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Curious Frame - Issue #31 - Art, Money & NFT Art

Curious Frame
Curious Frame - Issue #31 - Art, Money & NFT Art
By Leanne Staples • Issue #31 • View online
The journey that is Curious Frame weaves in and out of a number of different topics. Hence, there are often some crossovers and topics that recur in different contexts.
The topic of money is a constant running through almost every aspect of photography and art in general. While the internet has opened up the world of photography and art for all with a broadband connection to see it, money still has a big influence on what we will be able to see and what is considered worthy.
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Reader's comments:
Don’t keep those thoughts to yourself. Curious Frame is about dialogue and I’d love to hear your comments or even questions or inspirations. And it’s easy. Just hit reply in your email.
Your opinions are valued. No advanced degrees or education required.
One reader commented on last issue:
Very interesting your approaches on chance and casual and the examples of photographers who somehow took advantage of it, I loved to know the examples mentioned, thanks for more these curiosities in your frame! 
I always say that every photographer should carry a lucky roll in their bag with their equipment! Luck is fundamental in any type of photography, in street photography, so don’t even mention it! 
Chance is confused with luck, and about that I have a curious little story in my life as a photographer
Thanks for your comments!
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Art & Money & NFT Art
This may be worth something, Bushwick, Brooklyn, May 2015
This may be worth something, Bushwick, Brooklyn, May 2015
The sad truth about the world of art is that so often an artist’s work is worth much more after they die than while they were alive. While that will likely always influence the auction price, many are attempting to move the emphasis on investing in living artists.
To invest in a living artist is about allowing them to continue their work as an artist. Unfortunately, art is not acknowledged in education as a career as it is difficult to become successful enough to make a regular income.
Hanging with Andy, New York City, March 2019.
Hanging with Andy, New York City, March 2019.
In retrospect we can perhaps say that the slow transition from the painted to the photographic image was the art event of the century. Boris Groys
Photography has never really been seen as equal to other forms of art for perhaps one very particular reason, there are no masterpieces. 
Masterpiece is a very interesting concept. It stems from the idea of someone being a master at something. It is a masculine word and concept. To be the master of something is preferred over the opposite which is to be a slave to something or someone.
A masterpiece is a one-of-a-kind. It cannot be reproduced. That was especially so before photography even though a photographic reproduction is not seen as a true copy. It has less value.
A masterpiece is something that an elite group of people have determined it to be so. It is a group of learned and privileged people that decide what will be endowed with that honor. Included within that is the monetary value of a thing.
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, (1889) is considered to be one of the most well-known paintings in the world. However, van Gogh was not famous as an artist during his lifetime. "Van Gogh, who had a struggle with mental illness, admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France on 8th May 1889. Although painted during the day, this masterpiece depicts the night view outside the window of Van Gogh’s room at the asylum."
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, (1889) is considered to be one of the most well-known paintings in the world. However, van Gogh was not famous as an artist during his lifetime. "Van Gogh, who had a struggle with mental illness, admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France on 8th May 1889. Although painted during the day, this masterpiece depicts the night view outside the window of Van Gogh’s room at the asylum."
Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night (1889) is a good example of what is considered to be a masterpiece. It is estimated to be worth at least $100 million dollars.
In Issue 8, I wrote about what is the worth of a photo and photos that broke records for the most expensive ever. Money changes everything in the world of art. Cost ≠ artistic value.
Money and art are too often seen as the same thing. The price on a piece of art doesn’t say that it’s art or that it’s good art or even if it’s worth the money. At best, these are subjective opinions.
The worth of an art object is how much someone is willing to pay for it. Art has become another commodity. Wealthy investors buy art for an investment. Some of them buy art because they truly like it. But it would seem that they are in the minority.
The Magic Christian film directed by Joseph McGrath starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, 1969.
The Magic Christian film directed by Joseph McGrath starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, 1969.
The Magic Christian is a favorite classic cult film. The story written by Terry Southern (also Dr. Strangelove) is a satire about the world of art and money and the lengths that people will go to for fortune and fame. It is certainly worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.
How to get a fool to part with his money is one thing. The extent to which people will go to obtain it is another. In case you haven’t seen the film I won’t give away some of the outrageous stunts in the film that illustrate how far people will go for money.
Two frames from Chris Torres’s Nyan Cat, 2011, GIF. Published in Artforum magazine, May 2021.
Two frames from Chris Torres’s Nyan Cat, 2011, GIF. Published in Artforum magazine, May 2021.
Photography created a disruption in the art world (see Issue 23) but perhaps that rift has been smoothed over since the digital universe came into being and you no longer need to travel to see art.
Welcome the new disruptor in the world of art, NFTs. I’m not going to tell you that I am any kind of expert on this new “art” form. And to be entirely honest, I have no appreciation for it. It’s possible that I’m missing something.
I was never into video games and the visual style used to illustrate them is very similar to much of the images that can be found in art NFTs. In my opinion, it isn’t art.
Beeple, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2007–21, five thousand digital drawings, dimensions variable.
Beeple, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2007–21, five thousand digital drawings, dimensions variable.
“a single JPEG by digital artist Beeple fetched $69.3 million at auction. The sale, conducted by venerable auction house Christie’s, awarded the unnamed buyer ownership of Beeple’s Everydays—The First 5000 Days, 2021, a digital collage of every image the artist has posted online since 2007. The figure commanded surpassed auction records set by art by the likes of J.M.W. Turner, Georges Seurat, and Francisco Goya and was the third-highest auction price achieved for a living artist, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney, according to the New York Times.” Artforum magazine, March 11, 2021
