Part 1: Traditional Art VS NFT Art

Is art subjective or is there more than meets the eyes?

We all know the traditional art. From famous ones by Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, to lesser known ones that you might see in a local gallery. What is it about art that draws everyone to it? When someone stands in front of an art, is he appreciating it, comprehending it, or being utterly confused?

There are two types of traditional art – the ones that many people know about, and the ones that only a small number of people know about. Let's call the former the Mona Lisas, and the latter the Bespoke Art.

When it comes to Mona Lisas, they are valuable because everyone in the world recognises it. Yes, there is a certain artistic flair of the artist, a certain genius stroke that was added, but who is to say that one artist's take is better than another?

Even amongst the artworks produced by the same artist, prices can vary significantly. Are his earlier works necessary better or worse than his later ones? Which is more valuable – who he was, or what he became? You might dismiss this price differential as the subjective quality of art, beauty (and value) is in the eyes the beholder, but why do more people prefer Mona Lisa over other of Da Vinci's work? Why do people prefer Starry Night?

It's because we have been shaped by public opinion. It's a normative behaviour. Imagine walking into a room of 10 people going wow over an ugly piece of art, even if you could not appreciate its aesthetics, you'll likely reconsider your initial opinions around it.

What Has Traditional Art Appreciation Got To Do With NFT Art?

To understand the impact of NFT art, it's important to consider how NFT art differs from digital art and traditional art.

With the Internet, it proliferates knowledge and information . Anyone can put up a piece of content on the Internet and make it accessible for every one else. Likewise, you can easy copy paste a piece of work, or save it onto your desktop. Therein arose the issue of copyrights, which is enacted immediately upon creation of any work. With copyrights, users found their way around it, championing the use of Creative Common licenses, where creators can set permissions for sharing, using, replicating, or modifying their works.

From the ease of making copies, we applied traditional copyright laws to it, found a way to license it, and today we have NFTs. The reason NFTs become "the next frontier" is because of provenance – there is now a trusted and verifiable way to prove the origin (when it was first minted), the authenticity, and ownership of any digital file that is turned into an NFT.

Of course, you can still copy-paste or right-click-save an NFT, but it becomes irrelevant. It is akin to taking a high-resolution photo of Mona Lisa, or downloading one and printing it out – you can do it, but the true Mona Lisa is still in the Louvre. Likewise, you can do the same for NFTs but it does not diminish the original property of the NFT.

So is NFT art just technology-supreme? In a way, yes, but we need to understand how that technological superiority changes the game of traditional art:

  1. More "functional": Besides being impossible to forge, and a guaranteed method to prove the provenance and authenticity of an artwork, NFT arts can also be transferred more easily. Breaking free from the physical property, art can more easily be traded, passed down, and exhibited.

  2. A bigger audience: Digital experiences allow for more people to experience the art. You no longer need to fly abroad to visit an exhibition, and this increased accessibility also means that artwork stand to gain a larger audience.

  3. A new form of art generation: While traditional artists were famous for certain styles they adopted, generative NFT art can be unique in their use of algorithms merged with artistic concepts, giving rise to a new type of aesthetics in many of Art Blocks Curated pieces e.g. Fidenza, Ringer, Fragments Of An Infinite Field

  4. Royalties: Royalties are programmed in and automatically paid to the artists for any sale and resale of the work, benefitting artists in the long run.

Besides these advantages, NFT art functions very much like traditional art, in terms of emotional appeal, the collectability, the flex, and even the money laundering.

How Do NFTs Affect The Bespoke Art Market?

Besides the Mona Lisas, NFT art has also opened up a world of possibility for Bespoke Art created by lesser known artists. If you're a small-time artist, you can attempt to get curated by Art Blocks (AB). AB features three tiers of artworks – Curated, Playground, and Factory – each offering its unique selection of artwork.

Artists can also put their work out via Foundation, which currently requires an Invitation to participate as a Creator. Foundation is yet another NFT marketplace, but unlike Rarible and Opensea, they are particularly niche around supporting independent artists and creators, and helping them gain visibility.

The significance of having a new channel for artists to showcase their work, is that NFT also comes with a community. With these community, organic interactions between artists and collectors can emerge. An artist who has sold his work to a collector can introduce him to other artist friends. Likewise, the collector can introduce his friends to that artist and possibly commission work with them too.

Before, most small-time artists would probably wonder who will pay for their art. They might just be happy to put their work out there for the universe to see. Now, it becomes more than just a shoutout but rather a means for them to engage with other like-minded artists and collectors. Democratisation of fine art communities perhaps?

If you're an artist or an aspiring one, stay tuned, as I'll be putting up links on how you can set up your own NFT pieces.