Racist, disgusting, lucrative: inside the hateful, empty world of NFT art

Asia's Tech News Daily

Visitors at Art Basel last week look at an NFT artwork by Mario Klingemann – Cindy Ord

This art gallery looks like any other. It has white walls and bright lighting, and the works are evenly spaced on the walls. But those works are displayed from what look like flat-screen televisions, hung vertically, blaring the equivalent of a gif you might right-click-and-save from the internet.

Works such as these – or rather the Non-Fungible Tokens that “prove” ownership of them – have recently sold at Sotheby’s and Art Basel in Miami. With a trove of images of sneakers going for $3.1 million (£2.3 million), and a single grey pixel selling for $1.3 million (£1 million), the NFT fad has even Damien Hirst out there peddling his digital art.

The gallery I’m at, in Chicago, is called “imnotArt” – pronounced like “I’m Not Art”, get it? – and it’s the first NFT gallery of its kind. As I struggle to manage the QR codes besides each work, which promise “more information”, the gallery’s co-founder and CEO, Matthew Schapiro, bounds over to help. I ask about the name of the space, and he says, “It’s like ‘I’m Not Art’, you know?” I sigh and say yes, I get it, but what does it mean to “not be art”?

“It’s not art, but it’s more than art.” Schapiro points to a doodle on one of the screens, depicting Chicago, alive with movement and colour. What makes it “more than art”, he says, is that it can be customised “so the sun in the work sets when the sun in the real world [where you are] sets”. The colours of another piece, a set of black and white lines that move and converge like a computer screensaver, can be changed to fit your preferences or (one guesses) your décor.

It’s all a little disappointing, like the equivalent of the waving-flag gif that decorated DIY Angelfire websites in the 1990s: a real marker of the limitations of the moment. And until recently, the NFT scene had been populated by the outsiders of the art world: illustrators, street artists, muralists, skate-punk kids. But there has now been an influx of so-called “real” artists. By that, I simply mean people who have access to the traditional networks of art making and distribution, via the schools and galleries that the outsiders both seem to long for and reject in equal measure.

Imnotart, for instance, currently has a show called Souvenir with Brendan Fernandez, a professor of art history at Northwestern University, whose work has been shown at galleries and museums all over the world. Here he’s showing a series of screen-bound “masks”, taken from the Metropolitan Museum’s Africa collection, set against a confusing swirl of pulsating colours and patterns. In using imagery of shells and other objects that have been deployed by different cultures as forms of currency, I assume it’s making some statement about cryptocurrency – but the contrasting colors made me want to turn my head away.

One of the artworks in Beeple’s Everydays – Reuters

The unpleasantness of the work is typical of NFT art in general. In March, “Beeple” (aka Mike Winkelmann) sold Everydays, a composite of digital work, for $69 million (£52 million) at auction; it contains images that are purposefully infantile, offensive, grotesque, misogynistic and racist. There’s a portrait of Hillary Clinton with a penis and a caption of an image of the Dalai Lama suggesting he should “finger-f—” a girl. Winkelmann seems especially fixated on Donald Trump’s naked body, building it out one roll of fat at a time.

The work is, I guess, partly satirical, but if so, it’s sub-newspaper cartoon. There’s no real emotional content. Ben Davis summarised Everydays for Artnet: “We’ve passed through a racial uprising and a reckoning with sexism, and the cultural project of the moment is… innovating new ways to worship decade-old, BroBible-level brain-farts?” But Beeple has already called a critic such as Davis a “fancy-dancy elite art homo”, and in one of the images contained within Everydays. The lack of aesthetic meaning is the point. It’s the equivalent of trying to argue with an online troll; they’ll always win because they don’t sincerely mean what they say, and having an opinion or feeling in response starts to feel like a mistake.

This is the artistic culture that NFT art has created. It wants to be sold at Christie’s, but at the same time it also wants to thumb its nose at the Establishment, which (one would assume) includes collectors. NFT artists want to hate art while declaring their own work to be art, much as fans and filmmakers of Marvel movies want acknowledgment that the franchises are true cinema, with a lot of the same resentments and hostilities. The film fans are desperate for Martin Scorsese’s approval of the thing they like because they want to legitimise their taste and culture, and they lash out bitterly when he tries to point out, gently, how silly and empty their project is. They hate the gatekeepers; they want the gatekeepers to lift the velvet rope for them.