I’m still shocked that this jpeg was deemed worth close to $70 million dollars. There are people in this world who have too much money and not much in taste.
First, I should attempt to describe what an NFT is and perhaps you will agree with me that it isn’t art.
The Eye by Louis16art, May 2021
The Eye by Louis16art, May 2021
An NFT is a non-fungible token. According to Wikipedia, an NFT “ is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files”
NFT art is tied to the concept of cryptocurrencies. It is a financial instrument and one that many experts see as a risky venture. People who advocate the use of cryptocurrencies are often described as techno-libertarians and anarcho-capitolists.
I’m not even going to venture into describing what these people are as I really don’t understand any of it. What I do know and has been suggested is that the rise of NFT art is another method of keeping attention on cryptocurrencies and to increase the market value of them.
Zam, Marlene Revisited (Gernreich), 2021
Zam, Marlene Revisited (Gernreich), 2021
Some NFT artists started out in analog art, moved to digital art and then to NFT art. The above piece by Zam (NFT artists rarely use their birth names,) reminds me of some street art. And much of it is really to use the work of other artists as the starting point for their work.
I had a look at Zam’s website and none of it is work that I would consider buying and it plays on popular themes such as Marilyn Monroe. In other words, it plays into the image of Marilyn in popular culture. It’s not particularly original.
Marlene Dietrich, photo composite, 18 May 2021
Marlene Dietrich, photo composite, 18 May 2021
So as a test, to prove a point, I made this photomontage on computer in about 15 minutes. First, I looked to see if I could find the photo or a similar photo of Marlene Dietrich as the one that Zam used. Then I used a photo that I already have as the second layer.
The 2 images are very different. But if you look at Zam’s site, you will see many different variations of the same photo and there isn’t a significant difference between them. It ends up feeling, for me, like the fake designer handbags that are sold on the streets of New York City. I don’t understand it.
Yes, there are many things that I don’t understand. I wonder if I could make tens of thousands of dollars with this image if I made it into an NFT?
It's me, New York City, 14 May 2021
It's me, New York City, 14 May 2021
So I haven’t had anything positive to say about NFT art yet. There are a few plusses. The photo of me above can be stolen by anyone. Not that it’s something that anyone would like to steal.
Everything that is digitized and on the internet runs the risk of being used by others and for them to take credit for your work. NFT art comes with a certificate of authenticity and I understand that it can’t be easily forged.
Every time that your NFT art is sold to another buyer, you will receive 10-30% of the sale price. This is something that artists have been complaining about for a very long time.
When an artist is poor and starving they might sell a work of art for $100 so they can survive. Then years later when they become famous, they or their heirs receive nothing on a very large sale. It becomes a financial transaction in which they do not gain from.
Claude Monet 1916-19 Water Lilies.
Claude Monet 1916-19 Water Lilies.
Claude Monet (1840-1926) is one of the most famous of the Impressionist painters. You would think that he wouldn’t have to worry about making a living.
Think again. Monet was a prolific letter writer begging for money. He spent his life pleading poverty. Like Van Gogh, their fame and fortunes were after their lifetimes.
There’s an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on 16 May 2021 reporting on the new craze for NFT art. One story is about a young man who was able to move out of his grandmother’s home and make a living selling his NFT art.
He didn’t come from money or even an advanced education. It’s good to know that possibilities exist for those that want to go that route. And, you cut out the middleman, the agent that takes a hefty cut.
Tulip Mania, New York City, 7 May 2021. Intentional Camera Movement.
Tulip Mania, New York City, 7 May 2021. Intentional Camera Movement.
Some have spoken about NFT art as a speculative frenzy like tulip mania was.
Tulip mania (Dutchtulpenmanie) was a period during the Dutch Golden Age when contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels, and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. It is generally considered to have been the first recorded speculative bubble or asset bubble in history. Wikipedia
It’s interesting how the art world that was typically uninterested in digital art has suddenly gotten involved in the craze for NFT art. But the art world movers and shakers are mostly looking at ways to capitalize on art. Where there’s financial opportunities, the art market will be found.
You can call be old school and I’ll take that as a compliment. I write with pen and paper and use the computer for editing and publishing. My cameras are both analog and digital and they are the tools of my trade.
Money is cool and if I can make money doing my photography and art, that’s fabulous. But NFT art is a financial instrument first and foremost. I’ve yet to see a piece of NFT art that I’m drawn to.
One last thing to note is that Ethereum, the cryptocurrency that is mostly involved in NFT art, uses an amount of energy consumption equal to a small country as seen in the above chart.
So, this is by no means a definitive explanation of NFT art, but it’s enough for me to not invest much interest in it. I’d love to hear your comments about NFT art, whether you agree or disagree with me. That’s what Curious is here for.
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Curious Frame | Revue
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Further reading:
  • Findlay, Michael. Seeing Slowly: Looking at Modern Art, Prestel, 2017.
  • Sabau, Luminita, ed. The Promise of Photography: The DG Bank Collection, Prestel, 1998.
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Further viewing:
Alex WEBB Accepts Failure | The Photos Are Startling
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Announcing Skirting the Edges
Skirting the Edges is a story about artists, aliens and drag queens living in a very changed world. 
It is a love story and a journey that challenges us to dare to be ourselves and to live life dangerously.
My story has many pieces. And like a shapeshifter, it takes on many different forms. I’m rolling out the different chapters on a regular basis.
For now, the first chapter is available in my shop:
Skirting the Edges Intro (unbound artist book) - Leanne Staples
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Leanne Staples

In a world that is overpopulated with images, Curious Frame is where I share my thoughts on photography. It is always about ‘seeing with new eyes’.

I’m Leanne Staples, a photographer, artist, and writer living in New York City. Street photography and lens-based art are my passions, and Curious Frame is where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on these passions.

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