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Demystifying Crypto Art For Modest Collectors

It was about time art migrated to the meta-verse. Yet do we really understand what's going on in the crypto art scene? Or is it just another hype that we cannot relate to? A thought piece from our very own Sandy Sialom as a humble art collector... Fly along with her on a delightful journey as she demystifies the new art scene!
05 July 2021 8 min.

by  Sandy Sialom, Masterchef, Training Lead

It’s 2 AM in the morning Istanbul time, the alarm is beeping to signal an NFT drop that’s about to start in New York. What am I doing? Spending money on something that I will supposedly own but won’t be able to touch as it will only live in the virtual world. What am I doing? New world they say, new dynamics they say, crypto art they say...

In a world that is rapidly migrating from a physical to a digital universe, it’s not that easy to adapt if you’re not a 20-year-old GenZ’er. We’re now working via Zoom, mingling on Houseparty, shopping on Amazon, saving through Bitcoin, even buying land on Decentraland. Our physical existence is ruthlessly being replaced by a world of digital technologies that only exist in the cloud.

As our cozy environment is crumbling down, mid-aged inhabitants like myself are escaping to find comfort in the familiar, in my case this being art.

When I watched a seminar on the creative use of technology at Cannes Lions a couple of years ago, it was nothing more than a utopic concept and I remember thinking to myself, ‘creativity and tech are two opposite ends; creativity is agile, warm, bubbly, exciting - whereas tech is cold, robotic, dull and for nerds.’ And I held on to my traditional thought firmly, up until a recent time when I met and fell in love with crypto art.

A perfect blend of creative art and creative use of technology that pulls you down a wormhole and you wake up in a totally different world.  A world of art that breathes, talks, sings, walks and plays; allowing you to slip into the mind of its creator and discover something new every time you take a look.

Now, free your mind from the rigid discipline of classical paintings, static contemporary pieces, even installations (I still don’t get them by the way) that are displayed in intimidating art galleries. Imagine art that has the ability to morph into something totally new at any given time in an environment accessible to all. Are you ready to drink the wormhole potion, and teleport to the mesmerizing world of crypto art with me? Fly along!

There are endless long articles, bite-size content, Clubhouse talks, how-to videos on how to become a crypto artist, and eventually a millionaire like Beeple. Also, lots written about Etherium millionaires who manically bid millions on a piece of crypto art. If you’re reading this far into the article, I’m sure you’ve heard of Beeplemania that derived from the selling of his ‘Everydays: The first 5000 days’ for $69 million.

But, how about modest art collectors like myself who is over the moon when she buys a piece of 35x50 oil painting at an auction or wakes up 2 am in the morning to get her hands on a drop that sells for $500 and can’t wait while it’s being minted? Are we risking our hard-earned salaries on a temporary fad or are we investing in the future, to be well-lived, surrounded by the beauty of art, as a gallery owner in the metaverse?

A NEW DAWN

Art has always been a hallmark feature of creativity, along with imagination and expression. It is how we judge and praise an artist. When one can see beauty in a brushstroke, a melody, a scene, it is subjectively judged to be creative or not. However, before the coming of crypto art, nobody considered the tools as creative. ‘Omg, what a beautiful brush’ or ‘This canvas is so breathtaking’ said no one.

Up until the it-sentence of the season came into the picture ‘creative use of digital technology’. As techno-creativity continues to flourish, some crypto art will truly blow your mind. Imagine a programmable artwork, co-created by 13 artists and composed of 22 layers, each layer having independent ownership and control. Now push the boundaries of your mind and imagine that each artist can constitute a new image whenever they want, resulting in a new artwork every time they play with a layer. This artwork called ‘The First Supper’ has been my awakening to the endless possibilities of this new universe! The combination of a distinctive idea, digital technology, and delightful execution signals a new dawn for creativity.

Some of you may still be thinking, is this really art though? Bear with me as I take a hundred steps back and start by defining the value of art through an art lover’s perspective.

