Although many still doubt it, all evidence suggests crypto will dominate the art world for years to come. While many will disagree, the arguments against it are either knee-jerk hyperbole, or simply misinformed. Here’s why.
A common refrain when talking about NFTs is “why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for a JPG?” On the surface, that seems like a legitimate question. After all, digital goods are infinitely replicable — you can make a billion copies of a file and each one will be absolutely identical, down to the last byte.
Why would you pay for something that can be copied so easily? And how could crypto possibly have a lasting effect on art and artists? The answer is often framed as a failure of NFTs, but let’s instead look at it the other way around — as a failure of the traditional art world.
Traditional art via traditional channels
Let’s say you are in a position to purchase a Picasso through a legitimate dealer. The cost of the painting is only part of the transaction you’ll be going through. There will be art dealer fees, inspections to ensure you’re not buying a forgery, plus insurance and other legal elements as well.
In the end, you will take possession of a piece of canvas that you can be reasonably certain is an actual painting by Pablo Picasso. That is, insofar as anyone can be certain of such a thing. Trust is a foundational part of the art world, but in many cases, that trust is dubious at best.
Fraud and deception in the art world
For instance: what if the painting is authenticated in error? What if it’s a forgery? What if its chain of custody isn’t as clear-cut as it’s made out to be?
You might very well spend millions of dollars on a piece of art that — while very pleasant to behold — is functionally as valuable as one of those billion jpeg copies.
The monetary value of artwork depends on the concept that the owner acquired something unique from the artist. Regardless of how many copies are made in the future, that rendering is the most important.
In the traditional art world, it can be extremely difficult to prove that state exists. It’s an act of faith in the skills and honesty of the people involved, which is never a risk-free proposition.
The crypto future
Compare that, then, to the crypto art world. Here, as before, the artist creates a unique and singular piece of art, signified by the minting process that creates a unique identifier for the file.
This creates two things, immediately, that the Picasso lacks. First, there is an absolutely-ironclad association between the artist and that specific work of art. The artist’s own personal ID is baked into the NFT itself.
But more importantly, the chain of custody from that initial creation, through to the buyer’s purchase, is all recorded in the blockchain and immediately verifiable by anyone who cares to look. Owners of NFTs don’t just hopefully own an authentic work of art, they can prove it with a few clicks of a mouse.
Building a better art world
This new dynamic doesn’t just benefit buyers, either. Artists themselves now have access to a whole new set of tools to manage their own careers on a level previously reserved for more conventional creators.
Now, with the power to mint NFTs and create perpetual art exhibits entirely on their own, artists can explore their niches without hoping for gallery space, and benefit from the democratization of the fine art marketplace.
Crypto art will come to dominate the traditional art world. It isn’t a matter of proving its worth; the traditional art world is having to justify its own existence in the face of an obviously superior system.