This digital record identifies the winning bidder and confers ownership. This record is called a Nonfungible Token or NFT, and it’s stored in a global shared database. The database is decentralized, using blockchain technology. This means that no one individual or company can control it. Anyone can access or read the blockchain as long as it survives on the planet. No one can alter it.
The “ownership” in crypto art does not confer any rights other than the ability to claim ownership. The copyright is not yours, you do not get a print and anyone can view the image online. It is only a record on a public database that says you own the piece of work.
Why would anyone spend millions of dollars on what is essentially just a link to an image file?
Art is social by nature.
Consider the reasons why people purchase original art when thinking about crypto art.
People often purchase art to decorate their homes and add inspiration.
Art also has many social functions. Your home’s art reflects your tastes and interests. Artworks in homes and museums can ignite conversation. Art can bring people together, whether through magazines, galleries, or museums. By purchasing art, you are supporting the artist and the arts.
There are also collectors. Collectors collect all kinds of items – model train sets, commemorative plates, vinyl LPs, and sports memorabilia. Art collectors also hunt for rare pieces.
The art that is most talked about today and drives the public’s interest in art are the millions-dollar pieces of Picasso or Damien Hirst bought by ultra-rich people. It’s still social. Whether it’s at Sotheby’s auctions or museum dinners, wealthy collectors mix, talk, and meet.
Most people purchase art as investments in the hope that its value will increase.
Crypto art is it really so different?
Only one reason for buying art – to decorate your home – has anything to do with the actual work.
Crypto art can be purchased for any of the reasons I mentioned above.
Online, you can create your virtual gallery and share it. Your virtual gallery can be used to express your interests and tastes, and you can also support artists through their work. You can join a community. Some crypto artists who felt left out by mainstream art say that they found more support within the crypto community and are now able to earn a living through their art.
While Beeple’s huge sale made headlines in the media, most crypto-art sales are more affordable and range from tens to hundreds of dollars. This helps a larger community of artists than just a few. Some resale prices have increased.
Value as a social construction
Art is not just about the aesthetic pleasure it brings. It’s also a way to express social values. It does not imply that art is interchangeable or that the technical skills and historical significance of a Rembrandt are imaginary. This means that we can choose to value these attributes.
It isn’t easy to believe the value of a work that costs $90,000,000 for a Jeff Koons metal balloon animal. It doesn’t matter if the materials or craftsmanship is excellent; some of that money will be spent on the right to claim “I own a Koons.” You can get a metal balloon animal for less money if you want one that is made with art.
Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ displayed at Art Basel Miami in 2019. Cindy Ord/Getty Pictures
The conceptual art tradition, on the other hand, has separated the object from the value. Maurizio Cattelan was able to sell a banana that had been taped on a wall twice for six figures. The value of the artwork did not lie in the banana, the duct tape, or the way the two objects were attached. It lay in , the story, and the drama surrounding the work. The buyers didn’t buy a banana; they bought the right to claim ownership of the artwork.
Crypto art, depending on your perspective, could be the ultimate expression of conceptual art’s separation between the work of artwork and any physical object. It’s pure conceptual abstraction applied to ownership.
Crypto art could reduce art to its purest form: buying and selling art for conspicuous consumption.
In Victor Pelevin’s satirical book “Homo Sapiens,” the main character attends an art exhibit where only the sale prices and names of the artworks are displayed. When he asks, “Where are the actual paintings?” It becomes obvious that this is not the point. The art is less important than buying and selling.
This was satire. But crypto art goes one step beyond. Why bother with anything other than a receipt if the purpose of ownership is being able to claim you own the piece?