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NFTs storm the art world. But that's just the 'tip of the iceberg' – CNET

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Artist Ryan Maloney had planned a conventional launch for his latest project, a series of collector cards called Beastly Ballers that feature cartoon creatures decked out in football gear. The New Canaan, Connecticut-based illustrator was going to use a Chinese printer to package the cards; then he’d market them online and sell them at $4.99 for a pack of 10.

Instead, Maloney skipped the physical product all together. He listed the card images on the online marketplace OpenSea as NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, the digital assets that are upending the art world. Maloney had followed the rise of the technology and decided to give it a try.  

He began to rack up bids after a day or two. One card, with a drawing of a yeti named Yeta wearing a helmet and pads, sold for $85. In all, he’s tallied more than $700 in sales on 14 cards. For a working artist, it’s a meaningful haul, and more than he would’ve made going the traditional route.

“Artists are always looking for ways to make money off of their work,” Maloney says. “Once the word got out on crypto art, the gold rush really began.”

The gold rush for NFTs — essentially cryptological certificates of authenticity — is well underway. On Thursday, Christie’s, the 255-year-old British auction house, will close the sale of its first-ever digital-only art piece, a composite of 5,000 pieces created over as many days by the artist Beeple. The final price tag is sure to be eye-popping: As of this writing, bidding stands at $9.75 million. As Maloney’s story highlights, however, the implications of NFTs ripple far beyond the multimillion-dollar hammer prices set at fancy auction houses. 

NFTs bring to digital art a one-of-a-kind or limited-edition quality that’s been lost in the copy-paste, post-repost world of the internet. Each work of art is associated with a proof of ownership that’s recorded on a blockchain, the distributed ledgers most commonly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The authentications, which can be applied to images, videos, music and other digital files, designate the original. Copies and copies of copies might abound on the web. But only one person can lay claim to the NFT behind it.

The technology is beginning to touch every corner of art, entertainment and media. In sports, a clip of Lebron James ruining a fast break sold for $100,000 on Top Shot, the NBA’s marketplace for highlight reels. In music, Kings of Leon last week became the first band to announce the release of an NFT album, with three types of tokens that include special artwork and perks. The pop star Shawn Mendez last month announced a line of digital goods in the form of NFTs. In the media world, the Associated Press is auctioning off an NFT electoral map of the 2020 US presidential contest, which uses data that was published on the blockchain. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is even selling the first tweet on the platform as an NFT.

Proponents say NFTs have the potential to revolutionize the way artists at every level can sell and distribute their work. In turn, NFTs could change the way people interact with and consume art in the digital era. 

The potential is huge, says Joe Saavedra, CEO of Infinite Objects, a company that makes frames for looping videos and other digital art so that the works can be displayed in homes and museums. His company collaborated with Beeple on an earlier NFT release, offering what he calls a “physical twin” frame to display the NFT, with a QR code on the frame that links to the token. 

“Across the board, everyone is going to have to reckon with how to navigate this space,” he says. “Art is the tip of the iceberg.”

‘A connection’

NFTs are powerful because they tackle deeply rooted issues in the digital realm: ownership and compensation. 

The internet grew into the place we know now because data could be easily replicated and user-generated content proliferated on the web. YouTubers and TikTok users have amassed huge followings by giving away content, which is sometimes professionally produced and expensive to make. Napster brought the music industry to its knees because it obliterated the business model when artists and labels never expected it. Facebook rants come free of charge, whether you like them or not. 

Sure, you can support online creators by donating to their Patreon accounts. But NFTs provide another avenue of connection between creator and fan. “NFTs give digital artists the agency to sell their work with the assurance of authenticity and rarity,” says Meghan Doyle, a specialist in the postwar and contemporary department at Christie’s. “They are creating a new way forward.” 

A piece by the artist Beeple being auctioned as an NFT at Christie’s.


Christie’s

In a way, NFTs restore a dynamic that’s sustained the art world for centuries. An art collector might covet an original Basquiat — instead of a print of a Basquiat — so they could have the version the artist stood over while creating it. An NFT buyer might feel closer to what the artist has deemed the “authentic” version, even though it can be identically reproduced. NFTs can also work like rare reprints, with only a finite amount of certified copies. You can listen to the Beatles’ White Album on Spotify, but owning an original pressing might transport you back to the recording session. 

“Humans put real meaning on the original,” says Coye Cheshire, a social psychologist at the UC Berkeley School of Information. “There’s a connection. It connects them to a time and place.”