An image from the Bored Ape Yacht Club series – Reuters

In that way, the NFT artists might be provocative, but the only thing that distinguishes them from other contemporary artists is a lack of credentials and access. I don’t see much difference between the Armenian artist Narina Arakelian auctioning an egg from her ovary as an NFT, and the veteran conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan taping a banana to a wall. The point is just to provoke. Not into action, nor into a new way of thinking: artists of this kind want you to feel bad or exasperated, so they can laugh at you for feeling that way.

Let’s say you look at the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs that sell for millions (or the equivalent of millions in cryptocurrency, which at any moment could skyrocket into the billions or become worthless). You may then go on social media and write: “I don’t get it, it’s a drawing of an ape.” And it is: a drawing of an ape that looks like a streetwear logo, lazy and easily reproduced.

The general retort from people who buy ape NFTs, or save up for tokens depicting a policeman with the head of a Shiba Inu, will be: “LMAO, that’s not the point.” Many of these images can be issued in large batches with slight variations, which gives them a Beanie Baby appeal. This same-ness drives up their collectability and creates the same crazed energy as fans strive for completion. The people buying them are just like the majority of the art collectors who are all on Instagram Live at Art Basel this week: they’re desperately looking not for the next thing that will provoke a powerful emotion, but the next thing that will make them richer or increase their status or get them invited to a better party.

A visitor at Art Basel creates an NFT of themselves – AP

The scammers, however, are the real geniuses of the NFT moment. The format is inherently unstable and prone to breakdown, making it a perfect place for con artists. As Anil Dash, who co-created the first NFT as a way of proving copyright for artists who work on the internet, explained in The Atlantic, the NFT encodes a link or reference to the art, not the visual art itself:

Because of technical limits, records in most blockchains are too small to hold an entire image. Many people suggested… one could just include the web address of an image, or perhaps a mathematical compression of the work. Seven years later, all of today’s popular NFT platforms still use the same shortcut.

This means you could spend a million bucks on an ape, but if the hosting site for the image goes down, you could own the equivalent of a 404 Error Page.

All of this makes NFT art the perfect playground for fraudsters, who must know that most of the people spending millions on NFTs have no idea what they are buying. The art world is already a zone of consequence-free money laundering and tax evasion; NFTs just take that hustling into a more abstract place.

This, to my mind, makes the hero of the moment the 17-year-old artist who sold the promise of original NFT artwork for almost $140,000 (£106,000), then delivered a bunch of emojis instead. Much like Duchamp signing a urinal, the act of sending a crying-face emoji to someone who expects a blockchain token indicating his ownership of “quality art” – art that will appreciate in value and can be resold at a profit later – is a magical act of transformation and revelation. It reveals the emptiness of our cultural production, and of ourselves.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


NYPD sergeant finally faces trial in death of schizophrenic Bronx woman

Hugh Barry faces termination for poor tactical judgment and a failure to supervisor subordinates. Gregg Vigliotti/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File The NYPD sergeant who fatally shot a ... Read more »

Pokémon UNITE will undergo network maintenance on Jan. 19

© Provided by Dot Esports Pokémon UNITE will undergo a big maintenance period on Jan. 19 ahead of Trevenant being added to the game as the 30th playable Pokémon.  From ... Read more »

How long is the Halo Infinite Cyber Showdown event?

© Provided by Dot Esports Halo Infinite players can enjoy the new Cyber Showdown limited-time event starting today, complete with new challenges and rewards to keep you busy. The Cyber ... Read more »

Will Overwatch become an Xbox exclusive?

