How Traditional Artists Are Using Web3 to Meet New Audiences

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I’ll be honest, I don’t even know how to buy a Monet or a Gauguin. I guess I could put on my best overcoat and head to a Christie’s auction, but I don’t really know where the auction house is and expect my lack of connections and my pockets voids exclude me from all good things.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my ignorance – which is why once-exclusive artists like Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami have come out of the mist to whip their art into Web3 form, allowing anyone with the funds to trade digital art on platforms. like OpenSea or Rare.

For a period in 2021, it seemed like the mission of reaching those who were wet behind their ears with NFTs had worked — at least for artists, and for a while. Digital native Beeple raised $69 million in an early 2021 sale, but Murakami missed the mania and launched his collection shortly before the market collapsed this spring. “I’m really sorry,” he said. tweeted after the prices of its flower NFTs faded.

Yet other great artists have found new hope in the space, believing that NFTs could help them reach new audiences. Collaborative art studio Random International worked with Danil Krivoruchko on a collection of generative NFT origami shapes on OG.Art. Artists have told me that the marketplace helps them meet collectors who “wouldn’t have the bandwidth to acquire a large-scale immersive work from us” but still want to support them.

Indeed, they say NFTs are changing the relationship they have with their audience, opening up new art forms. Things change when the public actually owns the artwork, no longer has to wander through galleries full of other people’s artwork. “Web3 is much more like a space that is part of the fabric of the artwork itself rather than a marketplace in the traditional sense,” they say.

While they can’t quite retire with the proceeds of their origami collection — their project has a floor price of just 0.3 ETH, or $1,542, at the time of this writing — the prospect of reaching a wider audience with accessible new work is reason enough to create NFTs. , they say. The market is, of course, “both terrifying and invigorating”.

The bet to enter Web3 certainly paid off for Chinese artist Huang Yuxing, who in late October sold his NFT collection, Meta-morphic, for more than 1,300 ETH (about $2 million) on the NFT platform. LiveArt. This goes far beyond the princely figures he raked for his physical art; his painting Enlightening sold for $1.1 million at a Christie’s auction in July 2020.

The Beijing-born artist finds NFTs “more fluid and flexible than traditional art.” He hasn’t found the buyers he’s selling to have changed – yet – but has found more opportunities to connect with Web3 people. Yuxing held two AMAs ahead of her presale, attracting several thousand listeners, and spoke with potential buyers on social media or in private messages to build her brand.

After all, “no art exists solely for the art itself,” he says, and how a community uses art can confer even more meaning. “But whether it’s classical painting or the current NFT form of work, only the form has changed between them, the heart of the art hasn’t changed,” he said.

Riffing on his gem-themed NFT project, Yuxing said, “Everyone has their own gems in mind, and everyone can find their own value and gems in their lives. The different understanding of the gemstone is the “use” of art by the user. What metaphors might sprout from the next chapters of his NFT project – bubbles and pins – is anyone’s guess.

One can’t help but wonder if Yuxing’s decision to go into NFTs is a form of shameless money grabbing – accelerating the financialization of his own industry. So I asked him. “It is a fact that art has financial properties, but there is no answer whether art will be hyper-financialized,” he replied cryptically.

And even if it does, Yuxing doesn’t think profit margins ruin art. In the process of hyper-financialization, he says, art should hopefully “simultaneously stimulate the public’s thoughts and emotions about human intelligence, desire, existence, time, about our own relationship with the universe, on eternity”.

Yuxing, who has clearly withstood the market crash, sees the NFT industry as the Internet of the early 1990s – a huge bubble that, when burst, leaves a sticky residue of useful technology. “The term ‘money hoarders’ sends shivers down the spine of true creators,” he says. “The traditional business of a real artist is more stable and more profitable per unit of time.”

Additionally, some NFT artists appreciated the convenience of selling through Web3 platforms, freed from the shackles of the traditional art system. Loie Hollowell, an American artist who talks about her childbirth experiences (which she’s had twice since last year), appreciates the easy-to-track royalty payments, which are harder to track in the traditional market.

Plus, she says, smart contracts make it easy to earmark a portion of profits for charities. A quarter of the proceeds from her project, “Contractions,” which will launch in late October on Art Blocks, is donated to charities that support reproductive care, including abortion. At the same time, NFTs help make his work more accessible, allowing him to sell at a price “where a more diverse group of collectors can gain access”.

But while Web3 technologies may have made it easier for artists to sell to a wider audience, it’s less certain that this audience remains interested in NFTs. The number of traders on OpenSea has fallen from around 20,000 to 1.8 million over the past two years, but monthly trading volume has fallen from peaks of $4.85 billion in January 2022 to $348 million nine months later, according to a Dune Analytics dashboard.

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