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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Metaverse - But Were Too Afraid to Ask

February 22nd, 2022

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Metaverse - But Were Too Afraid to Ask

How do you navigate an immersive virtual world that’s still mostly conceptual yet manages to generate billions of visits and even more dollars? Buckle up, because the deeper you go, the weirder it gets.

One of the most buzzed-about destinations of 2022 is barely developed and widely misunderstood, starting with the fact that it isn’t, strictly speaking, real. And yet despite that existential disadvantage, the metaverse has managed to attract some of the world’s biggest brands, from Sotheby’s to the NFL, who’ve set up shop in the virtual universe to drop capsule collections, mint NFTs and auction off multimillion-dollar digital artworks. Along the way, the metaverse also became the hottest concert venue of pandemic-struck 2021, with A-list performances by Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X and Justin Bieber, all in avatar form.

Which is all fine, but what is it? The term itself, coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, is already headed for middle age, while the technological capability to actually create a fully immersive, interconnected virtual world remains a dream locked inside the mind of a yet-to-be-imagined super-computer. Still, the headlines keep coming, from Ralph Lauren’s winter-themed virtual fashion retail village to the hyper-realistic “meta-human” avatars that are being generated by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine digital creation studio. For a universe that doesn’t yet exist, the metaverse is surprisingly, if intangibly, real.

By Josh Condon – 2/19/2022


🎧 on Spotify
https://anchor.fm/rafael-salazar70/episodes/Everything-You-Wanted-to-Know-About-the-MetaverseBut-Were-Too-Afraid-to-Ask-e1ekp3p

Read all at https://rafaelesalazar.wordpress.com/2022/02/19/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-metaverse-but-were-too-afraid-to-ask/#more-2401

Sothebys and artist Kevin McCoy sued over sale of early NFT

February 4th, 2022

The dispute revolves around the movement of a 2014 work, ‘Quantum’, from one blockchain to another and how that affects its ownership and fungibility

A Canadian company is suing Sotheby’s and artist Kevin McCoy over the sale of an early NFT (non-fungible token) for almost $1.5m.

The artwork, Quantum, was first minted in May of 2014 and is regarded by many, including the auction house, as the first-ever NFT. It sold for $1.47m in June 2021 for $1.47m during Sotheby’s “Natively Digital” auction. But in a complaint filed on 1 February in the distrcit court for southern New York, the plaintiff behind the Canadian company Free Holdings, of which this individual is the “sole member”, is claiming to be Quantam’s rightful owner and asserting that they had secured the rights to the work seven years after its creation after McCoy had let his ownership expire. The tech startup Nameless, which provided Sotheby’s with a condition report on the digital work prior to the auction, is also named as a defendant.

As the outlet Leger Insights explained, the quandary arose because Quantum was originally minted using NameCoin, a blockchain software modeled from Bitcoin’s code. Akin to the purchase of a domain name, NameCoins need to be renewed roughly every 250 days. After creating the work in 2014, McCoy did not renew Quantum in 2015, meaning that it could presumably be claimed by another individual. It sat un-renewed for six years until, in April of 2021, Axios ran an article with the headline “Exclusive: The first-ever NFT from 2014 is on sale for $7 million plus”, and roughly two weeks later an individual with the twitter handle @EarlyNFT registered as the owner of the dormant NFT.

According to court filings, “EarlyNFT is a pseudonym for Free Holding’s sole member.” This sole member then attempted to contact McCoy over the next month in a series of five tweets, which escalated in their hostility from “There’s a matter regarding your work ‘Quantum’ I’d like to discuss with you” on 6 April 2021 to, “Are you interested in participating in the sale of Quantum or not then?” paired with a Gif of Elmo shrugging, on 3 May 2021. McCoy did not respond to these tweets. According to the condition report listed on the auction lot, however, “this specific Namecoin entry was removed from the system after not being renewed, and was effectively burned from the chain”, meaning its ownership could not have been reregistered.

