Web3 is revolutionising the way that art is created, shared, and owned. By providing new avenues for tokenising and selling art, NFTs are building a new ecosystem, opening the door for artists to earn a living from their work and experience more creative freedom than ever before.
Throughout the ages, artists have struggled to receive fair compensation for their creative output, forced into competition with each other, even as they sought to find patrons for their craft. Across the world, blockchain has opened up the doors to a solution. For the first time in history, artists have been able to embrace the scale of the internet without surrendering large portions of their income to middlemen who hold the majority of the power in cultural spheres, without creating much culture themselves.
Rather than relying on a third party to represent them, such as a gallery or publisher, creators can now release unique digital tokens of their work that serve as non-fungible certificates of authenticity. By organising digitally, artists have found patrons without relying on others, and by cutting out these middlemen, artists can retain more of the value of their work and more control over how it is distributed. In turn, that new autonomy underlies new freedom, both financial and artistic.
One of the key benefits of using NFTs is that they allow artists and collectors to verify the authenticity of their work on the blockchain. By resembling a digital certificate of authenticity, artists can ensure that, whilst the artwork itself could be copy and pasted, the certificate that states who it was produced by can never be copied. Artwork created with an NFT can never be counterfeited or duplicated. This newfound digital trust not only protects the artist’s work from being counterfeited, but also empowers them to retain the value of their creations.
An outcome of this is that digital art, as a medium, has become newly viable. Before, it was impossible for digital artists to sell their work in the same medium that it was made. Whilst a painter can sell their canvas, a digital artist could not, before, sell their work online; the purchased copy would be indistinguishable from a copy-and-pasted version; hence the proliferation of watermarks online, and the reduction of digital artist’s work to prints.
“No digital artist needs to be a starving artist.”
— Patrick Amadon
NFTs effectively serve as a watermark without tarnishing the image — and one that cannot be removed by artificial intelligence. They let anyone instantly verify what is fake and what is original, and in doing so have opened up a wealth of opportunities for digital artists of all forms, from glitch artists like Patrick Amadon to the National Geographic photographer Dilek Uyar. As Patrick tells us: “No digital artist needs to be a starving artist.”
NFTs represent a revolution in the way that artists can claim and transfer ownership of their digital creations. By storing and verifying the authenticity of their work digitally, artists can now access the other benefits of the internet, including easily transferring ownership of their artwork anywhere around the world.
This transfer is made seamless by the blockchain, which in no small part eliminates the role of galleries, auction houses, or others who might engage in transporting art, which can represent a significant extra cost for physical art pieces.
As a consequence, we are seeing blockchain provide opportunities to artists no matter where they are in the world. Some of the most respected artists in web3 herald from areas of conflict or oppression, but NFTs have given them the opportunity to create and earn a living from their art on the same terms as everyone else.
Speaking from the West Indian cult of which she is a member, Joanna tells us, “We were so brainwashed and isolated from the world that any act of freedom was seen as a disgrace. Web3 opened up an avenue that I could never have imagined. NFTs saved me.”
One of the most significant advantages that NFTs offer to artists is the ability to set their own pricing for their work. Unlike traditional art marketplaces, where galleries often set the price or take a significant cut, NFTs, and the digital ownership that they entail, empower artists to set their own prices for their work without any third-party interference.
This newfound autonomy and control over pricing, previously reserved for only the most established artists, not only ensures that creators receive fair compensation for their work, but also empowers them to build and nurture a loyal collector base that values their art.
“Web3 opened up an avenue that I could never have imagined.”
Moreover, by storing certificates of authenticity publicly on the blockchain (for anyone to verify), they provide transparency to the pricing of an artwork, letting buyers and collectors evaluate the true value of a piece based on its price history. The combination of fair pricing and transparent transactions is a significant step forwards in empowering artists to take control of their financial future and improving the art market writ large.
The advent of web3 has unlocked unprecedented possibilities for artists to generate innovative revenue streams for their work. By leveraging NFTs, artists can create new business models that were previously impossible. Subscription services for digital art, for example, offer patrons, collectors, and other members of an artist’s community the chance to access exclusive content. This serves not only to diversify an artist’s income, but also contributes to a more sustainable and interesting art ecosystem.
“Artists and collectors are collaborating in new and fun ways.”
— Zach Lipp
Further, artists can use NFTs to create limited-edition pieces or open editions, both of which can introduce an artist to new collectors at a more accessible price point. Zach Lipp has collected almost 1,000 artworks as NFTs over the past few years. Speaking on our podcast, the American photographer outlines two benefits to editions: the potential for collectors to explore more artists at scale, because the work is more accessibly priced, with the added value that this brings to artists. “Artists are finding new traction in the space by making their art more accessible. Artists and collectors are collaborating in new and fun ways.”
Finally, creating art as NFTs empowers artists to express themselves, in virtue of building direct connections with collectors, rather than through third-parties. This new freedom fosters creativity, innovation, and experimentation, even for established artists. The crypto art ecosystem blends art from political artists like C3naaX to experienced professionals, including Brandon Mighty (former animator at Netflix and Nickelodeon), Marc Simonetti (Game of Thrones and Disney illustrator), and Henry Daubrez (a web design executive).
NFTs have allowed Marc to draw a line between ‘commissioned art’ that he is paid for, and ‘fine art’ for which he can earn an income in web3. He says that he is inspired by a quote from his friend, Sylvain Desprez: “If it’s a commission, you’re not a true artist.” Web3 lets creators move beyond the commission.
“I wanted to do a traditional gallery, but it never went anywhere.”
— Brandon Mighty
Meanwhile, for Brandon, some of his most popular artworks have been collections that would never have been approved in his day job or a traditional gallery. “I’ve taken bite-sized things too strange to pursue in animation or books and have been able to put them out there as their own small collection.” He is talking about his early NFT series, Balls, a series of various objects and other creatures squished together in a round collective with a lovable charm. “I wanted to do a traditional gallery, but it never went anywhere. Once NFTs came into the picture, it let me open that idea from the vault.”
Overall, web3 is revolutionising the way that art is created, shared, and owned. By providing artists with the tools to create digital art, tokenise their work, and share it in a secure and censorship-free environment, NFTs are helping to create a new art ecosystem; an art ecosystem that will open the door for artists to earn a living from their work and experience more creative freedom than ever before.
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