The role of NFTs in culture: between openness and excess

NFTs have recently been incorporated into Larousse’s dictionary. A new recognition of the English acronym “unusable token”, which continues to plague our society. NFTs are tamper-proof digital certificates that verify the authenticity of a photo, video, musical composition, gif and even … a tweet. Their principle is closely linked to blockchain and cryptocurrency, especially through the Ethereum platform. Since 2020, these virtual tokens represent a true digital revolution that is taking over the world of entertainment as culture.

For Sotheby’s managing director, Sebastian Fahey, NFTs are represented “The most influential and exciting innovation the art world has seen in the last ten years”. A finding that raises questions today, whether NFTs are shaking traditional sector codes, between openness and redundancy.

NFTs change the contours of art

They are everywhere. If it was attacked by social networks like Instagram, before that, many cultural sectors like cinema, music or fashion gave up their call. This is especially the case with the group Kings of Leon, for the promotion of Martin Scorsese’s latest album, for financing his film. A Wing and a Prayeror the clothing brand Gap.

But these fields are really just a continuation of what new technologies are doing today in the art world. The latter is truly as a privileged area where NFTs have been able to establish themselves. How to forget Every day: the First 5000 Daysthe virtual work done by Beeple, sold for 69.3 million dollars?

Every day: the First 5000 Days by artist Beeple.© Beeple

In 2021, this transaction draws attention to an event that has been around since 2015, but was previously relatively unknown to the public. Above all, it changes the situation for the art sector, which has seen traditional codes evolve, whether for the validation of a work, the democratization of its funding, its commodification or transmission. of it.

NFTs also influence the logistics of art. Una, “Since there is no longer a need to collect works for a sale, there is no need to carry them, transactions are quickly and consistently made from collector to collector”, describes Jean Minguet, director of the econometrics department at Artprice. On the other hand, because NFTs invest in classic art promotion spaces. For example, the Museum of Crypto Art (MoCA) opened in Paris in December 2021, to celebrate three years of its creation in the metaverse. Museums such as the Basel Electronic House are also seeking to obtain NFTs to display them, as these tokens can now be sold at auction in France, for reasons other than associations.

The Museum of Crypto Art in Paris.© Le Monde/Cryptovoxels

NFTs: a new platform for art and artists

A new art market has emerged. Beyond these auctions at astronomical prices, there is also an NFT market that is accessible to a wider audience. Where contemporary art has always been reserved for a few experts, NFTs make it possible to shake up the elitist model and decentralize it.

As a result, collectors will proliferate, in order to also innovate many of the millennials who are interested in today’s event. This new generation will bring in new artists, as well as new creators who have since found NFTs a way to live out of their passion. These non-fungible objects may also make it possible to break down some of the inequalities that reign in the environment by offering better representation of young artists, as well as female artists.

These digital tokens also represent a new field of exploration for artists, offering new creations, beyond the limits of the physical world. The case of street art is particularly interesting. NFTs make it possible to protect it and overcome its ephemeral aspect. Creative mediums are also thriving, and NFTs are the perfect way to own performance and art installations. For example, actress Alexa Meade creates 3D drawings using models of physical spaces.

Alexa Meade’s performance became NFT.© Alexa Meade

We also find that NFTs give new life to some practices. This is the case with Bunnyman, whose statue, created 30 years ago by Max Grüter, is now available as NFT. There are many examples that show that tokens have a decisive role to play in culture and art, especially in terms of representation.

NFTs in art and their drifts

However, this diversity comes at a price and has many drawbacks. What interests NFT consumers in the first place is money – not art. The creators of Monetized Graphics (the ancestor of these famous digital tokens), entrepreneur Anil Dash and digital artist Kevin McCoy, quickly understood this in 2015. The former also relied on columns in The Atlantic : “By designing the technology for artistic use, McCoy and I thought we could prevent it from becoming a tool for exploiting creativity. But nothing happened as planned. Our dream of empowering artists never saw the light of day. day and gave way to action commercial hype. »

It’s true that artist protection seems like a utopia and could have serious consequences, both for them and for NFT’s marketing platforms. This is the case of OpenSea, the victim of a phishing attack, where a malicious user stole a hundred NFTs, whose work Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) by Timothy McKimmy. This isn’t the first time OpenSea has been in turmoil: the platform is also the center of a plagiarism case. It did not put in place the necessary measures to prevent counterfeiting of NFTs and was accused of facilitating the theft of a form of virtual art. A principle that opposes intellectual property and validates the more recent law on digital tokens.
Without going through these blockchain -linked platforms, many artists see their intellectual property rights violated. This is the case of Liam Sharp, a comic book writer, who threatened to close his Deviant Art account because his works were constantly taken to be updated by NFT.

strange woman by Liam Sharp. The artist has seen many of his works convert to NFT.© Liam Sharp

Faced with this, an anti-NFT movement is mobilizing and trying to prevent pro-tokens from distancing themselves from this practice. His hobbyhorse: to prove that crypto-art is just too fast, and to respond to a pyramid monetization system.

But this is not the only complaint we are focusing on about excessive NFTs. Nowadays, and even if these tokens are flowing to new consumers in terms of art and culture, it is clear that this is still a technology that is not accessible to the majority of the public, where the use of cryptocurrencies still limited.

Finally, from a cultural point of view, NFT raises questions about its future, but also the meaning of art. With the endless possibilities they offer, whether in terms of painting, video or music, it seems like everyone has the potential to become art and culture. However, creating a tweet may not be comparable to an image created by an artist and it often runs the risk of damaging the uniqueness of a work.

Without mentioning the catastrophic environmental impact represented by NFTs, many abuses exist. Even if they shake traditional codes of art, NFTs don’t have to be the same as guarantees. An ambivalence that every technology has, of course, but that, in the case of these digital tokens, deserves proper analysis, in order to preserve a dense, diverse culture, but also respectful of artists and the some work.

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