NFTs are getting a lot of attention right now, but they aren’t new. The technology really took off in 2017, after the blockchain Ethereum introduced a new standard that supported the unique tokens. That year, a Canadian studio called Dapper Labs created a game called CryptoKitties that allowed people to buy, sell and collect virtual cats. The game was a hit and popularized NFTs. In 2020, the value of the NFT market was estimated at $315 million, according to a report by Cointelegraph.

Out of gas

There are downsides to NFTs. Artists complain of the sometimes steep fees that come with using the technology. 

The most popular blockchain for NFTs right now is Ethereum, and a “gas” fee is charged anytime a transaction is made on the network. The name comes from the cost of the computation needed to process transactions on the blockchain — akin to gas that fuels a car to make it run. Since the blockchain is decentralized, the price of gas fees is determined by several factors, including supply, demand and the value of Ethereum. 

Gas fees come at various points in the process. When artists join a marketplace, sometimes they’re charged a onetime gas fee on their first listing. Buyers, too, have to pay a fee when they purchase a work.  

“It suddenly becomes very difficult for new artists to come in and list a piece,” says Mateen Soudagar, an Australian investor who writes a blog about NFTs. It can hurt the market, too. He says fees have skyrocketed in the past to $200 or $300. “I’m not going to pay $200 for a piece of art selling for $50.” To ease the burden for artists, some marketplaces have introduced gas-free NFT creation. 

Soudagar has been involved with NFTs for years, first investing in virtual land in games. He believes video games will be the next frontier for NFTs. The technology will give people the ability to buy unique items, he says, like rare early skins, or armor or weapons for avatars. 

Maloney, the illustrator from Connecticut, says he’s willing to put up with high gas fees if it means getting more of his work out there and helping NFTs become more mainstream. He works with toy companies through the creative agency he founded, MediaLuv. He said he’s had conversations with clients interested in experimenting with NFTs.

“I feel like this is the way trading all goods and services will be in the future,” Maloney says. “It’s almost too good to be true.”

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Moose Jaw Art Guild meets to discuss its upcoming MJMAG exhibition – moosejawtoday.com

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The Moose Jaw Art Guild is excited for their 54th Christmas exhibition at the Museum & Art Gallery

Led by President Karen Walpole, ten members of Moose Jaw’s Art Guild gathered for only the second time in 18 months to discuss their upcoming exhibition. The forms necessary for submission were distributed, and everyone chatted about how their works were progressing.

The theme for this year is “Looking Out My Window,” to be interpreted by the artist. A variety of mediums are encouraged, including drawings, pastels, watercolours, and sculptures.

Many of the works displayed in MJMAG’s lobby will be for sale. The exhibition will open on Nov. 12th, and continue until Jan. 9th of next year. 

Karen Walpole noted that she is “always excited” to share some of the Art Guild’s venerable history, particularly in regards to its role in the founding of MJMAG. She says that, “Back in 1963, the City of Moose Jaw asked what was then the Moose Jaw Fine Arts Guild to comment on their plan to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday.” 

The Guild took that chance to strongly endorse and lobby for a “Cultural Centre” in Crescent Park near the Public Library. The Moose Jaw Art Museum opened in 1967, and the Art Guild has had an annual exhibition there ever since. 

Jennifer McRorie, MJMAG’s current curator and director, confirms that the Art Guild was “instrumental in getting the art museum established.” She adds that, “In 2017 we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and so we actually presented an exhibition from our permanent collection that was the result of 50 years of collecting the work of Moose Jaw artists.”

The Guild itself was established on a cold February night in 1929, after a presentation by influential Saskatchewan artists Vaughan Grayson and Barbara Barber. That night, the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan was voted into existence. In 1957 it became the Moose Jaw Fine Art Guild, and in 1984 it achieved its current form as the Moose Jaw Art Guild. 

This year’s exhibition comes on the heels, obviously, of the enormous disruption of the global pandemic. Nevertheless, the Guild endures, and is always open to new members. Walpole sincerely emphasizes that one purpose of their showings is to, “provide encouragement and an introduction to many of us that want to try our artistic hands, but don’t know where to start.”

Art is about expression, moving beyond the limitations of language to convey emotion in a subjective, yet direct way. Although it is not possible to control exactly how one’s art is perceived, this should not be a barrier. The main thing, Walpole says, is “to have the confidence to at least attempt an art form of some kind.”

More information about the Art Guild, its meetings, and how to join can be found on their Facebook page.

