Culture And The Art Market
By: Eric Alexander de Groot is a Global Educator, Serial Entrepreneur, and Art Investor
De Groot is the Founder of Art Delivers (SM) a proprietary software platform that is disrupting the non-for-profit industry, connecting art & artists with art aficionados, collectors, investors, and the mass market, to help communities in need and disaster areas worldwide.
In this article we are exploring the impact culture has had on art and vice versa, the importance of art and the art market, and the impact that technology is having on the current art market.
Emerging technology has greatly influenced processes of distribution and expression as Digital Art is not only a reality but here to stay. The same can be said about value, valuation, financial currencies (fiat & cryptocurrencies), and how alternative transactions over the past ten years have emerged, infiltrated, and taken shape.
Words like cryptocurrency and blockchain are the foundation of this digital art explosion.
The reason “why” is well beyond the bottom line and profit, as (the importance of) provenance, reputation, authenticity, sales, brand, copyright are all part and parcel of this phenomenon.
Nothing is the same. Embrace this new normal, breathe deep, and explore this brave new world.
Key Words: * Culture * Art * Art Market * Digital Art * Emerging Technology
Culture is THE most important word in the dictionary as it is not only created by humans; it defines us. In everything we do and create; We ARE culture.
From the moment we wake up, truly 24/7; we inhale culture, exhale culture, create culture, teach culture, pass on culture. Our lives are totally immersed and defined by culture.
Culture is shaped by the expression of humans. Expressions are instinctive, emotional, irrational, groundbreaking, misunderstood, motivational, inspirational, life-altering.
Art defined culture, as by way of sound, movement, and visual expression, initially on rocks, in caves, and out in the wild, where natural resources became papyrus, and paper, and ultimately, a variety of canvasses were created to capture that expression which became known as art.
The fact is that our lives are touched by art in a significant way, [it seems almost subconsciously] when confronted by the shapes, designs, and colors, as they penetrate our moods, minds, and hearts. You could make the case, that without these visual and performing expressions of art, we would or could not have survived Covid-19.
This pandemic has caused a reset worldwide – not only impacting our economies, but also evaluating the way we have been living, behaving, doing, and creating, and simultaneously thrusting the Art Market to the forefront, especially since technology has taken center stage.
We will be exploring Culture and The Art Market and how both are evolving in the 21st century and beyond, impacting and shaping [all] our lives, and the values we hold dear.
Before we explore Culture and The Art Market in the 21st Century, we need to understand what we are dealing with here as well as what we are trying to express in relation to both the words Culture and The Art Market.
Culture and The Art Market
Nothing endures but change, this applies to all our lives because of culture; the ongoing actions, disputes, discussions, disruptions, thoughts, and productions that propel us (relentlessly) into the future. What we do, think, and produce collectively is defined as culture.
This culture, approached from a global perspective, is different everywhere, as, throughout the ages, earth’s environments, harsh and pleasant, geographic location, available natural resources, human curiosity, conclusions and (public or private) leadership have all over the world – ‘locally’ shaped a society.
Through it all, Art was present, going back tens of thousands of years, or likely much longer, art impacted culture and culture impacted art. On Continents, this is exacerbated exponentially, as humans have to deal with different realities, resources, and reserves.
Trade, Trading, and Markets
Long before our modern market economy, people would trade in the form of bartering, they would literally exchange (trade) two products or exchange a service for a product (or service).
The history of bartering dates all the way back to 6000 BC. Introduced by Mesopotamia tribes, bartering was adopted by Phoenicians. In the Middle Ages, Europeans traveled around the globe to barter crafts and furs in exchange for silks and perfumes. Colonial Americans exchanged musket balls, deer skins, and wheat. (Anderson, 2020 for Intuit Mint Life)
Inventions such as the wheel or the Gutenberg press made a huge stamp on the human experience and this had a significant effect on trading, as time and distance and mass productions created a bigger market with more inventory, available well outside of ‘your’ local community.
Before we delve deeper into Culture and Art Market, we must explain and describe what has happened in the Art Market when it comes to emerging technologies.
The words we will examine include Fungible, Fungible Goods, Non-Fungible Goods, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s), Money, Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, and Digital Art.
- Fungible Goods
- Non-Fungible Goods
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s)
- Digital Art.
Let’s start with the word fungible, an unusual sounding word that many people have never heard of, including the author until a few years ago, who was introduced to the word and acronym ‘NFT’, this stands for the ever-increasing and highly popular (word) Non-Fungible Token, which we will cover in a moment.
