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Despite the recent market downturn, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) maintain their transformative potential within the digital art world, as explored in the recently released book, ‘The Story of NFTs: Artists, Innovation, and Democracy’. As the authors, Amy Whitaker and Nora Burnett Abrams, argue, NFTs have the capacity to democratize access to art and cultivate a sense of community among artists–while also helping to redistribute power and money.

The book tells the story of DADA, a platform initially created to foster global artistic collaboration, but that has evolved to create an ‘Invisible Economy’ in which art-making is separated from the market, and artists receive a universal basic income.

As detailed in the book, DADA’s work on automated payment systems for artists’ royalties helped establish royalty standards for NFT platforms such as OpenSea and SuperRare. These efforts demonstrate the political potential of blockchain, highlighting its ability to create new support mechanisms for artists and collective ownership models while reinvesting surplus into the arts.

DADA: Fostering Artistic Collaboration and Community

DADA, established by commercial illustrator Beatriz Ramos and writer Judy Mam in 2014, seeks to rectify the power imbalance in the art world where artists create value without retaining ownership. By encouraging artists to engage in visual conversations through drawing, DADA promotes creative collaboration and unity.

Established before the widespread recognition of NFTs, DADA offers a non-judgmental environment for artists to express themselves, create, and interact with others from all over the world.

The initial non-fungible token (NFT) collection from DADA, dubbed “Creeps & Weirdos,” arose from a visual discussions between artists and was organized by Ramos and Mam. Released on Halloween 2017, the project integrated secondary sales royalties for artists, reinvesting NFT sale revenues back into the community.

Invisible Economy: Decoupling Art from Market Forces and Advancing Royalty Standards

DADA’s “Invisible Economy” working groups aim to create a vision of a future where artistic creation is separate from market influence, fostering a communal economy that benefits all participants. This model suggested redistributing a significant portion of sales proceeds among active members, providing a type of universal basic income for artists.

Additionally, DADA’s groundbreaking work on automated payment systems for artists’ royalties prompted changes in NFT transactions. The contribution of Matt Kane and Sparrow Read was significant in formulating the royalty protocols for NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and SuperRare.

DADA’s efforts highlight the political and economic potential of blockchain, examining its ability to create new support mechanisms for artists and collective ownership models while reinvesting surplus into the arts.

As highlighted in the book, addressing crucial questions about economic sustainability, collaboration, and community practices concerning royalties and asset creation is essential as the world undergoes rapid change. Collective action can potentially lead to shifts in power structures and community governance models, contributing to the future of NFTs and the digital art world.

Embracing the Democratic Nature of Blockchain: Redistributing Power and Promoting Inclusion

The democratic elements of blockchain, including participation and inclusion, are central to the future of NFTs and the digital art world. This focus is shared by Whitaker and Burnett Abrams’ research and the work of numerous scholars and practitioners, who seek to explore the intersection of blockchain and art, offering a path toward a more equitable and inclusive future.

As detailed in Whitaker and Burnett Abrams’ book, the transformative potential of NFTs in the digital art world remains strong despite the recent NFT market downturn. By fostering global artistic collaboration, redefining economic models, and leveraging the political implications of blockchain, NFTs can continue to empower artists and promote a more inclusive and equitable world of art.

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