written by Maurice Cardinal … originally published September 1, 2022.
NFT is side-stepping into traditional contemporary art galleries.
Gallery owners and curators are discovering that if they approach digital art from a more traditional art perspective, they can leverage NFT momentum to increase sales of fine art canvas paintings and photographs. Everyone wins.
ART MUSEUMS are also adopting NFT.
Now that the crypto bloom is off the NFT rose, the contemporary art community is settling into an adjusted paradigm that delivers brand-new experiences and opportunities for art collectors, progressive artists, and art galleries. Again, everyone wins … ala Web3 philosophy.
Gallery owners are also discovering that NFT CURATING is the key to success, just as it is IRL–in real life. They’re also learning that NFT artists are well-equipped, able and eager to do a lot of the promotional work.
Galleries are re-jigging the digital art NFT ecosystem and modifying it to work within their communities, and for their collectors.
In short, here’s how TRAD ART NFT is now being adopted and works in Q3 2022–we’ve promoted this model for a few years, since day one.
For *MOST* artists and galleries, NFT should NOT be your MAIN COURSE. Our research and testing indicate that for now at least, NFT works better leveraged as a promotional tool to increase the visibility and credibility of an artist and their art.
NFT purists strongly disagree with this model because their dream is to build an ART UTOPIA where artists have all the power. Who doesn’t want utopia? The reality however is that MOST artists do not currently have a business head for power, or the time, OR MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE WANT. Most artists have painfully discovered over the last couple of years that they can’t and don’t want to do NFT alone. Consequently, they are now reaching out for support, especially artists who have experience and bills to cover. It’s a busy time for professionals offering NFT art promotion advice and marketing services.
Galleries are once again looking like welcomed partners to artists–maybe even more than ever, which is ironic for NFT artists pinning their hopes solely on UTOPIA. It’s provocative and brave to cut out the middleperson, but flying solo means artists have to shoulder the work that galleries traditionally manage, and so far, it’s not going well.
Most artists are seriously struggling to build utopia. They are being ignored, or ruthlessly manipulated by bad actors. As a result, contemporary art galleries are discovering that they do in fact have a critical NFT role to play, although it’s not quite the same responsibility they had in the past.
For traditional art gallery owners to join the NFT art community, they have to adopt NFT and Web3 sensibilities. It might sound easy, but the differences are notable, and need to be respected.
Trad galleries are still early enough to write NEW RULES for NFT, and to register art marketing PATENTS!
NFT represents a new art culture, with vastly different and often unspoken wild west rules. NFT however, isn’t something you TACK ON. It needs to be carefully integrated into your entire system for it to be cost effective and produce results.
NFT is still complicated, and in some respects even more so. Consequently, what art galleries don’t know, or won’t accept, will impact their economic growth.
Part of the struggle in Q3 2022 can be attributed to NFT being HI-JACKED by platforms and traders in the early days of the pandemic. They forced a change away from NFT’s original base structure, which is to first provide certified authenticity for a work of art, and second, to describe the provenance of the art. These two elements are important attributes of NFT, but once conARTISTS entered the game, platforms instead focused on lottery-like promises of profit generated through a trading process called PUMP & DUMP–an illegal trading practice and not for art galleries that value reputation.
Leveraging NFT as a SIDE DISH instead of serving it as the MAIN COURSE allows galleries and artists to drive interest to the ORIGINAL PHYSICAL or PRIMARY DIGITAL art–ideally increasing the visibility and perception of its value. Think of an NFT like you would an old school signed lithograph edition, or even a poster, and price the NFT accordingly. The goal is to slip the art into the consciousness of art collectors, and to use NFT as a tool of awareness.
Envision NFT as a calling card with benefits, similar to the paper promo that galleries mail and hand out to prospective collectors–think of NFT as a VIRTUAL 4×9 art card and bio sheet.
When you shift NFT focus like this, it converts the energy into a more effective sales and promotion model that benefits the artist and gallery, and also of course the art collector. It’s real world workable. When managed properly NFT provides transparency, which helps everyone feel comfortable and protected.
Depending on the artist and campaign, it’s entirely feasible that the NFT could perform and sell for a high amount. At least that’s the plan, but instead of unrealistically pinning your hopes on it, think of a big or small NFT sale as a bonus–the cream. A realistic way to approach it over the long run is to leverage all the elements in a way that will leapfrog artist visibility up the ladder in a series of small jumps. If a gallery owner approaches a campaign properly, they can market an NFT EDITION RUN of say 50 pieces at a very affordable price, plus sell the ORIGINAL PHYSICAL PIECE for an appropriately elevated price, and also offer a HIGH-RESOLUTION UNLOCKABLE file that can be printed X-large for possibly an even higher price than the original.
