written by Maurice Cardinal …
Artists … finally caught a wave.
Unfortunately, not all artists surf.
Even more unfortunate – the NFT digital divide is polarizing artists.
Crypto art, buoyed on the back of NFT – non-fungible tokens on an open distributed ledger on the blockchain (whew), is making a few artists rich overnight, or at least it seems like it’s overnight.
The truth is, artists like Mike Winkelmann and his digital 3D crypto BEEPLE art piece, which just sold at Christie’s Auction House for $69.3 million, have been building their digital portfolios for years. Mike for example, created BEEPLE incrementally every day for thirteen years without missing a single day.
Think about that for a second.
If you consider yourself an artist,
Mike is your new competition.
Do you have Mike’s commitment to
work on a project for thirteen years?
If you’re an artist and you’re offended by being referred to as competitive, well … you’ll have a hard time landing on the MOON–romantic, crypto, or otherwise. The success ratio for selling art is shrinking as more people become artists. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a glut of incredible artwork floating around … everywhere–especially on blockchain and the distributed, decentralized web. Digital is so good in fact, that it’s already re-de-fining, Fine Art, and that alone makes many older artists nervous. I get it. The same thing happened to me when digital replaced film and my million dollar stock photo catalog lost most of it’s original value. You know what though, you evolve and move forward.
Today Rumours, my original film tied to NFT is now part of my portfolio.
It’s insanely amazing that artists who have already scored in the NFT opening game are also already doing so much to share their new found wealth with other artists.
Art NFTs today are historical. Visual artists at all success levels are finally collaborating in massive numbers, so much so that it’s starting to feel like a very cool garage band. Musicians have built these types of artistic communities for eons, but to see it happening in the visual art world at such a large scale is a first. Visual artists are often sequestered in studios, working independently. NFT is opening doors for artists to communicate with each other in unprecedented ways.
Digital Artist Travis Davids’ video is thought-provoking and will help you understand the CryptoArt concept. He covers a lot of interesting issues.
Competing for commissions and art sales today is more fierce than at any time in history. As myths evaporate processes change quickly. For example, the term “Fine Art” is now leaning hard into elitist territory, a societal caste issue the masses protested against in 2020.
Under the NFT banner today, art is art. We don’t need a middleman to tell us whether art is good, bad, or fine. It’s all good, which means artists have to re-learn how to effectively compete for eyeballs.
Competition however, is still usually a dirty word for two groups of artists, and for two very different reasons.
First, artists who are just starting out are somewhat star struck! For the most part, new artists genuinely only want to share their vision and be validated for their effort. Who doesn’t? Being an artist feels good, and especially when someone buys your art. People like Harvey Weinstein understand this concept clearly. NFT DISRUPTS this power dynamic. NFT and crypto art inherently make the process more democratic and transparent so artists have better control over their careers and lives. NFT is also good for art lovers and collectors.
New artists are usually genuinely grateful for any type of recognition, however, the entitlement to be a celebrity is strong in our modern era, where every kid on the soccer team gets a trophy. Back in the day you had to work long and hard for recognition. Today, a medal is expected before you even break a sweat, and that bothers some artists who have devoted their entire lives to their craft.
It’s also scary when a computer does something as good as and sometimes even better than a human … see what Chess Master Kasperov thinks of AI
The Malcolm Gladwell meme postulating that it takes ten thousand hours thinking about and doing whatever it is you do to become great at it, is imploding. It doesn’t take that long today for an artist to acquire the skills necessary to create an art piece that art lovers will love, and collectors will find valuable. Is it fine? Apparently fine enough to pay millions.
NFT is redefining the addictive personality of fame at a hyper-macro level.
The prospect of fame fades for most artists though unless you regularly sell your work and feed what often becomes an obsession to be noticed. Old school artists still find it hard to admit that they want fans to like them. You can bet your last Bitcoin though that artists will still do outrageous things to be noticed. It’s natural to seek approval, and how you do it is open to interpretation!
Art promotion today is considerably different than last year. NFT artists happily and loudly SHILL themselves on social media. To some old school artists, shilling seems crass, and a second cousin to begging, which isn’t surprising when you consider that the system groomed everyone for decades to believe that artists were not capable of selling their own art. Today however, progressive artists, young and old alike say “Fuck that noise” I’m changing it up and reaching out to prospective art patrons directly.
Visual artists at the top are also hesitant to admit that they’re competitive simply because it would be uncool to be perceived as too eager. They imply it, but it’s usually no longer cool to be misconstrued as narcissistic. If egoism is your “act” though, have at’r, but usually, when you’re at the top, the more elusive you are, or you are perceived to be, the more that people will want to get close to you, and in your head. It’s a surreptitious game that most successful artists play incredibly well and seamlessly. I’m not knocking it, in fact, good for visual artists to navigate at such a sophisticated level. That type of communication skill gives artists well-earned leverage during the negotiation process. Never let them see you sweat is as true for artists as it is for athletes like LeBron James, Paulina Gretzky, Roger Federer, or Serena Williams.