© Provided by Dot Esports Following the announcement that Microsoft is purchasing Activision Blizzard, many gamers are wondering how the transaction could affect the games that they know and love, ... Read more »

FIFA 22 FUT Hero Player Pick Apparently Leaked

Plenty of new content has been leaked for FIFA 22 over the past week, including new Flashback cards, Icon SBCs, and now a FUT Hero Player pick. It’s pick Season! ... Read more »

Call of Duty: Warzone's demon gun glitch is happening in Vanguard multiplayer too

© Provided by GamePur Call of Duty: Vanguard and Warzone may already share some DNA thanks to Pacific battle royale content, but now it seems the two games share a ... Read more »

Microsoft to add Activision Blizzard games to Game Pass

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard may be surrounded with controversy, but it brings exciting news for video game players as the Microsoft Game Pass will now include “many” Activision Blizzard ... Read more »

Kaka FIFA 22: How to Complete the Prime Icon SBC

Kaka FIFA 22 Prime Icon SBC went live Jan. 18 after it was leaked on social media. Kaka is one of the best attacking midfielders in the game and it’s ... Read more »

Neues Label für Datenschutz und Sicherheit: Ein Gütesiegel fürs Internet

Ein neues Label soll es einfacher machen, zuverlässige, sichere und faire digitale Anwendungen zu erkennen. Die ersten Produkte besitzen es bereits. © Bereitgestellt von Blick Ein Gütesiegel fürs Internet Trau, ... Read more »

US basketball player Sonny Weems racially abused by fans in China

American basketball player Sonny Weems has been subjected to racial abuse from fans while playing in China. © VCG via Getty Images Weems has played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers ... Read more »

Former FARC hostage Betancourt announces fresh presidential bid

Ingrid Betancourt — who was abducted 20 years ago while campaigning for Colombia’s presidency, and held captive by FARC rebels in the jungle for more than six years — on ... Read more »

‘New sheriff in town': Virginia's attorney general fires 30 staffers before taking office

Virginia’s new attorney general reportedly fired 30 staff the night before he was sworn into office — then proudly declared that “there’s a new sheriff in town.” Jason Miyares told ... Read more »

Snow-plow driver shortage means some towns are offering $310 an hour and $2000 'snow bonuses' for people with a commercial driver's license

© Provided by Business Insider A snowplow drives past downed power lines, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Walpole, Mass. AP Photo/Steven Senne Mass. towns are offering snowplow drivers up to ... Read more »

Activision's market value is still 14% below what Microsoft plans to pay for it — and that suggests investors don't think the deal will get done

© Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images Activision Blizzard is trading 14% below the price Microsoft agreed to acquire it for on Tuesday. The wide spread ... Read more »

Psaki says Biden 'believes everyone should be held to the highest standard' but Congress should decide its own stock trading rules

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on January 18, 2022. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images ... Read more »

A simple word game has taken over the internet. Here's the psychology behind why we can't stop playing Wordle.

© Insider These types of images have quickly taken over Twitter. Insider Wordle has become the first viral game of 2022, with millions of players sharing their daily scores. The ... Read more »

Feds probe Alibaba's cloud unit over national security concerns: report

The United States is investigating Alibaba’s data storage practices for its US clients, according to a report. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett The Biden administration has reportedly launched a probe of ... Read more »

Website for free virus tests is here. How does it work?

© Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden, accompanied by FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, speaks about the government’s COVID-19 response, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office ... Read more »

Hawaii requiring tourists to have booster shot to be ‘fully vaccinated'

The state’s changes to its “Safe Travels” guidance will require visitors to have a booster shot in order to skip out on a five-day quarantine. Kyodo News via Getty Images ... Read more »

Jessica Chastain's rough upbringing gave her ‘a lot of resentment'

Jessica Chastain grew up with four siblings and a single mother in California. GC Images Jessica Chastain’s childhood struggle was real. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” star, 44, recalled her ... Read more »

Covid: Javid says he is optimistic restrictions will be ‘substantially reduced' next week

© Reuters Health minister Sajid Javid giving a Covid-19 update to parliament – Reuters Health secretary Sajid Javid has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Covid-19 regulations can be “substantially ... Read more »

Soccer-Everton appoint Ferguson as interim manager

© Reuters/CRAIG BROUGH FILE PHOTO: FA Cup Third Round – Hull City v Everton (Reuters) – Everton have appointed Duncan Ferguson as caretaker manager after sacking Spaniard Rafa Benitez, the ... Read more »

Coronation Street tragedy as Jacob Hay's dark past exposed in devastating twist

Coronation Street is set to experience a heartbreaking and tragic storyline as Jacob Hay’s dark past gets exposed in a devastating twist, which will rock the cobbles. Jacob Hay, played ... Read more »

‘Disasterclass incoming' – These Sheffield United fans react as line-up for Preston clash emerges

