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Crypto Art for African Artists : Fact or Fiction

What does Crypto Art mean for African artists?

Innovation has had an effect on various facets of the economy, and the art world has not been obliterated. Crypto art has disrupted the art world by offering a different perspective on what collectibles are and their worth. What does this mean for the African Artist?

Crypto art is a way of making art unique and viable. It is described as rare digital artworks associated with unique rare tokens called Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) that exist on the blockchain. The concept is based on the idea of digital scarcity, which allows you to buy, sell, and trade digital goods as if they were physical goods. Digital art can be described as artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.

There’s no crypto art without an NFT, so what does it mean? NFT is like a fancy digital token that uniquely identifies the digital item being sold, for example, there’s only one original Picasso but the art world is flooded with so many counterfeits even high-quality ones but there’s still that only one Picasso and that’s where its value lies. Non fungible means non-replaceable, therefore, the NFT, gives the value to the item being sold by uniquely identifying it as one of a kind.

The industry is making waves especially in developed nations with atrocious payments of crypto art being sold online, Jacks Dorsey’s original tweet “ just setting my twttr” tweet sold for almost 3 million dollars; a jpeg made by a digital artist known as Beeple sold for 69 million and some change; the NBA is selling shot videos for thousands of dollars. The question is why would people pay all this cash for art? Human psychology dictates that there’s value in the things that are one of a kind. The gist of the matter is that the artwork is original and non-fungible and this makes it valuable in the human eye.

Blockchain Technology

When the Pseudo name Satoshi Nakomoto came up with crypto currency, I wonder if he had thought through the potential of the technology behind his innovation, if he had, then he’s twice the genius we thought he was. Blockchain technology has become a powerhouse in its own right. In layman’s language, it’s the ability to record a transaction that occurs between two parties which creates a block, another transaction creates another block, so many blocks are chained together and this is what creates the blockchain.

Now, many can argue this is what supply chains have been doing for the longest time, but the difference with former transaction recording and blockchain technology recording is the fact that it’s tamper-proof, meaning it’s impossible to hack, change or cheat the systems. The attributes that make blockchain the go to technology, especially when we are in need of transparency and traceability is the fact that its immutability; decentralized; has enhanced security; distributed ledgers and consensus

What art is viable as digital art?

There are many constructs on what is considered as digital art, great examples include:  gifs; fractal/algorithmic art- this computer generated; Data-Moshing- damaging video clips to create a glitch effect; Dynamic Painting. Pictures with objects moving; 2D Computer Graphics; 3D Computer Graphics; Pixel Art- videos and images which are used for movies, games, or aesthetic ventures; Digital Photography; Photo-painting and Computer-generated painting among others.

The cover art for the best selling album of all time by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Art by Lemi Ghariokwu
So how can an artist in Africa leverage on this?

Africa has many aspiring artists; the keyword being aspiring, as the perception/attitude of Africans towards art as a career path needs to be revised. Africa’s global share of creative industries remains negligible, contributing less than 1 percent to the world’s $624bn trade in creative goods, according to a UNCTAD report. Bringing Africa’s creative industries to the forefront would be a remarkable contribution for economic development on the continent.

This is the level playing field for African artist to leverage their creativity and try to push the boundaries. For African artist, they should imagine a world where they did not have to be commissioned for any work to survive and instead have the ability to create artwork that had personal meaning to them, that tapped into their creative juices. That’s what crypto art promises and the delight of many will be to see this happen for the many aspiring artist.

What does cryptocurrency have to do with Crypto Art?

To purchase, make trade or set up any account as an artist or an art investor, you have to acquire cryptocurrency as your tool of trade. The most popular crypto currency being used is Ethereum, although the second largest after bitcoin, Ethereum is known for its well-established, open-ended decentralized software platform. It enables the deployment of smart contracts and decentralized applications (dapps) to be built and run without any downtime, fraud, control or interference from a third party, according to Nathan Reiff.

CryptoArtNet sampled some of the Ethereum enabled sites include: Art Blocks -Generative Design; Async Art – Collect and Experience Rare Programmable Art; BAE – Formerly Blockchain Art Exchange; Blockparty – Collect & Create Digital Goods; Cargo – Create, share, sell and buy digital collectibles; CryptoArt.Ai – Art Evolves with Time; Cryptograph – Digital collectibles from your favourite icons and artists that raise money for charity; DigiCol – WIP, Completed $DGCL Token Sale in December 2020; Ephimera – Lens-based Media; EthBlock.art – Create your own deterministic art painting Ethereum blocks; Foundation – The New Creative Economy;

InfiNFT – A token minting platform with a focus on flexibility and longevity; KnownOrigin – A digital arts marketplace powered by Ethereum; MakersPlace – Premier Rare Digital Art Market; Mintable – Easily Mint, Manage, and Browse digital items; Mintbase – Virtual Economy Starter Pack / NFT Factory; Nifty; Gateway – The Premier Marketplace for Nifties; OpenSea – The largest marketplace for rare items; Portion – Decentralized Marketplace; Rarible – Create and sell digital collectibles secured with blockchain; SuperRare – Collect SuperRare Digital Artworks; Terra Virtua – Collecting. Reinvented.; Zora – Internet Renaissance. The NFT Protocol.

Other cryptocurrencies being traded with include: Bitcoin, Crypto.org, Ethereum, EOSIO, Flow, Hive, NEAR, Phantasm, Tezos, VeChain Thor, Waves, Zilliqa

How do we curb forgery?

Nothing is perfect and crypto art has its downside. If you’re an art enthusiast you’ve probably heard terms like art is subjective and most of the time the artists message and the audience can get misinterpreted, that is why some of the crypto art sites are investing in art curators. Curation basically informs a better and more accessible way to read the art for the general public. This has led to digital artists and platforms hunting for curators and art experts to support building a narrative around the work of art. the curation helps to bridge a gap between the crypto art and artists and the general public, while providing greater accessibility to the subject of art and technology as an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Due to the sudden demand within the crypto art market, some of the top crypto art galleries have been challenged by the overwhelming number of artists trying to submit their art to these platforms. But free access and unrestrained production can lead to challenges of forgery and manageability to the space. Some of the key solutions that can be provided include having platforms that perform only a select few so as to ensure that the audience is well engaged. Some digital art platforms such as KnownOrigin. Launched in April 2020, has focused on presenting a curated selection of 6 artworks, selected each month by a guest curator.

What is the catch?

The process of uploading your crypto art is not free and an artist requires to have Gas (this is the cost that is incurred so as to perform a transaction in a network). Something to note is that, gas prices are dependent on demand supply of crypto currencies, therefore when crypto currency is high so is the gas money. This does affect pricing of artwork so as to be able to gain significant margins. The popularity of the artist or their art can have a direct impact on the amount of sales one garners, big artist can afford a big audience, thus might not be as attractive for upcoming artist. However, crypto art is a long-term investment for any artist and the ability to gain royalties in perpetuity is the price.

Can NFT work for Africa?

NFTs are here to stay as it’s a legitimate way to collect digital art as creatives attempt to find more ways to be productive. It provides artist with the ability to tap into their creativity and not just focusing on client-based projects. We might need to come up with platforms that are more Afro-centric so as to accommodate the demands of our African market. A lot of awareness needs to be done on digital art to sensitize the public on the benefits of such art in the African context and economy.

Art accrues it’s worth as an artist continues to gain popularity. How then can we ensure that artists sustain their benefit throughout their existence of their artwork? Blockchain is the future of the art world and Picha images is going crypto. Sign up here to be part of this journey.

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