For those of you who are familiar with the above, please skip past all these definitions listed below, which are important to understand the meaning, intricacies and impact on our new world of (digitally) creating, trading, and exchanging. In case you have never heard of them or simply want a refresher course, dig in:
Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of fungible.
Fungible: being something (such as money or a commodity) of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in paying a debt or settling an account. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary copyright © 2021)
What does fungible mean?
Fungibility is the ability of a good or asset to be interchanged with other individual goods or assets of the same type. Fungible assets simplify the exchange and trade processes, as fungibility implies equal value between the assets. Do you think bananas are fungible? (Investopedia 2021)
What Are Fungible Goods?
Fungibles goods refer to securities, or other items, that are equivalent or consist of many identical parts such that, for practical purposes, they are interchangeable. Material items, securities, and other financial instruments may be considered fungible goods. If goods are sold by weight or number, then they are probably not fungible goods. (Investopedia 2021)
Assets like diamonds, land, or baseball cards are not fungible because each unit has unique qualities that add or subtract value. For instance, because individual diamonds have different cuts, colors, sizes, and grades, they are not interchangeable, so they cannot be referred to as fungible goods. (Investopedia 2021)
What Is Money?
Money is an economic unit that functions as a generally recognized medium of exchange for transactional purposes in an economy. Money provides the service of reducing transaction costs, namely the double coincidence of wants. Money originates in the form of a commodity, having a physical property to be adopted by market participants as a medium of exchange. Money can be: market-determined, officially issued legal tender or fiat moneys, money substitutes and fiduciary media, and electronic cryptocurrencies. (Investopedia 2021)
What Is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)?
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are cryptographic assets on blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other. Unlike cryptocurrencies, they cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency. This differs from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and, therefore, can be used as a medium for commercial transactions. (Investopedia 2021)
What Is Cryptocurrency? Here’s What You Should Know
A cryptocurrency (or “crypto”) is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services but uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to secure online transactions. Much of the interest in these unregulated currencies is to trade for profit, with speculators at times driving prices skyward.
The most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has had volatile price moves this year, reaching nearly $65,000 in April before losing nearly half its value in May. FYI, there are thousands of cryptocurrencies, according to Investopedia, 4000!
One reason for this is the fact that there are more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies in existence as of January 2021. While many of these cryptos have little to no following or trading volume, some enjoy immense popularity among dedicated communities of backers and investors. (Investopedia 2021)
What Is a Crypto Commodity?
What Is a Crypto Commodity? Crypto-commodity is a general term used to describe a tradable or fungible asset that may represent a commodity, utility, or a contract in the real- or virtual world through exclusive tokens on a blockchain network.
Understanding Crypto Commodities
A quick dive into the evolutionary history of cryptocurrency platforms is helpful in understanding the concept of crypto-commodities. (Investopedia 2021)
If you have been following banking, investing, or cryptocurrency over the last ten years, you may have heard the term “blockchain,” the record-keeping technology behind the Bitcoin network.
- Blockchain is a specific type of database.
- It differs from a typical database in the way it stores information; blockchains store data in blocks that are then chained together.
- As new data comes in it is entered into a fresh block. Once the block is filled with data it is chained onto the previous block, which makes the data chained together in chronological order.
- Different types of information can be stored on a blockchain but the most common use so far has been as a ledger for transactions.
- In Bitcoin’s case, blockchain is used in a decentralized way so that no single person or group has control—rather, all users collectively retain control.
- Decentralized blockchains are immutable, which means that the data entered is irreversible. For Bitcoin, this means that transactions are permanently recorded and viewable to anyone.
What is Digital Art?
In its broadest extent sense, “digital art” refers to art that relies on computer-based digital encoding, or on the electronic storage and processing of information in different formats—text, numbers, images, sounds—in a common binary code. The ways in which art-making can incorporate computer-based digital encoding are extremely diverse. A digital photograph may be the product of a manipulated sample of visual information captured with a digital camera from a “live” scene or captured with a scanner from a traditional celluloid photograph. (Thompson-Jones, Katherine & Moser, Shelby copyright 2019. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Quote by Valentin Okorokov
“Without art, without beauty, our life would be poor, dull and devoid of emotion; even the human soul would suffer some form of erosion.” Valentin Okorokov
The global Covid-19 pandemic has not only affected us all, but it has also changed our way of life ‘forever’. In the eighties popular phrases included, ‘can you fax that to me’ (when the Fax machine was introduced. The first one we purchased was $8,000!) and now forty years later, virtual meetings are the norm, and we all (meet on) ‘Zoom’ together. (Virtually Free …)
Initially, the idea of WFH (Work From Home) was enthusiastically embraced, however many of us are having ‘buyer’s remorse’ – we can’t wait to meet at the Water Cooler in the office again and interact with colleagues or clients heart to heart and soul to soul. The clear downside of technology is that it eliminates a certain amount of ‘connection’, to really ‘feel’ or ‘get to know someone in person versus forging a 2-D relationship on a screen. (I choose In Person!)
