PE Ledger

Inside the NFT Rush: Crypto-Art Offers to Transform the World—But First, Throw a Couple of Dope Parties


The artist Xi Li speaks on a panel discussing “New Models of Artist Empowerment” on the second day of the NFT.NYC conference. “When I saw Ready Player One, I just wanted it to be true!” she exclaims about the new creative economy.

She’s alluding to Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film about a future dystopia in which civilization has crumbled into misery and the only option for survival is a treasure hunt in a corporate-controlled VR environment ruled by repeated pop culture.

“You won’t be able to deny it.” In evangelist mode, Li says, “Don’t fight the technology.” “Don’t get caught up in the details.”

What a wonderful example of artist empowerment!

The “conventional” art world—that of museums and biennials—has generally become defensive and inward-looking, focused on historical reckoning, in response to the various fears flowing through culture.

The crypto-art world is nearly the polar opposite: it’s all Big Ideas and a feeling of world-changing mission, as well as the new and now. It’s contagious and tempting, even if, as the Li quotation implies, the celebration of technological marvels appears to intentionally miss problems that are right in front of our eyes.


However, the stakes transcend far beyond the realm of art. As far as investors and tech disruptors are concerned—and they are undoubtedly the ones who are setting the direction of travel—promise crypto’s for art is really an amuse-bouche for what NFTs can do. I keep hearing at the conference that the digital-art frenzy is really a way to attract the public’s attention for this fresh and incomprehensible technology, which promises to be applied to every area of experience, culture, and the economy.

To ‘Infinity’ and Beyond

As I am exposed to a critical mass of people speaking from outside the visual-art side on Day 3 of NFT.NYC, the penultimate day, I get a sense of a near-future coming into view.

Music industry representatives appear to be quite enthusiastic about NFTs as a method to open up new revenue streams in the form of digital goods and as a vehicle for new types of brand-building. I hear NFTs offered as a solution to resurrect the music industry’s lost “middle class” at NFT.NYC.

Concertgoers who receive an NFT from early-career bands are apparently no longer fans. Those fans will now consider themselves investors in the band, with a vested financial interest in the band’s success in order to boost the value of their digital token.

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