Cool is a Mantra
Competition is a strange bedfellow for artists at the top, and the bottom.
The reality is that when you put enough coin on the table for an art commission, fiat or crypto, successful artists will pitch hard for it like everyone else.
Keep in mind too that it isn’t the art that is competing because buyers don’t frame it in that narrative. It’s the artist who needs to rise above the noise, and why a backstory is now even more important than ever. Being supported by other artists is a great ego boost, plus, we’re buying work from each other, but artists also need to know how to engage and compete for the attention of art collectors. When an artist says “I don’t care if anyone likes my art, I like it”, it sounds egocentric, but it’s usually not coming from a place of narcissism. Buffering like this allows an artist to separate themselves a bit from direct and hurtful criticism. It takes a lot of courage to be publicly introspective. When artists open up emotionally, collectors gravitate to it because it exposes frailties and strengths–the edges of creativity.
Competition for artists at the top or the bottom is completely different than it is for middle-lane emerging artists who have real momentum. For this group, competition is fierce and often out in the open, but still sometimes wrapped in innuendo. This aggressive group is often so skilled they can predict where a big opportunity will pop up. They look and listen better than most people, they are also politely shrewd. Most play their hand close to their chest, often bluffing buyers and other artists with dexterity that makes them look clairvoyant.
Part of the reason artists are loved so much is because we usually get there before everyone else. It’s an artist’s thing to be visionary.
“Out front” is an exciting place to be, and thanks to crypto and NFT, the frenzy to be noticed just dropped over the edge to a level of multi-million dollar insanity.
Mike Winkelmann, Mr. $69.3 million of BEEPLE fame, up until the month before his BIG HIT, was one of the mid-line comfortably successful working artists I described above. He defined his technique and style long ago, plus, it seems he’s pretty good at predicting where the market is going. Was Mike also lucky? Of course, but I’m betting that if he didn’t appreciate it before, he now truly understands the old adage of “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Competition is everywhere and across all art genres. The more strained our economy, the fiercer the competition.
When the competition is as tough as it is today, a natural assumption would be that artists would explore and embrace opportunities to sell their art. Crypto art offers a realistic chance for artists to work fulltime on art. It means you won’t have to juggle two jobs to pay rent and eat. The dream to create art every day, or at least at your whim is a strong draw for artists with long term vision. For the most part, industrious artists riding the middle rail are excited and scrambling to mint NFTs, and to become part of the crypto art community, maybe even pioneers–there’s still a lot to be discovered and invented.
Not all artists see it this way though.
Artists attract a lot of attention claiming NFT is a scourge. I’ve never seen so many artists suddenly become environmentalists. They’d do better to leverage their anti-NFT energy to actually save an ocean, but instead they play armchair Devil’s Advocate in an arena they don’t quite understand. Some artists had similar rants against the internet back in the day.
Here’s a nicely balanced perspective regarding NFT and climate change–make sure you read it to the end. I like this quote especially, “criticism of NFTs for their contribution to climate change was a red herring. It assumed … that the current method for trading art, sending paintings around the world and storing them in temperature-controlled climates; pressing and distributing vinyl records — did not also have a carbon footprint.” Antagonists always seem to miss that part, plus the part about how the current art marketing system unfavorably manipulates both artists and art buyers. That point there, is well worth the price of admission. NFT and crypto art aren’t perfect, but they are better overall and will improve considerably in a relatively short time.
To some artists, crypto art and NFTs are new, strange, and way too complicated.
Young new artists are as baffled by the complexity as everyone else. The save for them though is that they grew up with technology, and if any demographic will be able to grasp and run with crypto art and crush it, they will.
Older successful analog artists who grew up in the traditional art world, also find crypto art complex, and especially intimidating on a business level. They’re justifiably concerned about being left behind or of missing an opportunity, but if they apply themselves, they have nothing to fear–a rising tide lifts all boats. The reality is that the analog contemporary market also changed at warp speed when crypto and NFT arrived. It has a ripple effect throughout the entire art world and confuses everyone. Education is the key to acceptance.
Crypto art showed up in such a loud, brash, and almost uncivilized way, it even freaked digital artists out.
People who don’t understand something often fear it. The fact though is that the contemporary art world has been begging for change for a long time. Many feel that artists and art lovers are long overdue for a break. Modern day art needs a saviour and NFT offers solutions that will work well for everyone.