pressure.

A gruesome NFT-themed mural by Another Flex on the Wall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by Ben Davis.

Those who promote the alternative NFT art world tend to speak out very confidently about the evils of the traditional art world, and they promise to open up the magic of blockchain technology to all. It is perceived as hoarding opportunity. But it seems to me that this vision is still buying into the traditional art world hype.

The truth is, anyone who has seriously studied the art market will know that traditional art is largely a bad investment. Even most art that has a moment is worth nothing in a few years. Only in truly exceptional cases will art be valued so radically over time that it is almost impossible to predict such an increase.

The main reason I collect art is because I really like art or because I want to support the artists. To be fair, we heard NFT pundits say similar things at the recent NFT.NYC conference in the face of a price crash. (Six months ago, on his last NFT.NYC, he had the line, “Who wants to retire in three years?”)

Worm NFT

People walk with The Worm NFT characters in Times Square at the 4th Annual NFT.NYC Conference in New York City on June 23, 2022. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images.

“Democratizing” the economic opportunity of the art market means democratizing the potential to lose money, primarily on hyper-speculative assets. As Bloomberg reported last year, “a very small group of very sophisticated investors are scraping most of the profits from NFT collection.” This is similar to the traditional art market.

Yet… just because most of the claims about NFT’s money-making potential for the average person turned out to be smoke and mirrors doesn’t mean NFTs are going away. It costs a lot of money to keep that dream alive. Pyramid schemes such as Mary Kay and Herbalife also recruit people who promise them financial independence, but much of that has proven to be an illusion. It has been researched and researched, and each year new people sign up to become evangelists for their product.

Such schemes tend to flourish among people who feel cut off from financial opportunities. Mary Kay among Housewives. Herbalife among immigrants. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs among young men eyeing opportunities in the stagnant real economy.

A highly engaged audience of digital art day traders, culturally new and unparalleled in the traditional art market, serve a mass of self-identified ‘degen’ (from ‘degenerate gamblers’). It offers. Most NFT projects are undoubtedly a bubble, but the entire NFT art and collectibles trading ecosystem is something of a new form of art-themed online gambling. It scratches the same itch as horse racing and sports betting, but for digital natives.

ZED RUN Wakeful Stakes

NFT-based horse racing game Zed Run sponsors Wakeful Stakes at Flemington Racecourse in Flemington, Australia. Photo: IRL winner Willowie. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photography)

And gambling actually tends to thrive in times of economic uncertainty.

That said, there’s a slightly less cynical reason to think that the NFT trade will continue on the artist’s side rather than the collector’s side. This innovation reflects ways to sustain digital creativity, and last year proved potentially viable under the bubble. Society is increasingly centered around digital creativity. increase.

Again, I think some of what this means is obscured by the usual breathless NFT pitches.web3 sound advocates around the world as they make their pitch silicon valley For a “new internet” without satire. How NFTs will finally liberate culture from the malevolent dominance of Web 2.0, the alphabet and meta influence of the giant platforms that have eclipsed most of the interests of the attention economy We often hear about how

The sign says "I hate NFTs" at the NFT.NYC conference

A sign that says “I hate NFT!” Seen behind people seated on the red steps of The Times His Square during the 4th Annual NFT.NYC Conference in New York City on June 20, 2022. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images) )

But as far as I can tell, success in the NFT space relies heavily on the same viral dynamics and addiction to trending topics that hollowed out the media in the Web 2.0 era. After watching the NFT art world develop for a year and a half, it’s become clear that even if the project catches fire, its medium-term value will be limited to viral fame and the usual memes in general. that it tends to follow the curve of A pop of intense conversation when everyone tries to jump on a trend quickly becomes stale and fast becoming yesterday’s lunch.

Critics roll their eyes and talk about the absurdity of “buying a jpg”. But even this way of criticizing NFTs unwittingly embeds a useless analogy.the collector is No You buy a digital image (or a token pointing to a digital image) that acts like a discreet painting as a “digital object”.What the most enthusiastic NFT audiences are looking for storya hype cycle in which you can bet on its fluctuations.

To me, this seems like where many traditional artists entering the NFT space fail. They just “do NFTs” and think they are sold to an audience that passively holds it. it doesn’t work like that. People trying to put money into these things are looking for a constant narrative to keep prices up.

Street artist JR

French photographer and street artist JR arrives at the Time 100 Gala at Lincoln Center in New York City on June 8, 2022. Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images.

Artist JR got into NFT last year and got a big reaction. As you can see on Discord, his collectors are outraged that he hasn’t abandoned other art to further promote the NFT to spice up the project. An angry ex-fan recently made a mocking animated version of him of his famous sunglasses-wearing face. There, JR is made to insure his NFT his holder. I’m always thinking of you while I spend all your money flying around the world! Brutal.

JR is one of the world’s most famous, well-connected and media-savvy street artists. If he just sits down and he can’t let the NFTs circulate naturally, neither can any other artist who wants something like continuous practice in that space.

The tendency for NFT conversations to be dominated by large collections of slightly different images stems from the need to have a story. More associated images means more deals are made, which means more potential news events and data points to focus on, which means more stories to tell. means to bet.

Beeple's Everydays - The First 5,000 Days movies are coming to Dreamverse. Photo by Ben Davis.

beeple movie Daily – first 5,000 days It will be screened in Dreamverse. Photo by Ben Davis.

When it comes to “one-to-one” art (an NFT term for a “unique” artistic image, rather than a collection of digital collections like Apes or Punks), Beeple, one of the most famous artists in the field, is his ‘s fame came from their ‘Everydays’ project, where they posted new artwork every day.

Constant attention, constant new stories are what is required to keep the interest ball in the air and to ensure a continuous interest drip. It is the extension and enhancement of demands for creative life in , the tyranny that feeds algorithms. No It’s a healthier alternative to being with people.

Sara Ludy, a successful New Mexico-based digital artist, recently spoke with my colleague Tim Schneider about the Art Angle podcast about the future of digital art. She enthusiastically talked about the huge breakthrough NFT represented by digital artists. This is because it is now possible to make money for previously worthless works and for artists like myself who are based outside the geographic art capitals. These are actual items.

But this passage also stood out to me, and I think every artist considering NFTs should think about it:

I don’t think the NFT space is a healthy space. Because artists have to market and promote themselves all the time. 24/7 he has to be connected to Discord and is basically juggling some other aspect of what it means to be an artist and is exhausted. Personally, I’m actually on a digital detox and reassessing what it means to have a healthy and sustainable digital practice. It was born out of burnout. I could barely open my computer screen right now and was actually struggling with the final piece of the show.

NFTs may not seem like the future right now. But they look like the near past weighing heavily on the present.

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