THE AESTHETIC VALUE OF ART

In my humble opinion, the rule of thumb that determines the value of art is aesthetics. If a piece of art that you buy doesn’t make you gasp in awe, you’re not an art lover but an opportunistic investor or get-rich-quick hustler.

No offense, but I’m going to leave them out this time.

So, aesthetic value? An object that elicits pleasure when experienced, as Wikipedia defines it. Or, simply makes you happy, in my words. And what can be more valuable than the feeling of happiness… I have never liked art that’s depressing – like Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. And why would I find joy in staring at the depiction of a firing squad executing several pleading civilians, even if it’s painted by Goya? Art should pull you in like a magnet and make you radiate with wonder!

When I first bought an open edition of Genesis.001, I was inexplicably drawn towards a little black boy with a giant space helmet walking towards me. Little that I knew at the time that it was a piece of art by Micah Johnson, Major League Baseball Player, that visually told the heart-melting story of Aku. It was based on a young boy who asked if it is possible for astronauts to be black and thereafter, the story of Aku started to unfold as a symbol of unbreakable hope and limitless potential. Genesis.001 was followed by Welcome to Aku World: Chapter II, (yes I own that as well, edition #569/706). Rumor has it that this will be a series of 10 chapters and for the first time ever, a major Hollywood production! I can’t wait to set my alarm and buy an edition of every single one of them. A friend of mine who knows Micah personally whispered in my ear that individuals who own all 10 chapters will be named ‘Moon God’, and with her suggestion, ‘Moon Goddess’. I am now dreaming to proudly carry this crown on my head, working on my acceptance speech already. :)

THE EVER-SPECULATIVE ASPECT OF ORIGINALITY

How many urban myths have you heard about the speculation that the Mona Lisa displayed in Louvre Museum is not the original? And what’s so original about it anyway? It’s a portrait of a woman with a mysterious grin, or two cupids hugging, or three ballerinas in tulle dresses…

Original art isn’t “original” just because it’s creative, it’s original because it’s one-of-a-kind. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that there is no intrinsic value in a painting on canvas, no more than a couple of hundred-dollar bills at tops. To own an original painting is very valuable because it means to own a part of the particular artist’s life, the precious time dedicated to creating that painting, and the never-will-be-known thoughts that pass through the mind of the artist in the making.

That’s why I was never intrigued by editions, even when they are super limited and with the artist’s wet signature. ‘I don’t want to own a signature, I want to own the life of the artwork’, I always thought. Since recently, when I bought my first crypto art - the 611th edition of 614 copies of Justin Maller’s Flood.

The ‘art angel’ on my right shoulder was so drawn into this moving world of digital art, that I knew I had to leave my old beliefs behind and become a part of this art revolution. And the ‘sceptical devil’ on my left shoulder kept on nagging me about the fact that computers allow users to make thousands of copies of an image with a right-click – it’s not even an edition. I then learned, as a 47-year-old digital immigrant that in fact, a blockchain encrypted NFT (non-fungible token) does indeed prove its authenticity. You can copy the image of the art and make it a screensaver if you wish, but you can’t fake the digital signature that encrypts it. Another aspect that’s exciting about NFT editions is that the artist can precisely replicate its own work without any loss in quality. Imagine Picasso himself painting 9999 exact copies of his world-famous Guernica – unimaginable.  I still haven’t fully made peace with buying editions, but I’ll have to live with it until the day that I will buy a single edition in a silent auction. It reminds me of my days when I used to make puzzles of Dali paintings and hang them on my walls…It’d be enough to thrill me if Dali, himself had just signed these. :)

Bottom line, the thriving world of crypto art is here to stay and no army will be able to withstand this wonderful idea whose time has come, I pay homage to Victor Hugo for this wonderful quote. We’ve even started seeing themes that can now be considered as movements – from Retro Futurism to Sci-Fi Surrealism to Shiny Bitcoinism, as I like to call them…

As this new generation of art is making its way to the future by contagiously spreading, I can’t help but wonder, is this yet Chapter 1?