© Provided by Football League World Championship – Sheffield United v Bristol City After an excellent start to his second stint as Sheffield United manager, Paul Heckingbottom tasted his first ... Read more »

I'm an interior designer – the three things you need to remove to instantly declutter your house & revamp your storage

AN interior designer has revealed the three things you should get rid of to instantly declutter your house. Lindsey, of Everyday Grace Designs, took to TikTok to share “three things ... Read more »

"The noises we're hearing" - Keith Downie reveals update on potential £15m Newcastle swoop

Norwich City wide man Todd Cantwell joining Newcastle United this month is now “unlikely to happen”, says Sky Sports reporter Keith Downie. The Magpies are believed to be interested in ... Read more »

‘Criminal', ‘Ridiculous' – These West Ham fans slam Moyes' January admission

© Provided by Transfer Tavern West Ham, Irons, David Moyes, Premier League A number of West Ham fans have taken to Twitter to slam comments made by David Moyes regarding ... Read more »

Arsenal could secure Arteta's perfect Vlahovic alternative in £45m-rated "phenomenon" - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast Jonathan David of Lille celebrates scoring against Marseille in Ligue 1 Arsenal are one of the teams interested in Jonathan David, according to Fabrizio Romano… ... Read more »

Brighton v Chelsea: Premier League – live!

© Photograph: Phil Duncan/ProSports/Shutterstock Brighton won the first time they played Chelsea, in the 1933 FA Cup – but haven’t beaten them again since. LIVE – Updated at 19:00 Minute-by-minute ... Read more »

Laura Hamilton moves into own property after Alex Goward split

Laura Hamilton took to Instagram on Monday to proudly show off her new home following her split from husband Alex Goward. The A Place in the Sun presenter, 39, could be ... Read more »

Body of missing four-year-old Belgian boy found in Netherlands

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: REX/Shutterstock The body of a four-year-old Belgian boy has been found in the Netherlands after he was abducted by his babysitter, who it emerged ... Read more »

Man Utd squad to face Brentford confirmed as Ralf Rangnick makes Anthony Martial decision after spat

Anthony Martial is back in the Manchester United squad after holding productive discussions with interim boss Ralf Rangnick. The Frenchman has asked to leave Old Trafford this month but has ... Read more »

PM's former top aide to give evidence to parties investigation

Boris Johnson’s former chief aide is expected to give evidence to an inquiry into alleged rule-busting parties held across Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions. Dominic Cummings who worked in Downing Street ... Read more »

Who is Djed Spence? The 'next Reece James' linked with Arsenal January transfer

Arsenal are yet to sign any first-team players in the January transfer window with deadline day now less than two weeks away. However, Mikel Arteta’s side have been linked with ... Read more »

Emmerdale fans disgusted as Al Chapman drops bombshell on Chas and Marlon Dingle

EMMERDALE fans are disgusted with Al Chapman after he scammed Chas and Marlon Dingle over The Woolpack. The businessman – who is played by actor Michael Wildman in the ITV ... Read more »

Alabama man kills mom with ninja sword, injures disabled uncle: cops

Damien Washam allegedly used a ninja sword to kill his mother and injure his uncle and brother in Semmes, Alabama. Mobile County Sheriff’s Office An Alabama man killed his mom ... Read more »

'HSMTMTS' Musical Revealed for Season 3, Corbin Bleu Joins Cast

© Fred Hayes/Disney Summer fever is about to hit High School Musical: The Musical: The Series! Disney+‘s teen musical comedy officially began production on season 3 in Los Angeles on Tuesday. ... Read more »

Oklahoma pastor faces criticism for rubbing spit on parishoner's face

A pastor from a megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, faced a wave of criticism online over video of him rubbing spit on a worshipper’s face. © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: ... Read more »

Harper Lee's NYC apartment lists for rent 6 years after her death

The former Upper East Side home of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee now seeks a new tenant. Left: Angel Chevrestt for NY Post; Right: courtesy of Realtor.com; Inset: ... Read more »

Ford, ADT form venture to make vehicle security products

The Associated PressFILE – In this April 25, 2021 file photograph, the blue oval logo of Ford Motor Company is shown in east Denver. Ford and security company ADT have ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic