As the saying goes, art is in the eye of the beholder. However, not according to the editors at Wikipedia, as the popular online encyclopedia has controversially decided not to classify the ever-growingly popular NFTs as art.
In the art world, 2021 will be known as the year of NFTs. While not a new concept, it wasn’t until early in the year that NFTs really took off, with the introduction of communities such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Low Effort Punks. In many ways, NFTs have come to represent an opportunity for artists to bypass traditional gatekeepers and sell their work independently.
Everyone's favorite source of celebrity heights and birthdays, however, isn't so hot on the idea that NFTs are a form of art.
🚨 Art Emergency!! 🚨— Duncan Cock Foster (@DCCockFoster) January 12, 2022
There is a debate happening rn on @Wikipedia that has the potential to * officially categorize NFTs as ‘not art’ on all of Wikipedia. *
Wikipedia is a global source of truth. Having NFTs categorized as ‘not art’ would be a disaster!
A Wikipedia editor claimed that “Wikipedia really can’t be in the business of deciding what counts as art or not, which is why putting NFTs, art or not, in their own list makes things a lot simpler. There’s a separate issue of artificial price inflation of NFTs, though that’s something that would need to be decided in the NFT list and not here.”
One pro-NFT editor (must be lonely) responded, “How can we have a consensus when, from the start, I have argued in support of including NFTs on this list. The overwhelming evidence from secondary sources places NFT art as art and thus worthy of inclusion on this list. If we agree Beeple and Pak are artists, why would their sales not count on this list? I don’t understand the logic here.”
Most expensive artworks by living artists, on Wikipedia as of Jan. 16, 2022.
The artwork at the heart of this debate was Merge by the artist Pak. The piece was created by the merging of tokens purchased by 30,000 collectors and sold for a stonking $91.8 million - the largest public sale ever of artwork by a living artist. Wikipedia decided to big-fat not include it in a list of the most expensive artworks, due to how it was formed.
Pak wasn't having it, saying that Merge is "a single piece not because I say so, but because every token effects each other. So it's not a set of tokens, it's actually one algorithm designed to work in a distributed structure. As a result, arguing that Merge is "many artworks" isn't accurate; it's like claiming that every brush stroke on the Mona Lisa is a new painting.”
This is pretty messed up to see - Wikipedia mods are trying to say that *no* NFT can be art - as in, if its an NFT, it can’t be classified as art.— Griffin Cock Foster (@gcockfoster) January 12, 2022
Not all NFTs are art - its a flexible medium after all - but many are 100% art. Take action and spread the word! https://t.co/Ewk4cGH2XH
If classified as art on Wikipedia, Pak’s creation would rank eighth on the list, just behind Beeple’s NFT Everydays: The First 5000 Days, which sold for an eye-watering $69.3 million in March 2021, and would feature third on the most-expensive artworks list.
Duncan Cock Foster, co-founder of NFT platform Nifty Gateway, slammed Wikipedia on twitter for a lack of support of digital artists. “Wikipedia works off of precedent. If NFTs are classified as ‘not art’ on this page, then they will be classified as ‘not art’ on the rest of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the global source of truth for many around the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” he wrote. “Digital artists have been fighting for legitimacy their whole lives. We can’t let the Wikipedia editors set them back!”
Whilst NFTs haven’t won over everyone, this decision has wide-ranging impact given that Wikipedia is a source for “truth” globally. NFTs celebrate digital art as a true artistic medium, giving recognition and financial support to artists outside of non-traditional mediums and privileged circles. It’s important to remember that contemporary art wouldn’t be what it is today without the same spirit of upheaval embodied by NFTs.
So, what’s your say? NFTs, art or not art?