The Art Oligarchy Is Over: NFTs Have Opened the Market to All
The art world is no longer controlled by art dealers, galleries and curators. Thanks to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), anyone can now find and buy investment-grade artworks in a matter of clicks.
As someone who’s taken an interest in art for some time, I’ve always found it a tricky space to navigate.
Art dealers, gallerists, curators and a select elite have long controlled access, acting as gatekeepers to both knowledge and the market.
And that’s meant the only way you could find an up-and-coming artist has been a chance encounter with someone in the right circle. But in the tight-knit world of art — a world that primarily revolves around itself — what are the chances of that?
That’s why buyers, both on the primary and secondary markets, have remained small in number for decades. But now, in no small part thanks to the rise of NFTs, the paradigm is shifting. The art oligarchy no longer holds the keys to the empire.
The blockchain has given us bystanders a way in.
NFTs have democratized the art market
A wave of start-ups has entered the art space in the last decade.
Companies have raised billions, tasked with transforming a sector many consider plagued by inefficiencies, a lack of transparency and a shortage of regulation.
Now, we’re seeing innovations like provenance trackers, collection-management systems and virtual galleries overhaul an industry once frozen in time, with much of the progress enabled by NFTs — and the technology promises to impact everyone.
Whether you’re an artist, gallerist, dealer or auction house, there’s no escape. And that’s what’s so exciting.
Through this digital disruption, we’re seeing the democratization of the entire art market as small circles expand into city-sized Discord communities, with savvy investors finding exciting opportunities at every turn.
And as NFT marketplaces pop up across the space, buyers are finding it easier than ever to enter the market — while artists are watching in awe as their audience grows from the few to the thousands, often overnight. If ever there was a showcase for removing the middleman, art would be it.
And NFTs are playing a leading role.
Every artist stands to benefit
Most importantly of all, NFTs open another avenue for creatives to explore, giving both traditional and progressive artists a way to experiment with new mediums.
Just look at fine art extraordinaire Andre Monet.
Monet’s signature style comprises an assemblage of text, texture and color, blending a collage of old newspapers and books to bring instantly recognizable faces to life.
He uses the medium with such deft precision that, despite the crudeness of his raw materials, onlookers often mistake his works for a photograph when they view them from a distance, such is the exactness of each and every character trait.
And while his materials suggest his style would only suit physical artworks, the success of his recent foray into the digital world proves otherwise. Monet adapted his signature technique for an NFT exhibition at Gulf Blockchain week in Dubai, creating a digital masterpiece of ex-Nirvana frontman Kurt Kobain.
The work sold for an impressive $26,000, highlighting that even fine artists have a place in the digital world — and Monet’s success is by no means an anomaly.
This last year, hundreds of artists have made a triumphant entrance into the space, and the new reality is that no matter their medium, if creatives approach NFTs with an open mind, there’s ample opportunity for them to reap bountiful rewards.
Bringing NFTs into the real world
Still, despite their surge in their popularity, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what NFTs can do.
Provenance trackers and proof-of-ownership protocols are the first steps in making the art market more liquid. And once they're more established, frictionless purchases and secure transactions will be the norm.
That will ultimately bring more investors into the fold, which will cause the flywheel to turn faster. Then, as NFTs get more exposure through in-person events, the opportunities will reach an even broader audience. To some extent, this has already happened.
Collectors can now fly to Miami, the UAE and New York to experience NFTs in real life. Secure NFC tagging systems have enabled proof of authenticity, ownership and possession of physical pieces at the tap of a smartphone.
We’re seeing murals painted by local artists on buildings in Dubai, which art collectors can buy through an NFT, showing everyone what’s possible when you bridge the gap between technology and art. Even mainstream hardware companies want in.
Samsung’s innovative lifestyle TV, The Frame, is a visual masterpiece in itself.
The unit’s high performance and flawless design let exhibitors transform any space into an endless gallery of NFT masterpieces. And the innovation has empowered artists, collectors, curators and enthusiasts to fully embrace this new artistic movement.
As more people gain confidence in NFTs, expect the art oligarchy to disappear for good. We will see the dawn of a newly democratized art world.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor