Art Market Year in Review: NFT Investors Confuse Trade

CryptoPunks – these are the NFT boom classics that have been mesmerizing the art community since March: 10,000 cartoon heads, algorithmically generated in June 2017 with 24 x 24 pixels each. Because ArtReview magazine puts “ERC-721” at the top of its “Art Power 100” list, the non-fungible token (NFT) standard offered by Ethereum network developers in 2018, it’s worth taking a look. a look back.

The two Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson of New York studio Larva Labs developed the CryptoPunks as images for collectors: female and male comic book characters with punk accessories, eccentric hairstyles, rings in the ears, glasses and colorful caps. On the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, they identified each image with a number and a short description and recorded the respective transactions.

The property rights to the image are acquired

As a digital ledger held in a decentralized way on different computers, blockchain or data block technology can certify each image as an NFT, as a kind of non-exchangeable and therefore unique token. Anyone who buys encrypted art is not buying the image itself, but the ownership rights to the image, making it the owner and the unique artwork. A so-called smart contract makes it possible to trace who programmed, bought, exchanged or resold a token.

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Transparency is a key feature of the NFT blockchain technology, its revolutionary element is the NFT, the digital certificate of authenticity, which generally allows everything to be defined or identified as unique. In this regard, artists can create their works digitally, present them and market them independently of gallery owners. Most importantly, NFTs are great for all kinds of valuables, whether digital, multimedia or physical works of art, ownership of real estate, jewelry or other luxury items, stylish outfits for online game characters or the first tweet posted. by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey on January 21 sold on the Cent platform for $2.9 million in March this year.

The auction houses arrived late, but not too late

While it was initially specialized online trading platforms such as Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, Decentraland or OpenSea on which NFTs and crypto art were traded, prices exploded when Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips entered the crypto art market with several platforms as partners in March. Late, but not too late, they discovered its potential.

Above all, tech entrepreneurs, blockchain and crypto investors have been attracted as buyers. No need to ask them: the record price of 69 million dollars reached by Christie’s on March 11 for a collage by the American artist Beeple was paid by the Singaporean programmer and founder of the investment fund NFT Metapurse, Vignesh Sundaresan. After launching NFT’s viral catch-up on the art scene, it all came together: First, on May 11, nine cryptopunks from Larva Labs, estimated at 7-9 million, caused a stir at Christie’s for 16.9 millions of dollars.

The first NFT was a fluorescent vibrating octagon

Even more phenomenal was the $11.7 million that masked the “alien” crypto-punk number 7523 recovered from Sotheby’s in June. Its owner, a crypto investor and NFT art collector using the pseudonym Silly Tuna, acquired the first of all NFTs, “Quantum”, a fluorescent vibrating octagon designed by digital artist Kevin McCoy in 2014, for 11, $4 million at the same auction.

Young, insider investors in the cryptocurrency, blockchain, and NFT markets are now often stirring the art market. Take Ryan Zurrer, for example, who bought Beeple’s NFT kinetic video sculpture at Christie’s for $29 million in early December. Not only NFT art, but also iconic works of art history now attract him. For example, 31-year-old Justin Sun, founder of the crypto platform TRON, spent 78.4 million at Sotheby’s for Alberto Giacometti’s “The Nose” sculpture (1947). He wants to buy more masterpieces from the avant-garde, which appeals to auction houses and allows them to accept cryptocurrencies.

The contemporary auction market is changing

A win-win situation? The contemporary auction market is currently changing in terms of price structure and aesthetic trends. At Art Basel Miami Beach, Christie’s, in collaboration with the OpenSea platform, presented an NFT auction during which the work “Forever” by Canadian Michah Dowbak alias Mad Dog Jones was auctioned. In April, his Replicator painting fetched a record $4.1 million at Phillips. Forever is exciting for another reason: Jones makes frequent references to manga. “The flow of storytelling in manga is immersive. It allows the fan community to immerse themselves in the images as if they were in augmented reality spaces,” explains Jacqueline Berndt, curator of the exhibition “Flow: Narrating in Manga” at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, explaining the popularity of the genre.

Not only Japanese comics, but also the art market in Asia is becoming more and more influential. The report from the Art Price platform describes the current shift in the center of the art market from the United States (32% market share) to China (40%). Note the three leading artists of the Asian market: in the lead is the Japanese Yoshitomo Nara, followed by the African-American Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Chinese Liu Ye.

References to manga and graffiti elements are obvious

Nara’s references to manga aesthetics are evident, as are the elements of graffiti in Basquiat’s work. He is also the artist with the second highest turnover ($303.5 million) in the entire auction market after Pablo Picasso. In fifth place – this is also significant for the change in aesthetic trends – come Warhol and Monet, followed by street artist Banksy with a turnover of 123.3 million dollars. Nara ranks ninth with sales of $85 million.

The aesthetics of ancient subcultures – street art and graffiti – as well as those of manga and anime dominate the entire art market, including NFTs. The three most popular artists with the best-selling tickets worldwide are Kaws, Takashi Murakami and Banksy. These stylistic-aesthetic preferences can be seen as symptomatic of the idea of ​​rupture that currently also dominates artistic discourse.

‘Black Renaissance’ artists experience leaps in millions

At the same time, they are a visual counterpart to discourses on diversity. Because at the head of these young artists with sometimes excessive price jumps at auction are representatives with African or Afro-American roots. Works by Ghanaian Amoako Boafo, Nigerian Njideka Akunyili Crosby, British artist Jadé Fadojutimi and African-American Amy Sherald now exceed one million. Not only the artists of the “Black Renaissance” experienced leaps of millions, but also younger artists like the British painter Flora Yukhnovich, who reinterpreted the allure of Rococo or the American Emily Mae Smith, who subversively charged the surrealism and symbolism with feminist components.

Epigonal artifacts flood the market

Money from the crypto-financial world is also fueling these waves of hype. Inevitably they produce a lot of “style of” epigonal artifacts, but these can be learned to tell apart.

At the end of this artistic year full of capricious money, we can say: NFT remains and also develops in a promising segment for the primary market. The American gallery giant Pace recently launched its own NFT platform: Pace Verso, because the art dealer Marc Glimcher is convinced: “Being part of a community is what’s new, no longer owning art.

Nagel Draxler plans a “post-vanguard crypto cabinet”

In Berlin, the Nagel Draxler gallery is opening a “post-avant-garde crypto cabinet” based on NFTs and blockchain in January, as announced by Christian Nagel. Berlin gallerist Johann König is also experimenting with digital markets and NFT-based stock selling in prime art. “We work against the system of inhibitions,” he says.

Even strictly hierarchical Saudi Arabia wants to escape its “dark age” with the new Diriyah Biennale. Documenta and Manifesta, the Berlin and Venice Biennials will also allow as many people as possible to participate in the visions and missions of the artists of the coming year. Disruption is good.

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