Why Should Artists Create NFTs? A Renaissance in Digital Art
by Izzy Howell
2021 was the year that NFTs went mainstream, and now, just over a week into 2022, it’s safe to say that NFTs are going to see a level of cultural impact that will make last year seem obsolete.
While many believe that new innovations in web3 are uniquely positioned to awaken the kind of aesthetic revolution we haven’t seen since the Renaissance, we’re actually about to witness something far more meaningful: NFTs will unlock a level of access, opportunity, and financial empowerment that has never before been made available to artists in any epoch of history.
In 2022 and beyond, NFTs will continue to expand opportunities and access for up-and-coming artists and reimagine collecting for art collectors in a way that’s synchronous with their digital futures.
Gatekeeping in the Traditional Art World
Artists trying to make it in the traditional art world are forced to rely on middlemen — namely, galleries and auction houses — to drive sales. The art world is notoriously insular as a result of the fact that these middlemen have spent years building up an audience of collectors who are from a single sector of society that’s willing to spend huge sums of money on art.
Before 2020, the average art collector was male, 59, and had at least $1 million in disposable income; while those demographics are changing with the rise of female and millennial collectors, the ecosystem is still largely composed of its historically homogeneous audience.
Social media has added tremendous value in terms of opening up the opportunity for unrepresented artists to showcase their work, but platforms like Instagram haven’t done much for artists when it comes to providing them with tools that can allow them to effectively monetize their followings. In order to truly make a career off of one’s art, it’s still essential to not only be represented by a gallery, but one of the few galleries in the world that offer a direct pipeline to wealthy collectors.
What does this mean for Artists?
As a result, our current system not only creates a limiting experience for artists – it simultaneously bars a bigger audience from purchasing art and participating in an artist’s success over time. Individuals who may not have the means to be considered high net worths are unable to forge the kind of connections that allow them to purchase art from top creators.
Even if they discover burgeoning talent on social media, it’s challenging to directly support these up-and-coming artists.
NFTs change that. NFTs provide artists with a direct way to make money from the communities they build online and allow collectors from all different socio-economic levels to buy in. Fractionalized platforms and various DAOs offer buyers a way to own a portion of very valuable art — a buying structure that isn’t possible in your typical gallery. On top of that, NFTs can allow owners to see their purchases accrue value, as well as a history of owners and purchase prices.
Now, more collectors than ever have the opportunity to support artists and see direct returns for those efforts. That means today, NFTs are changing the game when it comes to the way art is discovered and exchanged for artists and their communities alike.
NFTs Create Access and Opportunity for Artists like Never Before
NFTs are often criticized for promulgating an artificial sense of scarcity. However, in the traditional art world, scarcity is catalyzed by gallerists and auction houses doing everything in their power to create their own artificial exclusivity based on subjective opinions and some of the most nefarious aspects of our social system: sexism and racism.
This insider vs. outsider mentality has resulted in many institutions shutting out a multitude of incredible talent – namely, talent from diverse backgrounds. In fact, a recent study shows that artists in 18 of the major art museums in the US are 85 percent white and 87 percent male.
Digital scarcity and limited collections created by artists themselves are essential to building web3 economies, and this system pales in comparison to the bigoted structure that the traditional art world uses to drive prices. Those who doubt NFTs and their potential often forget to recognize this, and don’t realize that NFTs are a very real path to financial security for artists who don’t fit the bill popularized by the art world: most notably, artists who are women and people of color.
Talent is Everywhere; Web3 can Uncover it
Consider this: in a Wired article from 2005 titled, wait for it – “Are You Ready for Web2?” – Barry Diller, CEO of InterActiveCorp, flippantly writes web2 off, saying new innovations in software won’t be significant enough for individual creators to disrupt the entertainment industry: “There is not that much talent in the world…There are very few people in very few closets in very few rooms that are really talented and can’t get out.”
Well, we all know how the story went – it turns out there were millions of talented people in millions of closets lacking the necessary vehicle for discovery and distribution. There wasn’t anything wrong with them, but there was definitely something wrong with the systems and tools they had at their disposal before web2.
Now, NFTs and web3 marketplaces add a whole new layer to this breakthrough: they open up an additional realm of tools and systems designed to empower creators everywhere. These platforms hey will undoubtedly allow the surge of talent unlocked by social media to monetize like never before and give those who have been ostracized from the traditional art world a true chance to make a name for themselves.
Enabling a Revolutionary Business Model for Art
Now, with the rise of web3, we’re witnessing the first time in human history where the creation and exchange of art is designed to truly support the creator – to activate a new realm of possibilities for artists and the place they occupy in society.
Even in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, artists relied on patrons to fund their artistic endeavors, and they were subject not only to these individuals’ money, but to their demands in terms of cost, size, materials, and even subject matter.
Today, in the traditional art world, an artist often must make work that gallerists approve of and often see their own creative sensibilities curtailed in order to conform to what gallerists think has the highest potential of selling. Additionally, when an artist sells a work through a gallery, they can lose up to half of the profits from the sale. Plus, if that work is ever resold by the owner, the artist won’t see any cut of the profits.
With NFTs, it’s possible for artists to make continuous royalties from their work and eliminate the need for physical galleries to sell art.
In this way, NFTs are providing a new business model that – for the first time ever – puts artists at the center.
What NFTs Unlock for Artists
Adam Draper says it best: “Artists have never been in control of their business, the market has primarily been driven by the buyers. The new tools being created provide artists the tools to be [b]illionaires. I think the wealthiest person on the planet in the coming years will be an artist.”
NFTs have the potential to rewire our social system in a way that puts creators at the forefront.
Imagine a world where artists are as empowered as engineers to drive impact. Now, imagine if one day an artist could cultivate the same level of power and influence as someone like Elon Musk. That’s the kind of impact NFTs have the ability to create. For every creator out there, now is your chance to truly take a shot at making it happen.
Follow Izzy Howell on Twitter: @izzyhowell_