Before Rarible: How the art industry’s doors were broken down by crypto-art and NFTs

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Art has always been part of human history and culture. With the advent of the internet and technologies like blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, and coding libraries like p5JS for JavaScript, technology has altered the method in which art is created, bought and sold. In fact, the entire pipeline from how art is displayed, how it’s paid for, and how ownership is exchanged from artist to buyer, has all changed drastically thanks to these advancements in technology. One art trading platform in particular, Rarible, is an NFT platform for digital works which facilitates the creation, sale, and purchase of ownership to a digital work of art via these NFTs, or, Non-Fungible Tokens. However, the focus isn’t necessarily on how these cryptocurrencies have affected the art industry, rather the focus is on how viewing, buying and selling art can now be done within the comfort of one’s own home, as well as preserving one’s anonymity whilst buying or selling art.

Nowadays, people can scroll through websites like Rarible to browse through collections of art. Not only that, but anyone can upload a work of art onto Rarible and set it for sale. Rarible creates another pipeline of access into the art world, since anything can be considered art, and everyone can create art now and upload it to the website. Not only that, but people are now able to bid in online auctions, and quickly complete transactions. These processes which used to be completed completely in person are now much faster and have increased the number of art sales globally.

In fact, a lot of Rarible users now use a lot of technologies like JavaScript libraries and apps like Procreate or Photoshop to create their art. This means that everything from creation to transfer of ownership for these art pieces are completely virtual. But what was the art trading/buying/selling industry like before the conception of these useful technologies and the internet?

Prior to the internet, people used physical materials, like oils on canvas, to create art pieces. Art isn’t a new phenomenon, in fact, ancient civilizations created art on cave walls, on papyrus, and even in clay or stone. Art, one can argue, is a form of technology humanity has used to carry meaning through the millennia, even prior to the invention of writing. How did people buy or sell art just before the internet, however?

Buying and selling art used to be a VIP experience due to the reliance on a network of relationships between auction houses, art dealers, gallerists, collectors and advisors, and artists, which presented a huge barrier to entry. Since personal relationships between art collectors and the rest of the art community can only be forged over a long duration of time, it was nearly impossible to enter that realm quickly or as someone who wasn’t a famous person or had political or social influence. The lucky few had access to auction houses or art galleries where they could browse through collections of art (in-person, of course) and buy artwork through those institutions. However, paying for an art purchase was time consuming, since buyers had to wait for clearance from banks or other third parties to validate the transaction. To sum up, prior to the internet, there have been many hurdles the average person had to overcome in order to participate in the art industry.

Despite the promise the crypto-art industry shows, the world continues to remain dominated by elite art auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Despite the fact that the art industry doesn’t feel threatened by websites like Rarible or OpenSea (another NFT trading platform), there is definitely a new ease of access for the average person who does want to invest in art. Blockchain has sped up transactions and reduced the amount of time it takes to authenticate a work of art, as well as protects the privacy of its users and authenticates transactions quickly. Augmented reality allows people to preview how the art piece will look like on their wall before buying it. These new technologies have definitely improved a lot of road-blocks people were facing with the way that art was being bought and sold in the past.

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