AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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THE NFT: A WEALTH AND POVERTY OF IMAGINATION

Beeple, “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days”

What follows is a guest post by Jack Simpson, and it is one of two pieces we are running on NFTs. See another take on NFTs here.

In recent weeks we’ve seen an exponential rise in discussion around NFTs (non-fungible tokens, for those who’ve missed any of this). In industries ranging from sport to art to music, bets are being made on NFTs being the next big thing. Proponents suggest they can return value to art in digital form by creating an artificial level of scarcity. In music, it has been suggested that they could be transformative for rights, and who gets paid. Sceptics argue that there is no “real” value being created, that NFTs represent yet another piece of crypto hyperbole. First, let’s look at some basics and then at two key areas: One, how could NFTs have an impact on creative work? And two, what are the merits of creating artificially scarce art?

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BEEPLE AND NOTHINGNESS: PHILOSOPHY AND NFTS

artwork detail: Beeple

What follows is one of two pieces we are running on NFTs. See another take on NFTs here.

It was the Beeple heard round the world: on Thursday, March 11th, Christie’s sold a collage of digital art images for 69 million dollars. Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann, is the artist responsible for the work; this makes him the third-highest selling living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney. Prior to the sale, Beeple had made a modest artistic practice out of posting original 3D images online daily. Most of these “everydays” are technically competent but nondescript abstracts—the sort of thing that you might use as a desktop background. Recently they’ve grown more referential, including images of a breastfeeding Donald Trump, Tiger King dethroned, and the coronavirus as a scifi movie monster.  How, exactly, did Beeple’s work find itself in the rarefied air of a Christie’s auction, outselling the likes of Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst? The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with his chosen format for sale: an ‘NFT’, or non-fungible token.

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