Galleries that integrate NFT have three separate sales silos.
Also, when a collector PRINTS the large unlockable, or even the low-res edition, they’ll also likely want to FRAME it, which provides another revenue stream.
This strategy infuriates NFT PURISTS/EXTREMISTS who are very vocal about disrupting and destroying traditional art galleries. Ignore them. The reality is that their UTOPIAN NFT FANTASY is just that, a dream. Galleries will evolve of course, but they are here to stay.
Do I love NFT in all of its varieties? YES!
NFT is a great concept!
NFT is however, about transition, not abrupt change.
Do I also love NFT extremists and their world-order fantasy … of course I do–some of them at least. I was young once too, but now I’m a realist and I’m concerned for real artists and how they pay their rent. Tech extremists have had almost two years to prove to the art community that their NFT strategies have merit, but they failed–many trying to co-opt NFT for their own gains. It’s now easier to see the bad actors.
NFT extremists are going to jump around angrily for a while, but they will eventually form into their own more tightly focused communities, and maybe even go underground for the cachet. If they can organize, they might also even become the historic voice of early NFT art–BEATNICKS of our modern age. What NFT extremists are not going to do however is take over the mainstream art market like they want artists to believe. There is no money to be made in disruption for the sake of disruption, and without financial support, all wars end. NFT tech extremists still haven’t accomplished anything realistic or earth shattering respective of how they will improve the art system. All they’ve done so far is show us how they will destroy it … and I get it. We all get that sometimes you have to burn to the ground and start over, but art galleries aren’t a Fahrenheit 451 Phoenix meme.
Forget about NFT extremists for now. They will do their thing while professional art elements do theirs. We can all function side by side and develop in ways that suite our individual needs.
One thing NFT extremists have succeeded doing though is to blur the lines between commercial and fine art. It’s a serious disruption that ironically only serves to further divide art communities. If art galleries and artists fail to recognize the impact of the blur, they will waste enormous amounts of energy and resources marketing to the wrong prospect. Extremists create this confusion specifically to weaken traditional contemporary galleries, so don’t fall for it. It’s a false narrative meant to shift power to NFT platforms, not to artists as they imply.
In spite of all their misleading efforts, there is still a huge difference between commercial and fine art, although it is true that more and more commercial art straddles the line. Trying to make everything and everyone the same is a step backwards. Western art and culture is based on democracy and individuality. Cookie-cutter sameness is a communist construct. All artists should be able to speak and create freely and not be limited in their expression. If NFT extremists want to fight something, fight oppression and demand that artists in all countries be allowed on all NFT platforms.
TIPS for traditional contemporary art galleries adopting NFT …
DO NFT … YOUR WAY! Except for ethics and morals, there are no ironclad rules. Make NFT rules up and evolve as you go. HYBRIDIZE NFT it so it works for you and the artists in your community.
Make ART your MAIN COURSE, and NFT your APPETIZER and DESSERT!
COLLECTORS will tell you if and when they want NFT to be the main course.
Make artists a core element of your strategy. Learn what it truly means to be transparent. HINT: It does not mean you give away your promotional strategy and business secrets. It means in part that art galleries need to share information with artists in a way that allows them to help galleries promote their work. Sharing and caring equitably is one of the best traits of NFT. Help artists help you.
NFT is not for all artists. It’s for those who understand that it takes a lot of work to sell art in the real world or online as an NFT. If an artist doesn’t get it, think carefully about bringing them into your NFT ecosystem. NFT is NOT for lazy artists our complacent gallery owners. NFT artists also need to be tuned in intellectually–it’s a new and highly competitive world that requires making good decisions quickly.
If an artist’s main focus is on the NFT and not the art, move very cautiously.
Educate artists, and be clear about the NFT role that they will be contractually obligated and expected to play. Traditional artists are eager to adopt NFT, but they are still a bit hesitant, and rightly so because they’re not sure of their obligations.
Learn everything you can about UNLOCKABLES–the secret sauce for contemporary art galleries transitioning into NFT. Don’t believe what NFT platforms tell you about unlockables. In fact, don’t trust anything NFT platforms tell you because most do not want to see trad galleries enter the NFT arena–although lately, many will take any help they can get. Ideally, your goal should be to create your own platform to host your collections. In the beginning, and maybe even permanently, you can white label using your own smart contracts.
