How Wikipedia’s Classification of NFTs as “Not Art” Affects Fairness in the Art World

In many ways, NFTs have represented an opportunity for artists to bypass traditional gatekeepers, allowing a more diverse array of artists to reach collectors and sell their work independently. However, a recent vote by Wikipedia editors introduced a new type of access control: the popular online encyclopedia decided not to classify NFTs as art.

Many creators and collectors of digital art found this decision to be over the top and short-sighted. The basis of this sentiment is the observation that NFTs, although not always used for art, can be another artistic medium, such as painting or ceramics. And even more, the idea that any person or institution would try to establish rules on what can be considered art seems problematic to many, with real implications for the lives of artists.

The definition of art

Art is a form of expression defined by the artist and enjoyed by the viewer. As Oscar Wilde said in his 1891 essay The Decomposition of Lying – An Observation, summarized on Wikipedia, “To the subjects of art we should be more or less indifferent. We should, in any case, have no preferences, no prejudices, no partisan feelings of any kind. With that in mind, it’s no wonder many artists and collectors take offense to the idea that anyone categorizes what is and isn’t art.

“It was a discriminatory statement against the work of thousands of artists who find their creative freedom and their passion in the NFT space,” said Marlon Portales, a multidisciplinary Cuban artist. “It is not for Wikipedia, or any institution of power, to say what is art and what is not. Art exists in the eyes and consciousness of the beholder. Art is a means of communication, dialogue, emancipation and expression. It’s a gesture. »

It’s not just the new wave of creators and collectors who are valuing NFTs as art. “The fact that the biggest art auction houses have people dedicated to digital art is the most basic evidence needed,” says Alex Marshall, artist and director of Silicon Valley Bank. “NFTs have greatly expanded Sotheby’s collector base, Christie’s auctioned an NFT for $69 million and the British Museum is sale of NFT versions of their collections. Just because NFTs can also serve as financial and certification instruments doesn’t mean they aren’t art. In some ways they are better than traditional art because ownership is transparent and artists continue to collect royalties.

NFT as support

Art can be created from an unlimited variety of mediums, from painting to found objects. Many people who disagree with Wikipedia’s ruling on NFTs argue that NFTs should be considered the medium used to create art. Just as not all paper is art, not all NFTs are art, but the medium should not limit the end result.

Breanna Faye, NFT artist and creator of Metarkitex Metaverse, explained this by comparing NFTs to blueprints. “Digital blueprints are the blueprints used to build every modern building. We don’t call AutoCAD blueprints ‘not real architecture’ and we shouldn’t do that with art,” she points out. NFTs are just a canvas that digital artists export their works to. Yes, the medium has changed, but the product and definition has not. NFTs are a canvas, blockchain is the medium, it’s what’s on the canvas determines if it’s art. Excluding some of the world’s most notable artists from your list just because their medium is different is a shame.

There are countless examples of non-traditional mediums being created and enjoyed as art. “Piero Mansoni was a revolutionary and highly conceptual artist who laughed at systems that claimed to say what was real art,” Portales shared as an example, referencing the piece. Shit of artists, which is described on Wikipedia as a work of art consisting of 90 cans filled with feces. “At the end of the day, NFT is just another medium, it’s a new language system.”

Not only do NFTs serve as a new medium for art, but they also open up new artistic fields. “NFTs enable new possibilities for artistic expression beyond what exists or is imagined today. Robert De Niro NFT of LIT is a great example of this,” said Gabriela Sabate, entrepreneur and collector of NFT. “The actor dynamically reacts in 4,600 frames at the same time to live events that occur after the creation of the NFT. NFTs have the power to redefine our current concepts of art and culture.

Impact on artists

The assertion that NFTs aren’t art hits particularly hard on artists who have finally found an opportunity to thrive in the NFT ecosystem.

“Many NFT artists are mainstream artists who have moved their artwork into the metaverse and, for the first time in their lives, have been able to support themselves financially with their art,” shared Samantha Hume, NFT Artist and founder of Crypto Lady Gang. “NFTs kill the stereotype of the ‘starving artist’ and create a modern, financially stable artist. The old era of the art world is about privilege, based on relationships and money. This new era of art NFT has the ability to empower any talented artist, regardless of their background.

Michael Gold, an art teacher who teaches generative art, has grown even further. “If we think about how access to resources has prevented artists from creating and distributing their art in the past, NFTs have reversed that scenario,” he shared. “Many successful NFT artists have burst into this space teaching themselves the necessary techniques using resources freely available to anyone with a laptop and an internet connection. Since the Internet as a whole tends to regard Wikipedia as a source of truth, if a handful of Wikipedia editors decide what is or is not art, that decision will have far-reaching effects. training that will limit opportunities for future self-taught artists and potentially rob the world of their art.

The emergence of NFTs and Web3 as an ecosystem provides the opportunity for a more diverse array of artists to be seen and appreciated for their art. There are many more advantages to adopting this, rather than trying to limit this new decentralized opportunity with the use of centralized definitions.

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