A still from Quantum (2014) by Kevin McCoy
© Kevin McCoy

Critic Nora N. Khan Is Curating NFTs with an Eye Toward a Diversity of Thought

January 17th, 2022

Nora N. Khan has emerged as one of the most important voices when it comes to all things related to art and technology. A Harvard grad with a degree in English and American Literature, she attended the most prestigious writing program in the country, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, before swerving into arts criticism, philosophy and curating. Her book Seeing, Naming, Knowing, published by the Brooklyn Rail in 2019, investigated the impact of predictive algorithms and machine vision on the arts. Later that year, she became the Shed’s first guest curator, bringing together artists to respond to and critique emerging technologies that, purposefully or not, replicate systems of oppression with the celebrated exhibition “Manual Override.”

The rise of NFTs has provoked a mix of reactions among those who deal regularly with art and technology. Some immediately embraced this new medium, while others distanced themselves from it. Khan decided that she wanted to wait a bit to watch it develop, and now, as Topical Cream‘s editor-in-residence, she’s made her first foray into the NFT space.

With the NFT platform Foundation to curate a sale, she organized “Experimental Models,” which Khan views as a way to highlight the work of female and gender non-conforming new media artists. The sale has the potential to shake up the NFT space, which has, admittedly, not shown an appetite for conceptually rich pieces. It also could add a diverse array of voices to an area of the art world that has largely tended to uphold white, male artists. With works by Danielle Braithwaite-Shirley, Rachel Rossin, Umber Majeed, and others, the sale is, in part, intended to bring artists who’ve rarely or never worked with NFTs into the fold.

To hear more, Khan spoke with ARTnews about her thoughts on NFTs and her slow research process.

By: SHANTI ESCALANTE-DE MATTEI
ArtNews

Artists say NFTs are helping thieves steal their work at a jaw-dropping rate

January 11th, 2022

Artists say NFTs are helping thieves steal their work at a jaw-dropping rate

By Kevin Collier – NBC News

Digital thieves had stolen from Aja Trier before.

Trier, a painter in San Antonio, often riffs on Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” adding dogs or dinosaurs to it, or reimagining it as a desert landscape or Mordor from “Lord of the Rings.” She sells versions on mugs and mouse pads and pillows, and over the years she’s caught and stopped people selling pirated versions of her work on Amazon and other online marketplaces.

But thanks to the explosion of the NFT art market, thieves have started stealing her work at a jaw-dropping rate. Last week, an unidentified user on OpenSea, the dominant marketplace for the burgeoning NFT art market, started putting tens of thousands of listings of her work, often duplicates, up for sale. Thirty-seven of them sold before she was able to convince the platform to take them down.

“They just kept taking and remaking them as NFTs,” Trier said. “It’s so flagrant. And if it happens to me, it can happen to anyone.”

Trier’s story has already become common in the burgeoning world of NFT art sales. RJ Palmer, a San Francisco artist who designs creatures and monsters both as commissioned digital works and for movies and video game companies, said issuing takedown requests to NFT platforms for his work became a daily routine before he eventually gave up.

“It got to be too many. It became this part of my day,” Palmer said, adding that he would constantly send emails trying to get NFTs taken down. “This is putting so much work on me. I just don’t want to deal with it.”

As the NFT art market takes off, systems to ensure a buyer is making a legitimate purchase of digital ownership have failed to keep up. Anonymous thieves now regularly steal whatever digital art they can find online and pass it off as their own to sell. While NFT proponents tout the technology as a way to revolutionize arts patronage, the rapidly growing digital marketplaces that enable those sales have so far done little to stop that piracy.

Thieves Steal Gallery Owners Multimillion Dollar NFT Collection All My Apes Gone

January 10th, 2022

“I have been hacked. All my apes gone. This just sold please help me,” wrote gallery owner Todd Kramer, of New York’s Ross + Kramer Gallery, in a since-deleted tweet posted on December 30.

A phishing scam had drained his Ethereum wallet of 15 NFTs valued at a total of $2.2 million, including four apes from the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” collection. The thief seemed to have sold off many of the pieces in Kramer’s collection, and Twitter users jeered at Kramer’s bad luck, pointing out that he had bet on an unregulated, decentralized system that would be unable to help him.

“Man If only there had been some kind of Regulating authority in place that could like Insure your investments against theft and fraud,” wrote one user with the handle @anarchy_shark.