The title of this article is Culture and The Art Market and the impact that one has had AND continues to have on the other. Similar to the question; ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ – is the culture impacting art more or art impacting culture more.
I do not believe there is a definitive answer, even if there are statistics available to prove one over the other. Moreover, we all have our personal life journeys, unique experiences, filters, and opinions and it may be hard to convince one over the other. In addition, perception these days appears to be reality.
The fact though is that Art saved us all since March of 2020 when Covid-19 broke out. Think about it: books, videos, Netflix, social media, sculptures, poetry, paintings, dance, concerts, all these visual and performing arts ‘kept us sane’. In that regard, you could make the case that artists and their art have a bigger impact on society and shape our culture (more) than the other way around.
However, because of technology, the internet, and the world wide web we are not only interconnected, but we are also globally wired and hooked up, looking at our personal digital assistants 24/7/365. Yes, the PDA, our mobile and cellphones devices keep us ‘up to date.
Whereas the artist has a specific message or expression that we see and consume, it could be that the crowd, interprets, sees, or understand this ‘piece of art differently and (somewhat) changes the intended creativity. (You see this more with visual art than with performing art, as one is ingested through the eye, the other the ear.)
Meanwhile, popular hosts, media stars, and or influencers can have a significant impact on the original art, depending on how they see, understand, or digest it, and when sharing with their ‘26 million’ followers on one of the social media platforms, the comment, upload or distribution could have a cultural impact – where this interpretation overshadows the original art.
Do not underestimate The Crowd, the followers, the masses, they create not only media sensations, viral videos but also trends, and collectively The Crowd wins. Depending on the ‘brand’ of the artist, the crowd (and their culture) may ‘hands down’ beat the artist and their art.
This leads me to address Digital Art and the fact that there are now actually two Art Markets.
The Original Art Market:
The art market is the marketplace of buyers and sellers trading in commodities, services, and works of art. Moreover, the market is not transparent; private sales data is not systematically available, and private sales represent about half of the market transactions.
Transactions used to be exclusively by galleries large and small, though online sales are a reality:
In 2019, online art sales amounted to approximately 4.82 billion U.S. dollars, up by four percent over the previous year. Worldwide, the estimated value of the online art market is forecast to reach a total of 9.32 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. (© Statista GmbH Hamburg, Germany 2021)
The Digital Art Market
Next, Digital Art and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) are taking center stage. Moreover, they are going mainstream and even the famous auction houses are getting involved. Did you know that
“Everyday — The First 5000 Days,” by the artist known as Beeple, set a record for digital artwork in a sale at Christie’s. The piece of art sold during an online auction for $69.3 Million!
(Reyburn, 2021, NYT Published March 11, 2021, Updated March 25, 2021, Source: JPG File Sells for $69 Million, as ‘NFT Mania’ Gathers Pace)
The buyer did not come with Yen, Euros, or US Dollars, they paid with cryptocurrency (so who knows what that is worth in today’s terms), still, this sale ‘shook the world’, immediately being valued higher than a van Gogh, Monet or Delacroix. The point being, what used to be the ‘elite of elites; the absolute top painters, pure name droppers, or when considering value and valuation it was immediately overshadowed (in sales price) by Digital Art. Obviously, money is not worth as much as it used to be, still, Digital Art and NFT’s are fetching prices that are‘ out of this universe!’
This New Media is something you should not dismiss, and NFT’s should likely also be considered as an asset class in your (investment) portfolio. I highly suggest you read up on it, just like streaming platforms will not go away, neither will Digital Art or NFT’s.
