“With the NFT of ’20 minutes’, we are between history and art history”, according to Frédéric Chambre, director of Piasa

Piasa writes history. The French auction house has decided to embark on the NFT adventure with 20 minutes by organizing the first public sale of a digital work in France. Next October 19, NFT and the offset printing plate of the supplement Roaring 2020s will be auctioned off by Piasa together in a single batch and the money raised will be donated to the Security Fund of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). This is the first in France, and for the occasion, Frédéric Chambre, auctioneer and CEO of Piasa, analyzes the madness of cryptographic tokens shaking the international art market. Above all, he explains why he wanted to embark on this artistic-journalistic adventure.

Why did you decide to support “20 Minutes” in this NFT auction project?

The project built by 20 minutes is very smart. Through your NFT [le supplément Les folles années 2020], you tackle social phenomena (artificial intelligence, eco-anxiety, world madness, etc.) and at the same time you create a new medium, the NFT itself, linked to the art market. NFT is a new look that questions how to collect, what to collect, how to live with a work of art. We live differently with an NFT than with a physical work of art, that is not why the latter disappears. There will always be this sensitivity to something tangible.

In your opinion, do NFTs have a future in contemporary art?

I think they will be part of a sustainable development of artistic creation. It should not be turned into a volatile phenomenon, otherwise it risks becoming volatile. Today, NFTs are pegged to cryptocurrencies instead of being considered works of art. Just because there is cryptocurrency does not mean there are NFT collectors. In art history, we have known of artistic currents where one should suddenly be shocked. With NFTs, we are in something else. It is the support and the way of acquiring the work of art that is changing. It is a new way of collecting through taste, moods and sensitivity.

How do you explain that NFTs, hitherto reserved for the crypto-world, have experienced such an explosion in a world of more classical art?

The Covid-19 epidemic has been there. The two largest auction houses in the world [Sotheby’s et Christie’s] initiated this phenomenon in late 2019 or early 2020. There was no more human contact, no more travel, we had to keep communicating and making people dream. Suddenly the question arose: how to proceed to create different looks? NFT therefore imposed itself naturally. But sometimes the world will go too fast, and this artistic current should not be reduced to a fashion phenomenon.

You do not believe in the speculative bubble, but do you believe that prices will collapse?

There are no benchmarks. I do not know how to explain the prices. It is almost unbelievable that an NFT can be sold for 57 million euros [une œuvre de l’artiste américain Beeple a été vendue en mars 2021 pour 69,3 millions de dollars par la maison d’enchères Christie’s] when there may be ten Van Goghs in the world that may be worth the price. It is also linked to the very modern market, which is moving very, very fast. At the end of the 19th century it was necessary to organize two, three, four exhibitions for an artist to be inaugurated, it went slowly. In the 1950s, a $ 400,000 artist was not immediately seen for sale. It was a hike, one had to climb peaks to get up to this level. Recognition is a work, an artist and his relationship with a gallery owner whose gaze, clientele and ability to persuade contribute to his success. In contrast, the NFT lives for itself. It is rare in art history to see an artist with almost no reference, no dealer, with no international visibility, worth more than $ 50 million.

NFT also makes it possible to buy a bit of digital history with, for example, the source code for the Web of Tim Berners-Lee sold in July for $ 5.4 million …

You are buying a history page. It’s like Bill Gates buying Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci we are between art and history. Buying source code from the internet is buying something historical. We go into history with a capital H.

A bit like the NFT of “20 Minutes”?

There was a reflection, a collaboration that is the offset printing plate that comes with the NFT. Maybe we are more on a history page than in art history. We can almost assimilate NFT of 20 minutes to a manuscript. When you buy an Einstein manuscript, you buy the story. With the project of 20 minuteswe are between the two.

Do you think the advent of NFTs could disrupt the very notion of a work of art?

No, I think not. On a similar domain, we can consider that video is a medium not so far from NFT. You have to plug it in to see it and if it does not work it is a black box. It has been an integral part of contemporary artists’ gaze. There will be artists who will acquire NFT as a working medium. From antiquity to the present day, the art market has gone through all the centuries. We still collect Greek and Roman sculptures. We will not stop tomorrow because there has been modern art, contemporary art, the ability to reproduce sculptures with 3D printers … We come to NFTs because there have been more than twenty centuries of reflection, evolution, disappearance, rebirth … We are in a system of continuity. There are trend phenomena.

Could NFTs facilitate the concept art market?

I do not think. NFT wants its true existence from the moment it creates something unique. He must create his own identity. Sell ​​a movement, a choreography, a beat, why not. But when analyzing art history in the 1960s-1970s-1980s, almost everything is already done. NFT will draw its power and strength from its unique character. If he starts reproducing things that we have been able to on video, or that we are able to do in front of an audience, there is not that much interest.

NFTs still seem to be looking for themselves …

Impressionism was not born in fifteen seconds, nor was Cubism or Surrealism. There is always an elaboration, a reflection. Cubism starts from Ladies from Avignon by Picasso, after there are exchanges between Braque and Picasso … We deconstruct, we insert, we use things that we have never put on canvas. NFT is in the same development trend. It is looking for itself as an artistic current, so it will evolve. But the NFT must channel itself. If he goes all over the place and wants to touch everything, he will no longer have a unique influence. He must find his place in history. Today we are more in an NFT system that displaces the artist. You have created an NFT, but the important thing is the work. You use NFT-related technology to make it unique.

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