Tag Archives: urieldana

Why NFTs Are A Financial Fad, Not An Art Movement

It doesn’t matter what the art is. It doesn’t matter who the artist is. The only thing that matters is a digital file that has a verified identity and ownership. It’s called a “non-fungible token” or, more commonly, an NFT.

Using blockchain technology, a system that marries mathematics and cryptography (aka crypto) to make something unhackable, NFTs use a digital ledger to secure the value of an asset, like a piece of art, that has been tokenized. (Tokenization is a process where an asset is converted into a token that can be moved, stored, or recorded on a blockchain).

The digital artwork is uploaded to an auction market. Its ownership is stored as a decentralized, open-source block-chain that anyone can check. As NFTs are not mutually interchangeable, enthusiasts’ would like to convince us that NFTs or crypto art is as collectible as the fine art that grace our walls.

With the sale of the Beeple NFT that sold at Christie’s for 69.3 million in May, we may infer this may be the new direction of art. It’s important to know that the piece was comprised of one digital painting a day created over 14 years by Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple.

That theory goes out the window when a lot of 9 CryptoPunks pixelated portraits sold for 17 million as NFTs at the same auction house. The message was clear. It’s not about the art, it’s about owning an asset, albeit a unique file, that can live on blockchain sold or traded by a verifiable owner. It cannot be duplicated or tampered with. All that matters is having the ability to securely value, purchase, and exchange a digital image using a digital ledger. Non Fungible Tokens are not about loving the arts or supporting artists; they are about moving around money.

In full disclosure, I have always seen digital art as an advertising or film tool, not fine art. I am not a tech geek but I am married to one. (Ironically, an expert in Blockchain). My apprehension about using computers as an art medium comes from multiple experiences with digital obsolescence. The software needed to access a digital file becomes obsolete.

People, especially those raised on tech, think everything created on a computer exists forever in the “cloud”. In reality, everything created using virtual technology is ephemeral. An oil painting can survive over 400 years; fresco’s for even longer. Try getting images off USB PCI cards, floppy discs, or zip drives if you are not an expert.

We live in a corporate climate that continuously devalues the arts while profiting off the work of trained artists. Computer games topped $159B in 2020 and artists continue to be paid a fraction of coders. As long as we live in a culture that devalues the arts, artists will continue to be exploited for financial gain.

I’ve written many articles on why right-leaning governments remove the arts from schools. It’s important to understand that digital manipulation does not train the eye in the same way artists learn to draw with paper and pencil.” Traditional fine art develops the part of our brain that not only creates but helps us creatively solve problems. It’s the same part of our brain that helps us see through manipulation. This is why historically one of the first actions taken by fascist governments has been to shut down the fine arts. Is there a correlation between what is happening politically right now and NFT’s? Perhaps.

Are NFTs the future of the art market? I seriously doubt it. Art collectors are in it usually for the love of what they collect. They are often as educated on their subject as the best curators. Collectors often know more about the art they collect than they do their own children. Owning a digital file token just doesn’t seem to fit the profile of most of the collectors I’ve met in my 38 years as an artist.

NFTs fit the profile more in line with the financial scandals over the last few decades. We all remember the exaggerated assets, false accounting, pump and dump stock schemes, inflated revenues, and the insider trading of the last few years.

Auction Houses and Brokerage Firms will sell anything that can make a profit. Let’s not pretend it’s about the art. The people who are buying NFTs appear to be the same people that have a vested interest in creating a market from the technology involved.

Uriél Danā on Film ShootUriél Danā has been a Professional Fine Artist 38 years and is a Contributing Editor on the arts and other subjects for two online arts magazines.

She is an Air Force Veteran and former USIA (State Department) Ambassador to the Arts. She is a graduate of the 2016 Writers Guild of the West (Los Angeles, CA) Veterans Writing Project.

A Contributing Editor on the Arts, Buddhism and Culture, Uriél contributes regularly to online and print magazines in addition to international journals. She has won many awards for her poetry and has been included in two anthologies. For National Poetry Month, April 2020, her poems will be featured on San Francisco’s public radio station, KPFA.

A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Uri has lived on three continents and visited 44 countries.

Making Money As An Artist: To Have Talent Once Meant You Were Wealthy

Did you know the original word for money was talent? In Classical Latin, talents referred to “balance, weight; a sum of money. In Medieval Latin, talent referred not only to money, but had also come to mean having a special natural ability, aptitude, or gifts that one was committed to use and would always strive for improvement.

The Greek word “talanton” was used to describe anything weighed for balance, and in later times for a sum of money. It was also used by the Germanic languages and the Celts for “a sum of money, specifically 57.7 lbs of silver.”

It is interesting to note that Leonardo DaVinci sold the Mona Lisa for today’s equivalent of nearly a million dollars and made his client (The King of France, King Francois I) pay him in silver bars!

Jan Van Eyck charged his paintings by their actual weight in gold. (This would have been substantial as he painted on heavy wooden panels).

Painters and sculptors (i.e. fine artists vs commercial artists) often start earning money by entering competitions. Sometimes they win prize money and once in a while brings attention to their work to gallery owners. If it does, a gallery owner may invite an artist to exhibit in a group show in the future.

Some galleries have competitions for group shows. Competitions often charge artists a fee for each work submitted to enter. These fees help fund the purse for the winners as well as cover expenses for the gallery. If the artist is lucky enough to be accepted into a group show, galleries will generally exhibit 2–3 paintings or sculptures by the artist if it fits the theme of the exhibit.

If the artist and gallery are both lucky, those art pieces will sell at the group show. If they sell fast, they are priced well. The gallery will usually take a 50% commission. This is quite fair as the gallery is paying for rent, insurance, telephone, advertising, commissions, staff, electric bills, and perhaps some cheap wine and cheese for the opening night.

If all of the art pieces in the group show sell, the gallery owner may offer you a one person show in the coming year and raise your prices. If the paintings sell well in the one person exhibit, there is a demand for your work. The gallery may choose to represent you. It’s really about finding whether your art is a good fit with their client’s tastes.

Remember, a gallery represents many artists and there are only 12 months in the year. Wall space is real estate. You may not be offered a one person show until you have enough collectors to warrant the risk and expense the owner must take. You will be asked to provide enough work to fill the space and the work will be consigned by you to the gallery. Art is one of the few businesses in the world where the business owner often gets their stock for free. Ironically, artists that are rude, needy, or narcissistic will find themselves without a gallery fast. The art world can be small and bad behavior can cost you a career.

Artists make money from their art in addition to selling through galleries. There can be competition money, grant money (that the artist has applied for), corporate art sales through an agent or sold through your gallery, licensing of work (for a book covers, etc). There are also print sales, commissions (someone hires you to paint something specific). Commissions often comes through your gallery or an agent and yes, they will take a cut. If you have a lot of social media followers of your work, you can receive financial support off a Patreon account.

Fine art is a skill that takes a long time to acquire and out of pocket costs are expensive. If you are disciplined and always honor that it is a business, it can treat you well.

For more information on what galleries look for in artists and about art agents, art brokers and art dealers, please visit the following links:

Featured Image: Alma Tadema exhibit at Leighton House Museum, London. Photo by Kevin Moran Photography, London.