Want to read more about it? An excellent article by Marie Chantel entitled: What is Digital Art? Definition and Scope of the New Media can be found here: https://medium.com/digital-art-weekly/what-is-digital-art-definition-and-scope-of-the-new-media-f645058cfd78 (Chantel, 2018
for DANAE, danae.io)
To read up more about NFT’s, consider:
NFTS ARE IGNITING A DIGITAL ART EXPLOSION– HERE’S HOW
An intro to the acronym you’ve been seeing all over your Twitter feed. (By cryptokid901 – for Alternative Press April 6, 2021)
I think we can all agree on a few things, culture and art both shape our world, personally, privately, emotionally, psychologically, financially and in so many more ways. It is not really whether culture impacts art or art impacts culture, it is the fact that both exist, and we are all the better for it. Truly our souls yearn for expression; expressions by artists individually as well as expressions by the crowd, collectively, we need these shapes, colors, designs, materials, notes, moves, and thoughts to get through life. Imagine your apartment, house, or condo without art, walking into office buildings without art, or entering an office without art, it is stale and sends an immediate message to our brain, what kind of an organization you are dealing with. You want colors, you want to design, you want something that is welcoming, in more than one way. The importance of art cannot be described or celebrated enough, especially its healing powers. Art these days is also prescribed by physicians, instead of pills it is now ‘tickets to go to the museum.’ Data shows that all ‘patients’ greatly improved after the visits.
Yes, due to the pandemic the art market shrank by 22% in 2020, down from $64.4 billion in sales in 2019 to $50.1 billion last year, though emerging technologies, including the digital art market, will not only find an audience worldwide, online sales will continue to increase exponentially.
There are many ways to express what the fundamental purpose is, and I enjoyed this one a lot:
“A fundamental purpose common to most art forms is the underlying intention to appeal to, and connect with, human emotion. However, the term is incredibly broad and is broken up into numerous sub-categories that lead to utilitarian, decorative, therapeutic, communicative, and intellectual ends. In its broadest form, art may be considered an exploration of the human condition, or a product of the human experience.”
“Art can function therapeutically as well, an idea that is explored in art therapy. While definitions and practices vary, art therapy is generally understood as a form of therapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. It is a relatively young discipline, first introduced around the mid-20th century.”
“Historically, the fine arts were meant to appeal to the human intellect, though currently there are no true boundaries. Typically, fine art movements have reacted to each other both intellectually and aesthetically throughout the ages. With the introduction of conceptual art and postmodern theory, practically anything can be termed art. In general terms, the fine arts represent an exploration of the human condition and the attempt to experience a deeper understanding of life.” (Lumen Learning © 2017 Lumen Learning. Lumen Learning, Candela)
Culture, Art, and The Art Market will always be in our lives and continue to play a very important role everywhere we roam, whether at home, at work, in local communities, cities, countries and continents, and across the world. Do your part to promote art by sharing posts, visiting exhibitions, supporting artists, and making sure that you buy a piece of art, and enhance your space, your wall, your life – with that raw, authentic, and creative expression. Just like we are all part of nature, so are art and culture – a part of us.
#TikkunOlam, heal & repair the world – through Art!
Culture and The Art Market
#1: Anderson, Kelly (2020, revised 2021) Guide to the Barter Economy & the Barter System History, Intuit Mint Life https://mint.intuit.com/blog/personal-finance/guide-to-the-barter-economy-the-barter-system-history/
#2: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary copyright © 2021 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
#3: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#4: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#5: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#6: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#7: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#8: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#9: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#10: Investopedia copyright © 2021 Copyright Agent c/o About, Inc.
#12: Statista, Hamburg, Germany. Estimated value of the online art market worldwide from 2013 to 2019, with a forecast for 2024 © Statista 2021 Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/284586/global-online-art-market-sales-2013/
#13: Reyburn, Scott, Published March 11, 2021, Updated March 25, 2021, Source: JPG File Sells for $69 Million, as ‘NFT Mania’ Gathers Pace https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/11/arts/design/nft-auction-christies-beeple.html
#14: Chantel, Marie 2018, What is Digital Art? Definition and Scope of the New Media for DANAE, danae.io Source: https://medium.com/digital-art-weekly/what-is-digital-art-definition-and-scope-of-the-new-media-f645058cfd78
#15: cryptokid901 for Alternative Press – April 6, 2021 Source: https://www.altpress.com/features/nfts-digital-art-explained/
#16: Lumen Learning © 2017 Lumen Learning. Lumen Learning, Candela, Waymaker, Lumen Online Homework Manager (OHM), and the Lumen logo are trademarks of Lumen Learning. Source: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/what-is-art/
Downloaded from a variety of online sources, see above.
Acknowledging; All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
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