This New Crypto Marketplace Claims to Defy Lowbrow NFT Aesthetics

Saying it will eschew the lack of substance within most crypto art, a new NFT marketplace called Artwrld is attempting to introduce more renowned artists to the digital art sector.

Despite having taken the art world by storm and becoming a $40 billion industry over the past year, NFTs and crypto art have been widely criticized for lacking substance. (As a refresher, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital assets that represent a range of tangible and intangible items, from memes and collectible sports highlights to virtual art and furniture. Each one is individually identified on a blockchain, the most popular being Ethereum.) The naysayers have a point: most mainstream NFT series—CryptoPunks, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and CryptoSharks—consist of thousands of variations of a single image, and sell for six-plus figures despite mostly aesthetically underwhelming results. 

Artwrld, a newly launched NFT marketplace, seeks to elevate crypto art by bringing more established contemporary artists into the fray. The co-founders, former Creative Time chief curator Nato Thompson, CEO of the Bluecadet design agency Josh Goldblum, and media artist Walid Raad, envision Artwrld as a place where renowned artists can explore the creative potential of NFTs beyond tokenizing existing works as a cash grab. “We really have no interest in just taking people’s artwork and dumping it into a marketplace without any context, or monetizing something that was created for a different format,” Goldblum tells Artnet News. “We want to create work that really takes advantage of what Web3 can do.”

Shirin Neshat. Portrait by Rodolfo Martinez

So far, the platform has drummed up interest from the likes of Shirin Neshat, Swoon, and Jill Magid, who are all slated to create one-of-a-kind digital artworks—their initial foray into NFTs—for the platform. Each will be released in “drops” ranging from thousands of unique NFTs to just a few. Before that, Raad plans to create a series of computer-generated birthday cakes for dictators, sheikhs, presidents, and 20th-century rulers, called Festival of Gratitude, during Frieze New York in May. 

The crypto-art sphere might benefit from the presence of more seasoned artists. Detractors, however, note the market for new marketplaces is already very crowded. Platforms like Particle, Pace Verso, Aorist, and ArtOfficial have all launched in the past few months alone, joining OpenSea, Nifty Gateway, and SuperRare. That doesn’t faze Thompson: “More people getting used to a MetaMask wallet, more people understanding that NFTs are great opportunities for artists that are respectable is not a problem for us,” he says. An impending NFT recession, partially spurred by the war in Ukraine, global inflation, and interest rate hikes in the U.S., might be another story. 

We continue to monitor the NFT art with both skepticism and intrigue about the technology’s promise. But if every new marketplace claims to be cutting through the noise, who’s actually doing it?

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