NFT Art Demystified
By an art lover for art lovers
Whether you loathe or adore them, NFTs are shaking up the art world like never before. Late last year, we had the privilege to interview Terry QuHarrison, the co-author of "The NFT Handbook – a detailed guide on how to create, sell and buy non-fungible tokens".
Terry co-founded one of the world’s first digital art marketplace powered by the blockchain as early as 2015. He has been featured on CNN, Huffington Post, Xconomy, Cointelegraph, MobiHealth News, MedCity News, and many others in addition to being a regular speaker and moderator at CES, SXSW and TEDx.
We selected his book among many as it offers simple explanations behind the rise and popularity of NFTs, as well as very practical advice on how to get started as a creator or a collector, without the need for any technical background.
We hope that the excerpts below will help you better appreciate why we think that NFTs are underpinning a broader revolution in the art world. If you would like to discuss about NFT and art, or have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
Block Meister (BM): There seems to be a gap between mainstream and NFT art, with a sense of frustration, and perhaps despair when it comes to the recognition of NFT art by the art establishment. Why do you think the traditional art world is not paying enough attention to NFT art, and does it matter?
Terry QuHarrison (TQH): I think the traditional art world isn't paying as much attention to the NFT art space for two reasons: The first reason is that they don't understand it. When they look at crypto art, it looks very childish and rudimentary compared to some of the more established contemporary artists now. I know that's a subjective opinion, but art is very much a subjective field and industry. There are usually 10 to 15 people at the top that hold the opinion of millions of people beneath them, and so those people haven't been convinced or shown a reason that they believe in yet, as to why crypto art should be regarded in the same range as you know a David Salle or any of the fine artists that they know.
I look at that and I say that there's an opportunity to be had there. And that is the second reason. In many regards, we need the traditional artists to learn the new medium that is the blockchain and become familiar with it. They can have artist liaisons and technological experts, but they need to look at the blockchain as a medium first. The artists that are creating art in the traditional world have the same skillsets and abilities as the crypto artist. They think about the world just as differently. The medium of expression might be canvas, might be clay, might be bronze, the things that traditional artists have become familiar with and understand intuitively. But they haven't seen enough crypto projects yet where their mind is really triggering.
At the same time, there's definitely a handful of traditional artists that have moved from the fine art space into the crypto world. Damien Hirst’s currency project was incredible. Tom Sachs rockets so does Sarah Mahoney, with her Bitcoin project. There are a lot of artists that have already experimented in tinkering with the platform. They just haven't done all the crazy stuff that some of these crypto communities have done yet.
BM: Is the current hype around NFT art sustainable?
TQH: One thing I will say is that in crypto, we've learned a few things: one is that if you start to run out of that gate really fast, it's really hard to keep that momentum. A lot of these NFT projects that have a lot of users, that have come out of the gate and started to build these massive communities yet don't have a lot of substance are going to struggle with maintaining the hype. If they can't deliver and I think that's something that we will see within the next two to three years, a lot of these projects will fizzle out.
There's going to be some that stick around and last, but it will not be that dissimilar to the ICO era (Initial Coin Offering), when in 2017 everybody had a coin to launch. I remember sitting in 2017 looking around and I was wondering which smart contract was different. This company was making its healthcare blockchain, and that company was making another healthcare blockchain. I read both of their white papers and it's literally verbatim word for word the same. None of those companies are here today. I remember there were people buying billboards and ads and TV segments, all these things. None of that stuff is here today. The NFT boom that we're seeing on the crypto art side is very similar. We're seeing a lot of TDC projects (Truly Decentralized Coin) or PSP projects (Payment Service Provider) and the quality of those projects are very similar to that of the ICO cash grab.
You need some of that in a market because if we didn't have these, that means the technology wouldn't be that exciting. Remember when we had spam accounts? People would be put on a massive listserv and they just sent you spam, marketing things. We still haven't really figured out the best solution. Every market has it “email” moment, but it's not as bad as it was in 2003.
BM: Many mainstream art collectors struggle with some types of NFT art projects that they see more like collectibles. Are Cryptopunks or Bored Ape Yacht Club the new baseball cards? Or are they missing something?
If you have some knowledge about art history, you know of the different eras of art. We had the impressionism era and now we look at Monet and everyone's like “Oh my gosh it's the best thing ever”. If we could go back in time and looked at the early impressionist art it must have felt kind of weird. We did not even know "impressionism" would become a movement. At the time it made people feel uncomfortable.
The crypto movement is very much right now filled with a lot of things of what we could call “collectibles”, but at the same time I am under the impression that this might be a new era for art. We might not fully understand it now, but it might be something that we will be looking back to. There will be some artists that will stand-up, because there are the 10K NFT art pieces projects and there are the one of one NFT art projects.
When it comes to the PFP side, the first thing is that when you make a PFP (Profile Picture Project) or 10K project you're making 10,000 units or 8,000 or 3,000 units of something. So, you don't have the time to be very intricate and intentional. When we talk about Rothko, what was interesting is that he couldn't generate art so he was making artwork that would change your mind, like the orange-red-yellow. You may think “I could probably make this”; “this doesn't look that cool” but you know it sells for tens of millions of dollars. You look back at it and it makes you think. And great art makes you think.
So yes, we're thinking when we look at some of these pieces like Beeple's Everydays, which sold for $69 million. Beeples artwork is very polarizing, and it has his own aesthetic. You either like it or you don't, but I don't think you should censor him, and I don't think you should go out and say this isn't art. It sells but the thing about it, is that it does make you think.
If Bored Ape Yacht Club doesn't make you think enough, then maybe it's a technology art project, maybe it is a collectible, maybe it's not meant to be seen as the most prolific enough art-based NFT. And maybe that's not the intentionality behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club. We, as individuals, as collectors, as people that participate in the art industry, we have to say: look we understand they might get associated with art because people don't understand it, but they don't consider themselves artists, they consider themselves technologists. And in that case, the art conversation around it is a lot easier to be had.
Some questions remain though: Where are the fine art NFTs? What are the blue chip NFTS? There are people here in the US, like The Minty, a team that is working on this, and Superrare that has some cool stuff and Block Meister that is starting on this too. That’s what's needed right now. You need people like you to go out and say: “hey let's go ask ourselves what are the blue chip NFTs” and have teams ask who are the traditional art world collectors looking to buy these things right now. Because if you figure out how to sell traditional artists’ NFTs, and let's say that was Block Meister’s contribution, just the sales part, not the creation, not the curation, you would be one of the pioneer art market makers when it comes to digital art.
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