But in the end, an authority did come through. With the help of the buyers and the NFT platform OpenSea, Kramer was able to get back several of his NFTs. Five hours after his original post, he wrote, in a tweet that has also since been deleted, “Update.. All Apes are frozen,,. Waiting for OpenSea team to get in,,,lessons learned. Use a hard wallet…”

BY Shanti Escalante-de Mattei


#BuyArtnotCandy #GiftThemArt

January 10th, 2022

#BuyArtnotCandy #GiftThemArt

A Fine Art America group of artists is leading the Change for Valentine's Day from Sharon Cummings idea to create an option for Giving to Your Loved ones #Art instead of Candy on February 14th!

All artists at FAA are welcome to Join in and participate with their "LOVE" inspired artworks to post using the #BuyArtnotCandy and #GiftThemArt hashtags on every Social Media of their preference to promote their artwork and give this Idea a Spin.

People Love to give presents on that day and what better way than a Long Lasting representation of their Love with an Art Collectible to Remind them of your Forever Love.

These artworks are available in all sorts of beautiful products for the most discerning Art Collectors in Wall Art - Home Decor - Accessories - Lifestyle - Apparel and much more.

Shop around the many Galleries we all have and Create a New Lasting Trend.

I invite you to visit mine at:

Website: RafaelSalazar.com
Twitter: @Rafael_SalazarS
Pinterest: RafaelSalazar
Instagram: Rafael_Salazars

2021 has been the year of the NFT. But what exactly is an NFT

January 1st, 2022

2021 has been the year of the NFT. But what exactly is an NFT

A year has gone by since NFTs entered mainstream culture. Earlier this week, we brought you an article on the NFT  highlights of 2021. For those who haven’t quite figured it out over the past 12 months, we’ve put together a refresher course in the basics.

What is an NFT?

An NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is a unique unit of data employing technology that allows digital content—from videos to songs to images—to become logged and authenticated on cryptocurrency blockchains, primarily Ethereum. Once content is logged onto the blockchain, every transaction from transfers to sales is recorded on-chain, creating an easily accessible ledger of provenance and price history. The main impact of NFTs is making it easy to own and sell digital content. Previously, for example, digital artists could build up large followings on social media, attract freelance commercial work, and maybe sell prints and other merchandise with their designs, but they had trouble monetizing digital art directly, as consumers asked, Why should I buy what I can screenshot for free?

No NFT, no comment - how digital art dominated 2021

December 18th, 2021

No NFT, no comment - how digital art dominated 2021

By: Melanie Gerlis - Financial Times

In a year of tech innovation, buyers and sellers have had to grapple with new systems of value and ownership — or lose out

Surplus wealth, in-person activity and the three letters N, F and T have motored the lively art market through the challenges of 2021.

That the rich have got richer through the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying stock market gains has been well documented. Now, added to the existing billionaires and millionaires, are newcomers from booming economies in Asia, millennial entrepreneurs and a dominant breed of fintech-savvy crypto investors, happy to ride the highs and lows of this volatile arena.

The impact on the art market was immediate. While 2020 was all about moving physical activity online, 2021 proved that such efforts increased the appetite for art and produced buyers hungry to keep spending once some in-person activity returned. Come the hybrid, bellwether November auctions in New York, more than $2bn of transactions were made in just one week, dominated by the $676m from just 35 lots from the divorced couple, Linda and Harry Macklowe.

Like it or not, though, the art market story of 2021 was sealed in March when Christie’s offered a digital work by the previously little-known graphic designer Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name of Beeple. The work was a compilation of 5,000 fantasy digital images that had been shared online, including on Instagram under @beeple_crap. “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” was backed by a blockchain-secured, non-fungible token to confer unique ownership and had no price estimate — in essence because no one had a clue about its worth. The staggering verdict was $69.3m, paid by the crypto investor Vignesh Sundaresan, known as Metakovan, and it put Beeple in the same price league as David Hockney and Jeff Koons.

Suddenly we all had to grapple with the new-tech language — minting, dropping, slashing — and, perhaps more challengingly, try to understand alternative systems of value and ownership. Important issues such as copyright, tax and regulation remain in catch-up mode come the end of the year but those of us who thought this was a fleeting, working-from-home phenomenon have been proved wrong.

