In the past two years, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding art NFTs – not only among crypto investors and tech enthusiasts, but also among artists, collectors, and art curators. In 2021, NFT sales volume exceeded $23 billion, with art and collectibles accounting for almost half of that. This was almost the same size as the global online art trade, which totaled $13.3 billion in 2021, according to the UBS Art Market 2022 Report.
“No OG could have predicted that it would be art that would make a difference [NFTs] into the mainstream,” said VC and collector Ryan Zurrer at Christie’s 2022 Art+Tech Summit. This captures the landscape in the world of art NFTs well at the moment: while Web3 technology is helping artistic legacies reach a wider audience by making them more accessible in digitally innovative ways, art is also driving Web3 forward, since more and more artists and collectors are involved in the creation and recovery of existing art forms.
Meta-morphic, an art NFT project developed alongside LiveArt by Chinese artist Huang Yuxing, represents one such marriage of Web3 and art.
SEE ALSO: Understanding Metamorphic: A Meeting of Nature, Life and Technology
Born in Beijing in 1975, Huang Yuxing is one of China’s most renowned contemporary artists. His work is easily recognized for infusing ultra-contemporary neon tones and bold abstractions into meditative scenes of nature. Huang has been in high demand in the art market in recent years. In his most recent auction, the work Seven treasure pines (2016–19) was sold at Christie’s for HK$64.8 million ($8.3 million).
The concept of “Meta-morphic” is based on Huang Yuxing’s thoughts and feelings about nature expressed through ores: the collection consists of 2,197 NFTs with seven types of minerals and gemstones, all created by the artistic direction of the London-based company were generated by Hato design studio and Plinth production company, and derived from unpublished works by Huang Yuxing.
The seven treasures are coral, agate, pearl, gold, silver, shell and turquoise, each symbolizing a unique blessing and embodying both humanistic and philosophical connotations. Gems are minerals that have evolved deep within the earth over tens of thousands of years, just like the meteorites from the universe. The different types and patterns of ores therefore represent traces of the movement of the universe over millions of years. In a way, Erz is both a witness and recorder of change.
Time, change and the power of (and in) the universe – these are some of the elements that have been inherent in Huang as an artist since his youth. “A small piece of stone actually contains the secret of the entire universe. A stone can be interpreted as a planet or a comet. At the same time, it also represents some kind of force or power. It can be infinitely large and infinitely small. It contains the energy of the entire universe and could hold the key to understanding the mysteries of the universe. But now it’s a very small and fragmented object,” Huang Yuxing said in a 2008 interview.
Looking at Huang’s work, one can feel the flow of life. Through stones, Huang also reflects on the fragility of individual life, not only in human history but also in the history of nature and ultimately the universe. “[I realized] how one’s life story as an individual is immensely fragile and so easily rewritten. A cold can rewrite your life story, and a doctor who invents a new drug can also change your life story.” Such considerations are particularly relevant in today’s post-Covid world, where uncertainties and changes – generated by a small virus, which, like minerals, is both large and small at the same time, representing both the power and the fragility of life – occurring in every aspect, at every level and for every country, society, profession, ethnicity, family and ultimately to everyone passed on to individuals and translated into their life experiences.
“Meta-morphic” continues exactly these thoughts and concepts that have evolved over the years as Huang delved deeper into his creation. Through this series, Huang Yuxing hopes to make the audience understand the mystery of the changing nature of the universe and the beauty of natural philosophy, and give them the blessings contained in the seven treasures.
Marisa Kayyem, LiveArt’s chief curator and art consultant, commented in a recent interview that Huang Yuxing’s work has “a sense of discovery and magic, a connectedness,” which “Meta-morphic” seeks to convey by taking collectors on a journey through Huang’s creative journey and into his vision of nature and creation.
Unlike Huang Yuxing’s previous works in the Web2 world, “Meta-morphic” is a unique series that embodies the beauty of cryptography. Each NFT symbolizes a gem floating in multidimensional space with different shapes and connotations.
But the meaning of “Meta-morphic” and other artistic NFT projects goes beyond pure form and aesthetics. As mentioned earlier, the combination of Web3 technology and art has served educational and accessibility purposes. Artistic works can reach new audiences once they are recreated as digital art and imprinted on the blockchain (which means they are published to be sold, bought and traded). People who are not frequent gallery visitors due to economic reasons or simply lack of interest can now access innovative art that not only carries the traditional artistic value in the Web2 world, but also the magic and beauty of Web3 technology. As Huang Yuxing himself noted, “Before [Meta-morphic]I have mainly worked with collectors and for gallery goers… Now I want to reach new collectors and different audiences through the LiveArt platform.”
For the art world, Web3 also helps solve the problem of the so-called origin, or the history of ownership of a particular work of art that authenticates the work of art in question. With blockchain technology, a work of art’s ownership and trade history is no longer lost or damaged in scenarios such as wars and natural disasters, as was the case with many classic works of hundreds or even decades. However, once an NFT has been purchased, it does not mean that the purchaser has exclusive rights to that work. On the contrary, these sold works can still be found online as high-quality images. In this sense, NFTs are a way to democratize art.
However, promoting the spread of art NFTs and art in general requires more than just an artist and collector recognizing the collectibles.
For artists immersed in creation, the NFT concept can be too abstract and novel to implement, not to mention the fact that certain technical obstacles can prevent them from even trying. On the other hand, it can be difficult for NFT buyers to find works with real artistic value given the massive amount of NFTs in crypto’s speculative atmosphere. This is where platforms like LiveArt fit into the picture.
Positioned as “the Web3 platform for art and culture”, LiveArt was founded by a team of prominent art consultants, crypto pioneers and market experts, including Adam Chinn, former COO of Sotheby’s, John Auerbach, who was an executive at Sotheby’s and Sotheby’s Christie’s and Boris Pevzner, founder of Collectrium, a global digital platform for managing and trading art and high-quality collectibles, acquired by Christie’s in 2017.
For these three co-founders, NFTs promise a brand new era for the arts industry. Artists and communities in the crypto world have built an unprecedented marketplace from the ground up, and in the longer term, NFTs could forever change the way physical art is traded.
With this realization, LiveArt aims to bridge the gap between Web2 and Web3 by mediating the divide between artists and NFT collectors. Specifically, LiveArt helps artists manage everything from NFT distribution and licensing to metadata storage and more, creating a safe and easy way for artists to publish their works on the blockchain. On the other hand, with its founders’ extensive experience in the traditional art industry, LiveArt has some of the most outstanding art resources and offers NFT buyers the opportunity to identify projects with real artistic value.
“A lot of us are living our lives digitally these days, so that’s adding more and more incredible artists like Huang [Web3] and experimenting with digital tools, the acceptance of digital art in the traditional world is accelerating. On the other hand, I believe that NFTs have brought the art world closer to a lot of people who previously felt excluded, and they give people the opportunity to interact with creators and hear directly from the artists…[They] undermine the exclusivity of the traditional art world. I believe the future of NFTs and digital art is very bright,” said LiveArt’s Marisa Kayyem.