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Knitting for Guelph's Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser – GuelphMercury.com

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Knitting for Guelph’s Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser  GuelphMercury.com



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So you want my arts job: Art Installer – ArtsHub

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A rare opportunity saw Andrew Hawley join the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as a casual art handler after graduating from his BFA in Drawing at RMIT in 2003.

Eighteen years later, he is now the Collection and Exhibition Preparator at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), known for their eccentric and challenging exhibitions, and undoubtedly, one of the most exciting environments in which to work in art installations, storage, and exhibition preparations.

He also holds a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne, and has worked across ACMI, the Victorian Arts Centre, ExhibitOne, POD Museum and Art services, and the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

From Ron Meuck’s 10 metre infant sculpture to Ai Weiwei’s White House (2015) in Mona’s Siloam, Hawley and his colleagues are the answer to your question: ‘But how did they manage to get it there?’

Here, Hawley shares the excitement of working on high-profile exhibitions and discusses the skills you would need to pursue this challenging but rewarding profession.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?

In a nutshell; I prepare artwork and other culturally significant material for storage, exhibition and loan, and assist with exhibition/display installation. My role is quite varied but I spend most of my time at our off-site collection store where I design, construct and fit out custom packing units for artworks. These vary from timber crates and travel frames to archival board boxes, archival tubes for rolled works and the occasional solander box. I also ensure artwork is clean and display ready. 

I organise and maintain the off-site collection storage area which involves a lot of 3D Tetris. I work closely with colleagues including registrars, a conservator, a mount maker and several other very highly skilled art handler/technicians as well as a wider team of kinetic artwork and time based media technicians.

I assist with exhibition installation/deinstallation and collection changeover at the museum and some external locations during festivals.

I’m also a qualified paper conservator so I undertake some conservation assessments and treatments when required.

Read: So you want my arts job: Museum Program Producer

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR CAREER?

I finished a fine art degree in 2003 and was looking for something outside the hospitality industry and inside the museum/gallery industry. Luckily, a regular customer at one of the venues I worked in (as a chef/cook), let word slip that the National Gallery of Victoria were hiring casual art handlers to prepare to move into the refurbished premises at St Kilda Road. I got the boss’ details, wrote an application letter, attended a job interview and somehow was successful, despite no prior experience.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOST IN YOUR JOB?

Unique challenges and a reliance on lateral thinking for solutions – something I experience almost every day. I also have great colleagues with whom I liaise about all aspects of the job. We learn from each others’ creative perspectives.

I love the excitement of a large or high profile exhibition, including engagement with external or international artists and curators, trying to help realise a vision that may or may not be clear in everybody’s mind. I equally love the calm and solitude of a collection store and the fact that I work so closely with museum objects on a daily basis. If I have a bad day, looking at an ancient Egyptian mummified cat or some 2,000 year old bronze knife coins is very soothing. 

IN AN INTERVIEW FOR YOUR JOB, WHAT SKILLS AND QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

Similar institutional experience in a similar capacity (eg. art handling, art packing) would be a must. It takes many years to attune yourself to the level of care required around culturally significant objects and irreplaceable artworks.

Other qualifiers would include:

  • A strong work ethic
  • An ability to handle multiple projects with strict deadlines
  • The ability to delegate fun jobs
  • The ability to undertake monotonous or tedious jobs
  • Strong, clear communication
  • Patience
  • Physically fit and able

The ability to look outside oneself and one’s own experience for solutions. It’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of position and a good Jack should know when they need to call on a master of something.

Someone who prefers order and neatness in their professional life. I’m in no way the neatest person in my private life but organising a storage area that keeps artwork safe and secure requires a high degree of attention to detail.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE INSTALLATION EXPERIENCES/PROJECTS THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON?

There’s been a lot over the years – I’ve done everything from helping carry and install a 10 metre silicon sculpture of an infant (Ron Mueck) to hanging iconic works from Picasso, Munch or Tom Roberts. From installing 100 tiny neolithic arrow/spear heads in one showcase to helping build a large, imperial Chinese house framework on glass balls (Ai Weiwei), and from installing famous AFL players’ jerseys in a sports museum (MCG/Australian Sports Museum) to hanging stills from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (ACMI).

It’s hard to pick one moment from one project. In recent times, it’s probably been the preparatory work and final install of big MONA shows like On the Origins of Art, The Museum of Everything and our recent Monanisms 2021 collection based exhibition.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING HAPPENING IN YOUR SECTOR AT THE MOMENT?

We’re still operating and I still enjoy my job.

Read: So you want my arts job: Theatre Technician

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