NFTs, chaos in the art world: the must-see Arte documentary

[26 Jan 2024]

Non-Fungible Tokens – or NFTs as they are known – promise to transform the art market: fewer intermediaries, more money for artists, fewer barriers to entry for collectors. […] Let me guide you through the labyrinth of future possibilities”… says the artificially generated female voice that kicks off the new documentary broadcast by the Arte TV channel in three 20-minute episodes, available in French, German, English, Spanish, Italian and Polish.

NFT : Chaos in the Art Market

The mini-series “NFT, chaos in the art world” produced by Brice Lambert gives the floor to a range of professionals all differently connected to the crypto-art universe, including the artist Stellabelle, Jean-Michel Pailhon (the co-founder of Grail Capital and former V-P of Ledger), Léa Duhem, Jessy S. and Annelise Stern from the GXRLS Revolution Collective, Primavera De Filippi, a university researcher, and thierry Ehrmann, visual artist and CEO of Artprice by

Sixty-nine million dollars for a JPEG. The world has gone crazy” (says the voiceover)

The documentary looks back at the frenzy that followed the March 2021 sale of BEEPLE (1981)’s The first 5,000 days (2021) for $69 million. This extraordinary auction result (even for highly prestigious Christie’s auction house) suddenly revealed to the whole world the acronym NFT (although it had already existed since 2017), and it precipitated a rush to buy NFTs with many buyers hardly understanding what they were buying, while others just saw speculative opportunities. The following months in 2021 became what many have referred to as the “JPEG Summer”.

Two and a half years later, the art world is still confused about the value of these works. Art sociologist, Alain Quemin, sums up saying: “To this day, unfortunately, I still haven’t seen any creations that would seem interesting enough to me to justify their being considered as a completely new or different artistic medium”. However, for the artist and collector OSF, NFTs represent, on the contrary, a true mirror of our time and one that has enormous stylistic originality: “it’s gonna be a genre-defining period of art. You just have to realize it”. True, certain comparisons can indeed be made with Pop-Art, which wanted to elevate popular art to the status of high art… and which succeeded in doing so with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, etc.

The artist has returned to center stage in the Art Market” (thierry Ehrmann)

The three episodes that make up the mini-series, successively titled Utopia, Money is King and Disillusionment, make no attempt to minimize the problems – and even contradictions – that NFTs encounter. Built around a philosophy of decentralization that has been made possible by the development of Blockchain technology, NFTs have suffered from the proliferation of illegitimate and/or fake creators, as well as certain aggressive decision-making by NFT vendor platforms (such as the elimination of commissions on Opensea). The result has been the proliferation of a digital ‘Wild West’ that has undermined the confidence of artists and collectors and has made the need for the intervention of trusted third parties increasingly urgent.

In any case, as thierry Ehrmann stresses, “NFTs have undoubtedly entered Art History, and not just through the back door! They incarnate an entire philosophy, an entire way of life, an entire science and, of course, the Internet which has become the largest media of humanity”.

The “NFT, chaos in the art world” series by Brice Lambert, a must-see on Arte