PURE PLAY STOREFRONT NFT GALLERIES that do NOT also display and sell traditional analog art, or at least physicals from digital, will usually not want trad galleries in the NFT arena, and it’s understandable. They are also NFT purists, the difference however is that brick and mortar NFT galleries are built by forward-thinking and intelligent business people with realistic vision who also want the best for artists.
imnotArt in Chicago is currently one of the most progressive and interesting Pure Play NFT Art Galleries. Watch them closely and learn. They have it all covered, from great art, to innovative promotion and marketing strategies … and COMMUNITY!
NFT art marketing is based on DATA, and the best place to find accurate NFT statistics is from Kofi at NiftyTable. Kofi provides a constant stream of valuable information for artists and galleries alike. For example, did you know that Twitter is by far the most popular promotional tool for NFT, and that most NFT web traffic to marketplaces comes from United States? My country, Canada, is #2, but trailing by a wide margin with all other countries falling below. Leverage this data wisely.
Many current forms of NFT are designed specifically for the metaverse, and it is these models that pure play galleries focus on, and what the public hears about the most. The challenge is that the real world and the metaverse have very few common touchpoints. For now, as a trad art gallery it’s a good idea to stay in your lane and only colour outside the lines when you can justify the risk. Focus on promoting 1:1 original art, and leave PFP/Generative Art for the metaverse trading group, at least in the beginning and until you have your bearings. If anyone tries to rush you into a decision … walk away.
Do NOT confuse auction houses like Sotheby’s, or HIGH-END MUSEUMS, with TRADITIONAL CONTEMPORAY STREET GALLERIES. NFT conARTISTS will try to confuse you at every turn in this respect, but there is little correlation between how these very different markets operate and value art. Your goal is to design a HYBRID NFT ART SYSTEM that works for traditional contemporary neighborhood art galleries. Quite often, NFT platforms and artists will make arguments against street galleries, and covertly use information attributed to major galleries and museums as false proof to support their misleading views.
Educate prospective NFT ART COLLECTORS through live ticketed presentations. It does two things; It gets art collectors up to speed quickly and safely, and it also introduces NFT artists and their work. Many times, these events also move large volumes of art. As an incentive to attend, ticket fees could be refunded when a collector purchases a piece of art through a presentation. In these early NFT days, one sale can be incredibly substantial and carry your entire season if you invite the right artists and collectors.
Encourage artists to COLLABORATE CROSS-PLATFORM with other styles of artists. For example a VISUAL ARTIST creates an NFT with a MUSICIAN, or a POET! It’s a cost-effective way to reach a much wider audience quickly. Collaborations like this were not feasible pre-NFT. Every piece of fine art today could, and if appropriate should include its own soundtrack. Today, audio in fine art is an anomaly, but it will soon be expected with NFT. Stay ahead of the rush and create FIRSTS while the world catches up. It’s a HODL thing.
Pay attention to the development of the METAVERSE. Fine art currently does not have much of a presence in the metaverse, but eventually it will catch fire with a very specific type of NFT art collector. A few are already experimenting, and it is these art collecting pioneers who will also be interested in new ideas presented by hybrid NFT galleries. This type of art collector focuses heavily on buying all the FIRSTS–sometimes they pay six-figures for relative unknowns. Your ideal goal would be to also host your gallery and collections in many areas of the metaverse, in virtual worlds like Decentraland and other similar spaces, but don’t get ahead of yourself or the market.
Learn what Web3, TOKEN ECONOMICS and GAMIFICATION really mean, and how a traditional art gallery can leverage it. It’s a modern era based on very specific marketing strategies defined by age-old solutions wrapped in a new coat. Token economics has been used by Olympic organizations for decades, and has now been adopted by the NFT art world. It’s a real thing that has far reaching potential for art.
Learn about SECONDARY SALES ROYALTIES, and why it is so important for not only artists, but also GALLERIES. NFT royalties ensure that EACH TIME a piece of art is RE-SOLD, the creator and original owner benefit financially in perpetuity. THIS … is a main draw for experienced artists interested in NFT, and if galleries don’t respect it, they will find it challenging to attract high caliber NFT artists. Secondary royalties were designed specifically for artists, but there are methods to make the process work equitably for galleries as well–not necessarily as a direct payment, but in other critical ways. It can provide leverage during a negotiation.
That’s it for now! There is much more of course to learn about NFT, so if you have questions about adopting NFT for a traditional art gallery, please reach out!