The auction houses were quick to co-opt the NFT phenomenon into their sales, while galleries ranging from the megawatt Pace to Unit London have launched their own NFT platforms. By the end of this year, Sotheby’s had its own metaverse, with a digital gallery in the virtual Voltaire Art District of Decentraland.

It seems baffling, but such moves proved their worth come the November auction of the Macklowe collection of physical, mostly 20th-century art. Here, the Tron cryptocurrency platform-founder Justin Sun, who had first bought NFT work priced at $1,500 by the digital artist Pak at Sotheby’s in April, swiftly upped his game. He picked up Alberto Giacometti’s “Le Nez” (1965) for $78.4m, the fifth-highest price paid at auction this year.

Overall, public auction figures for the three main houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, more than reversed their 2020 decline. Combined, they turned over $12bn in the year to December 8, up 76 per cent on 2020 and 20 per cent above the equivalent 2019 total, according to the analytics firm Pi-eX. While New York continued to take the bulk of the record-breaking sales, Hong Kong surged as a trading centre: Phillips says its sales here nearly doubled from 2020, having already gained 25 per cent during that year.

Elsewhere, art fairs began slowly to return, with restrained outings for events such as Art Basel in Hong Kong and Frieze in New York in the first half of the year. These were followed by an intense season of events from the postponed Art Basel in September to the same fair’s Miami outing in December. In London and Paris too, the in-person fairs buzzed with the renewed energy of professional networking and prompted sales across a range of channels, now better geared for remote access.

Frieze gave an injection of confidence when it announced the launch of a fair next year in Seoul, a city with an influx of galleries this year. But the spectre of the Covid-19 pandemic was never far away. For its Swiss fair, Art Basel set up a $1.6m relief fund for exhibitors; by the time of the Miami fair, the looming Omicron variant was a reminder of the fragility of these international events during the ongoing pandemic.

Gallery closures during the year indicate a strained industry. Stalwarts such as Gavin Brown and Metro Pictures in New York left the scene and, in Cologne, Delmes & Zander, a champion of under-represented artists, closed after more than 30 years. “Times have changed,” the gallery’s founders noted simply in their statement.

Artists began to take matters into their own hands, not only through social media and NFTs that can take them straight to buyers, but through alternative intermediaries, notably a growing art agency scene. At the same time, auction houses are encroaching on every area of the art business: galleries seem squeezed.

They have, however, benefited from the lower rents available as traditional retail moves more completely online. New gallery spaces ranging from short-term pop-ups to permanent fixtures have followed the money and galvanised trade in resorts such as the Hamptons, Palm Beach and Aspen. Events that focus on the gallery space, including this year’s inaugural London Gallery Weekend, are finding their footing in a more decentralised world.

What of the art?
The 20th century is still the biggest money-spinner and this year’s auction record came courtesy of the reliable Pablo Picasso, whose 1932 painting of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter sold for $103.4m at Christie’s in May. Hot on his heels was Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist whose spot in the pantheon of art history is now cemented and whose popularity worldwide gives weight to the wider re-evaluation of street culture and artists of colour. Despite the appearance of a more diverse display of art at exhibitions and fairs, there is still plenty of work to be done to redress the imbalances.

There was speculation in works by a handful of contemporary artists as the auction houses redirected their offerings towards the newest of new art. The generally beleaguered Old Masters market yet managed to produce the third-highest auction price of the year in January when a c1480 portrait by Sandro Botticelli sold at Sotheby’s for $92.2m. And, in December, the Dutch government confirmed it was ready to buy Rembrandt’s “The Standard Bearer” (1636) for the nation, for €165m.

Such enthusiasm for traditional paintings may not run deep through 2022 but made a refreshing old-guard contrast to the metaverse. If the NFT craze during December’s Miami fair is anything to go by, however, next year we may hear of little else.

Banksys Love Is in the Air to Be Fractionalized into 10,000 NFTs

December 3rd, 2021

Banksys Love Is in the Air to Be Fractionalized into 10,000 NFTs

Banksy, Love is in the Air, 2005
COURTESY PARTICLE
“I always wanted to own art, even when I had absolutely no money—I wished I could have at least a tiny stake in the paintings that I liked.” So said Loïc Gouzer, the ex-head of contemporary art at Christie’s and a co-founder of Particle, a new NFT company that aims to fractionalize ownership of traditional artworks by converting them into sets of NFTs called Particles, thus allowing for potentially thousands of people to share ownership of certain works. After receiving $15 million in seed funding from a venture capital firm and announcing its presence as a company this past summer, that wish is now a reality.

