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It is an exciting time for the intersection of tech, art, and bored venture capitalists. With the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), digital “artists” can sell their “work” (or any image already freely available on the Internet) to a growing base of “collectors” with the click of a button.
However, the art world is notoriously slow to embrace new technology. Until recently, some galleries still accepted bags of loose blood diamonds and hand-forged bond certificates in exchange for paintings and sculptures. And for those of us more familiar with terms like “pointillism,” “post-modern,” and “money laundering” than “PoW protocol,” “carbon emission,” or “terrible for the environment,” the obfuscatory jargon of the blockchain can make it even more difficult to grasp.
So what exactly are these little tokens that have taken our antediluvian industry by storm? We asked some of the most respected figures in the cultural field to explain NFTs in terms we can all understand. All the individuals interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation by the Winklevoss twins, Beeple, and mobs of crypto-bros.
One associate curator at an encyclopedic museum in New York explained to Hyperallergic: “Each NFT is unique, meaning it’s not interchangeable — unlike the works in our collection, a significant percentage of which are convincing fakes. That’s really helped me understand it.”
A group of unionized art handlers gathered for a protest on the steps of the museum declined to comment but handed our reporter a flyer that said “Art Looks Better On Walls.” The demonstration was sponsored by the Geneva Freeport.
In the commercial sphere, galleries have quickly begun incorporating the technology into exhibitions, offering limited-edition NFTs alongside physical objects “because why not,” said a sales director at Pace who compared the Ethereum blockchain ledger to the Moleskine notebook filled with stapled business cards that he carries at art fairs.
“It’s just another way to build relationships with collectors, but it’s WAY more transparent,” he said, citing three new clients he recently brought to the gallery, XxGifLover_201, LolzNyanCat88, and 03049398247.
One seminal art critic and founding member of October magazine described NFTs as “the reduction of post-structuralist phenomenology to its purest form, whereby the medium becomes obsolete by pseudo-flattening of an imagined three-dimensionality.” When asked to clarify, he referred Hyperallergic to Walter Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
A longtime board member at MoMA and private prison investor had not heard of NFTs until he was contacted by Hyperallergic, but immediately expressed intrigue. “Wait, so I can just donate a folder of images of my art collection to the museum, instead of the actual art?” he asked. “Or would I not get the same tax breaks?”
He is not alone: according to a recent survey of 1,000 art collectors, 53% admitted to having only a vague understanding of NFT technology. Another 37% said they had “no clue lol” what NFTs were, and a remaining 10% of respondents thought they were a type of compact luxury motor yacht. (97% of collectors surveyed agreed that NFTs were an important new asset class that they planned on or had already added to their investment portfolios.)
“I don’t get it. They’re not that great,” a senior executive at Sotheby’s told Hyperallergic, audibly exasperated. “They’re just jpegs. Why would anyone pay $69 million for a jpeg?!”
“WHY!?” she repeated, bursting into tears before the call dropped.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…