The NFT Art Boom is Not About Art (But There's Nothing Wrong with That) by@growthpunk

The NFT Art Boom is Not About Art (But There's Nothing Wrong with That)

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Tib Palin

Failed to find memecoins funny

I don't need to talk too much about the craze behind NFTs -- at least, the ones representing all kinds of digital art being sold, exchanged, and bid online.

While the general crypto sentiment is at best tepid (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and most other legacy blockchain cryptocurrencies are down 30-40% from their 2021 all-time highs), NFTs are still raking in the profits. Sure, volumes across the board are tapering off, but new projects and older, established art NFTs are still pilfering views and bids and rising prices everywhere you look.

It's No Longer About the Art, If It Ever Was

Ignoring the earlier headlines of 2021 about Beeple and Rarible mega-buys and sidestepping the dozens of art galleries and festivals who almost surely have included one roundtable discussion or one exhibit of NFTs, it's arguable to say that the artistic quality of the big NFT buys we're seeing recently does not exactly set the pulse racing.

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The Metaflower Super Mega Yacht. Source: Opensea

Surveying the scene for recent high-priced buys of art, over the past 3 months, we can list out:

  • A Roblox-esque low-resolution 3D boat sold for $650,000
  • Various 2d cartoon monkeys sold for upwards of $400,000
  • The first-gen NFT art CryptoPunk, a pixellated... punk caricature, sold for half a billion dollars (not really but it counts)

We probably should have seen it coming (when Snoop Dogg enters the scene, why not?), but Eminem's plopping down of $400,000 on a Bored Ape NFT, presumably because it resembles him at an exhausting stretch of imagination, proves that people with money and status are really not any longer about the art.

Status, Privilege, Tribe

Parting with $400,000 for Eminem wasn't about owning a piece of art that admirers would fawn over on his laptop. A buyer of a Bored Ape joins an exclusive club of celebrity investors who have nothing in common but the willingness to exchange obscene amounts of money for derivative monkey illustrations.

What makes this Ape club so prestigious, you ask? The bottom price of an ape: 71 Ether. Even at bargain price Ether now, that's still almost $250,000. And we all are familiar with prestige bearing a price tag, aren't we? If our parents thought wearing a Rolex was a symbol of status, then today, a Twitter handle bearing an Ape tells everyone you have a quarter of a million dollars in disposable income. And it tells everyone, in no uncertain terms, that you're in the same tribe as Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, and Steph Curry.

How easy would have been without NFTs to "brush shoulders" with the elite of entertainment? Not very.

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Of course, in the case of the half-billion dollar CryptoPunk, speculation is rife online on Twitter and Discord (where you'll invariably see all the discussions on NFT sales), is that this was merely a publicity stunt from the actual owner to inflate the value expectations of their NFT. And when you consider that there have been plenty of allegations in the past of NFT trade washing (the same people or entities simply buying and selling to each other to give an illusion of demand through publicly displayed trading volume), it's not hard to believe the lengths people would go to pump their tokens.

So NFTs is Not About Art Any Longer. But That's Okay, Right?

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the point I'm trying to drive home here is that the beautiful dream of NFTs being a watershed moment in the art revolution isn't really what's driving the crazy ramblings online and wallet-opening impulses behind NFTs.

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AI randomized art

And it's not to say that the beautiful art dream world of NFT is over either. Dozens of actual artists around the world are still finding outlets for visibility and income they simply wouldn't have had without NFTs and marketplaces like OpenSea. Personally, I still get a goosebump or two and a shot of dopamine when I see adorable kids around the world making small fortunes when random anon buys up one of their painting NFTs.

And just because I can't wrap my head around spending hard-earned money on virtual bits and bytes doesn't mean anyone else can't.

If I pretend that the hype-peddling wealthy crypto people living on Twitter don't sometimes nauseate me, I can appreciate that the NFT art scene is simply the most vibrant digital way of representing status, prestige, and ego.

What's on sale here is attitude. A distilled form of capitalism that has never better represented the tribalistic pride of being part of a rich, bored, siphoned mess of a millennial angsty club.

And really. There's nothing wrong with that.

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