Power 100

Most influential people in 2021 in the contemporary artworld



Non-Human Entity - The specification for the ‘non-fungible token’

1 in 2021

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Nyan Cat

‘NFTs can represent ownership over digital or physical assets. We considered a diverse universe of assets, and we know you will dream up many more: Physical property – houses, unique artwork, Virtual collectables – unique pictures of kittens, collectable cards…’ Four years on from its publication, ‘ERC-721’, the specification for the ‘non-fungible token’ (on the Ethereum-based blockchain – other specifications exist) has upended the art market, bringing contemporary art and millennial meme culture crashing together. With projects such as CryptoPunks starting the craze for gamified virtual collectibles in 2017, ERC-721 turned data into virtual property, and the artworld began to realise that digital culture can be made rare. With staggering prices achieved for Beeple’s work in the last year, the art market has discovered a new generation of collectors, while artists around the world have discovered a way to market their art that bypasses the old art-dealer system. It’s hard to predict the long-term upset this bit of code will cause. But in 2021, all the old assumptions of the art market and art culture have been thrown into chaotic, creative uncertainty.

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