Geraldine Juarez pondering NFTs

Thursday 7th April, 2022 - Bruce Sterling

Under the banner ‘artists should get paid,’ the flag of crypto-finance was planted in the collective imaginary a little more than a year ago: down with gatekeepers, decentralise the art world.

Very soon after the sale of a digital file in .jpg format for the equivalent of 69 million dollars in .eth, the promise of getting rid of the gatekeepers and their canon fell apart.

In the year following, auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s reported over 100 million dollars in profit from NFTs, Beeple hangs printed images on blue-chip gallery walls, brick and mortar NFT museums opened their doors across the United States, and NFT marketplaces debuted booths at Art Basel Miami, marketplaces routinely collaborate now with legacy brands to launch fashion drops for the metaverse, and informal Discord groups are transforming into membership clubs and business ventures organised as a new type of business formation, decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs), attracting the attention and seed capital of legendary venture capitalists like a16z.

And finally, the world has its own $APE cryptocurrency. Now, crypto-winter might come: the Financial Times reports that $41 billion worth of NFTs have lost fifty percent of their value.

The familiar and overwhelming speed of networked post-politics has flourished in blockchain culture: both a populist, i.e. networked (cyber) and elitist, i.e. financial (punk) space, where new hyper-dynamic cultural derivatives were initially deployed against a “dying world”, successfully turning economic resentment into a productive asset. Often, this old world order is just “the art world”, other times the “web2”, or “the music industry” or “the financial crisis”. The list of reasons to lash out against these culprits is very long and well deserved but the system in which these entities are embedded, capitalism, is never an object of reflection. This is a slightly better capitalism according to a new type of crypto-influencers profiting from the promotion of risk management. Their advice, they stress, is not financial advice….