There are a few verticals and sectors of business that were particularly quick to adopt cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Few have done it with as much success and impact as the art world.
We will talk about NFTs in a second, but first let’s look at the traditional art market, because we feel like it definitely doesn’t get enough attention.
Of course when we say traditional, we don’t really mean traditional. Not in the literal sense. Contemporary art manifests in physical materiality, but it’s much more about inventiveness, innovation and boldness than it is about following any sort of tradition.
And that’s why this world embraced crypto before so many others.
Contemporary art is a hotbed of innovation
The video game market was estimated to be worth 90 billion USD pre-COVID (it’s hard to get an accurate reading of markets during and right after because of lockdowns and temporary measures). It’s one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, and everyone knows the major titles coming out and dominating our living rooms for days on end.
Well, the art business was worth over 64 billion dollars. Not quite the same, but up there. It’s toe to toe with music.
This doesn’t happen if you keep doing the same things in the same ways. Contemporary art explores pretty much all materials available to humankind. Experimentation with digital forms of art is about as old as computers are.
You shouldn’t be surprised to know that the art market has always operated outside the norm. Art isn’t exactly known for its usefulness or real-world applications. It’s sought after because of the joy it brings, and the pure human experience of it. This means that few rules have ever been respected by contemporary artists or buyers and sellers.
Wikipedia quotes an art writer (whose name we couldn’t find!) that describes the art market as special because of its “manic internationalism”, which we find is a particularly apt phrase. Borders and trading limitations have never made any sense whatsoever for the art world.
We’d be remiss not to mention that this has led to some horrible injustices.
In circumstances where the artists’ rights are always protected, however, it can be a very potent catalyst for innovation.
Art galleries love crypto
We have written a (quite outdated by now) article about the art world and crypto because we were fascinated with the levels of adoption that we were seeing. Galleries have been accepting Bitcoin payments since 2014, and, to be frank, probably earlier.
Amazing galleries, such as Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon, or Arms &McGregor’s Thee Gallery are consistently displaying incredible artists that range from worldwide famous names such as Vhils to newcomers that are just breaking through.
Some galleries, like Artzine, don’t even have a physical space anymore, and operate online exclusively.
All of them are accepting payments with crypto via Utrust.
We quoted this article before, and we’ll quote it again: the art market is one of the sectors that has embraced bitcoin and cryptocurrencies sooner and more wholeheartedly.
Tokenization is democratising the space
One of the more insistent critiques of the art market is that it’s quite elitist. It supposedly caters to a few very rich patrons and doesn’t really have much to offer for most people.
These critiques are not without merit.
So, we are dealing with a market where objects are non-fungible, indivisible, remarkably expensive, and operating in an opaque market.
I wonder what could help with literally all of those things.
The answer, of course, is blockchain tech.
Innovators like Artsquare are using blockchain technology to effectively tokenise individual artworks, allowing investors to own tokens that act as shares in a piece of art. While owning work by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst or Banksy may have seemed like a pipe dream in the past, now you can own a little bit of these works, much like you own a little bit of Apple or Microsoft.
And, as is the case for everything blockchain, all the ledgers are public, all transfers are visible, so opaqueness begone!
But what about digital art and NFTs?
We needn’t even begin to say that that whole entire world is worthy of one (or several) full articles of their own, but we will say a few things:
First thing: Ignore the naysayers, that market is extremely real and has become a true digital counterpart for the art market we have been discussing up until now. The whole thing is transforming so rapidly, and establishing itself in such solid ground, that we look at the article we wrote a little over a year ago and we barely recognise the scene. It’s a monster, and it’s just getting started.
Second thing: NFTs and crypto payments go, of course, hand in hand. Projects like the one being run by the extremely talented people at Artpool take art extremely seriously, curate carefully, and are adding incredible value to the market while accepting payments with… you guessed it… Utrust.
We love pioneers.
We love rulebreakers.
Art has always been about changing hearts and minds, communicating our values and taking glimpses into the future.
That’s the one thing that will never change.