Particle revealed on Wednesday that its first acquisition is Banksy’s Love Is in the Air (2005), which the Particle team acquired for $12.9 million at auction. The work has been segmented into 10,000 NFTs, each representing a unique section of the painting. An initial offering of Love Is in the Air will begin January 10 and run through January 14, allowing collectors a chance to purchase a Particle of the work for about $1,500. After the initial offering, the Particles will enter the secondary market across NFT platforms and there’s no telling how they might change in value.

The physical version of Love Is in the Air will be handed over to Particle Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the company that will maintain, preserve, and tour the work so that collectors can see the pieces they can rightfully claim to own. Royalties received in the resale of Particles (like all NFTs, Particles are attached to a smart contract that ensures a portion of the resale value is returned to the creator of the NFT) will be partially used to fund Particle Foundation. And the foundation will also retain 1 percent of Love Is in the Air Particles to act, as a press release explains, “as a protective shard and ensure no one person can envisage claiming possession of the physical painting.”

With the entanglements intrinsic to the fact that each Particle will fluctuate in value across a vast and changing collector base, it would be intensely complicated to ever attempt to sell the physical work. To make a comparison: For a company like Rally, which fractionalizes ownership of collectibles in a more traditional manner, the sale of an entire object or work is the only way for collectors to see a return on their investment. Currently, some 5,500 joint holders of a copy of the Declaration of Independence are voting on whether or not to sell the historical document. If they decide to sell together as a group, they’ll all get their investment returned, and potentially more.

Crypto wallets at the ready Sotheby's to accept live bidding in ethereum on two Banksy works

November 13th, 2021

Crypto wallets at the ready Sotheby

In its relentless effort to secure the title of most crypto-forward auction house, Sotheby's will next week accept live bids in the form of the cryptocurrency ethereum (ETH) for physical works of art.

For the time being the new gimmick will apply to two works, both by Banksy, which are being sold at Sotheby's inaugural The Now Evening Auction on 17 November in New York. Here Sotheby's chairman Oliver Barker will announce bids in increments of both ETH and USD; the winning bidders will have the option of paying the hammer price for each work in fiat currency or in the three cryptocurrencies accepted by Sotheby’s: ETH, Bitcoin (BTC), and USD Coin (USDC). The buyer's premium must still be paid in fiat currency.

Love is in the Air (2006) is a classic flower thrower Banksy canvas work and comes with an estimate of $4m to $6m. Meanwhile, Trolley Hunters (2006), a unique work depicting three prehistoric men in a savannah hunting for empty shopping trolleys, will make its auction debut. Described by the auction house with little trace of irony as "an indictment against the excesses of consumerist society", it is offered at $5m-$7m. The identity of their consignors remains anonymous, although both works were purchased in 2007 from Banksy's longtime London dealer Steve Lazarides. Both are verified by the artists's authentication body Pest Control.

Banksy recently made his auction record at Sotheby's, achieving £16m (£18.5m with fees) for the famously shredded Love is in the Bin, which sold to an Asian bidder at last month's contemporary evening sale in London.
"Banksy is an artist whose work is popular with young collectors, many of whom are also crypto conversant, so there is a natural overlap in audience that we want to tap into," says Alex Branczik, chairman for Modern and contemporary art. He adds: "His work appeals to the crypto community because of a shared sense of being part of a movement that is not of the mainstream, and that anti-establishment mindset creates a connection between the two".

Previously Sotheby's became the first auction house to accept ETH as a form of payment for a physical work of art, also by Bansky. It also recently announced the launch of Sotheby's Metaverse, an online platform designed for the selling, exhibition and discussion of NFTs.

"To take the bidding process even further by announcing [bids] in ETH only shows the ways in which cryptocurrency continues to become more a part of our business," Branczik says. "With each new sale that we offer with crypto, we see increasing numbers of new bidders from that world engage with us, and we hope this will encourage even more."

 

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