NFT art can do a lot to promote diversity and equality. Moniker Culture curator Tina Ziegler believes NFT art can do so much more than it's currently being used for, particularly to encourage women to get into art and engage with the finances behind the modern art industry.
Works from World of Women were joined by art from Boss Beauties and Women Rise, the creation of acclaimed international visual artist Maliha Abidi. The event shone a spotlight on 20 female artists and NFT projects for International Women’s Month. Our guide to what are NFTs will help you understand this new medium, as will our feature on the how to create an NFT for free.
"I really wanted to show them, the visionaries, the women that are leading this NFT space and they've really carved the road for many, many artists to follow," says Ziegler, who sees NFTs as having an unprecedented impact on art.
"It's super empowering," she continues. "A lot of these women-led projects are all about empowerment. And there are a lot of educational platforms through their projects; they're giving money back to the community, they're setting up artists grants, they're funding organisations for women around the world. I think it's revolutionary."
With NFT art, the stats matter
Ziegler has spent years in the traditional art world, curating shows globally and is not surprised by the take-up stats for NFTs; only around 16% of all NFTs are owned by women according to an NFT art market report from ArtTactic report.
"Oh my God, how shocking. Where have you been? Have you been under a rock? Women have never had an equal seat," she half-jokes. "I've been hearing these stats since I was a kid, and I've seen it running an art fair and running my own business. I tend to be the only woman around the table." (See our piece on design's gender problem for more about this).
The difference is NFTs are changing the dynamic. While those stats are from November last year, a recent survey reveals one third of women plan to buy crypto this year. Women are becoming more active in NFTs and cryptocurrencies, and their art is some of the best.
From the youngest to the more established female artists creating NFTs, Ziegler says the exhibition is to show a "360 degree view from where I sit". This show is very personal to the curator who has been torchbearer for contemporary and urban art since 2008. "It's very personal," she says. "But I just wanted to show the real talent that's really in this space."
One of Ziegler's favourites is Andrea Love who makes felt animations but everything is "really tiny". Small champagne bottles, little tiny plates, and petite trainers. Love's stop-motion animation can only exist online. Likewise, Ziegler points out NFT Car Girl, a 20-year-old who creates immaculate renders of cars and places them in unusual spaces. (To find artists like NFT Car Girl on the best NFT marketplaces, read our guide for more.)
Time to re-learn 'what is art'
NFT trends take in everything from digital art to music and games. It's this mix of mediums and styles that has led Ziegler to see NFTs as a new beginning, "It's been a huge eye opener for me to see how much talent there is in this space. It's kind of like starting all over again, to learn about art."
Ziegler has spent years working in the physical art world and has curated over 300 exhibitions. She says you get used to what you know – "oh, it's an oil painting. It's an acrylic painting. It's a watercolour" – and then NFTs and this new form of digital art comes along and tears up the rulebook.
“I had that lightbulb moment with what NFT's could do, not just for art, but for every industry you can think of. I was like, 'this is gonna revolutionise the world'. It was just so exciting," she says.
Ziegler explains how many people have perhaps lost focus on what NFTs are and become obsessed with animated GIFs that sell for millions of dollars. This is the initial introduction to NFT art, and if you scratch below the surface of poorly drawn illustrations and discover what NFTs can do, it's an eye-opener.
She tells us: "When you look into what NFT's can do, how the smart contracts work, the relationship that you can have with people globally through the blockchain, you know, the barriers that are lifted.
"It's phenomenal, and it's really going to disrupt every single industry. So I think all the people that are not on board yet, to be honest, they don't have a choice, because it's all going in that direction. And once they realise that they can take ownership of everything they do, from property to what films you want to invest in and watch to what restaurants you want to eat at – everything can be channelled through non-fungible tokens – and that's really exciting.”
Every art medium is covered by NFTs
NFTs for Ziegler are about breaking down barriers, the kind of impediments she's faced in the traditional art world for years. When she attends an NFT event or community event Ziegler says she's struck by the equality in the room.
"Not only is it gender equal but it's also demographic; ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, it's it's extremely balanced. The NFT space is really about whoever wants to get into it, there aren't really any barriers other than education and spending time on your computer, which of course might be different for people. But if you have internet access, you are just as accepted as anyone else into this space.”
For Ziegler this level playing field offered by NFTs stretches to financial freedom. Because the art is created on a blockchain it means you can build a collection, put it up, and sell it globally. For women in particular this can be a hugely freeing moment to take control of their finances. It does mean you need to know your NFT crypto, choosing one that fits your art is crucial but it doesn't hold anyone back.
"We've seen story after story of people's lives completely changing," says Ziegler. "Think of just some of the people that bought the first NTFs from some of these major collections, they are selling now for millions, [and] it's common people."
These aren't connected art dealers getting in on Banksy before others knew of him. These are people with lots of money to invest and speculate with. Those who bought NFTs in 2020 and 2021 were fans of technology and digital artists who just loved the idea of what NFTs can do.
“But it just shows you that there's a global community of people that are sick of how the system works," says Ziegler. "Now if you have a skill or a talent you can put it up on the blockchain, put it up on a marketplace, build a collection, start talking about it on Twitter, or on your Instagram and right there directly, you're talking to your client. There's no middleman, there's no gallery you have to go through. And that is revolutionary.”
NFTs are more than a jpeg
The rise of NFTs has often raised an eyebrow, and Ziegler is the first to suggest there's a need for curation in this space. OpenSea is a jumble sale of doodles, renders, and animations. NFT drops, when an artist creates and launches a timed collection, can happen at any time. The one thing the NFT space lacks is quality control, and in some senses that's unavoidable.
We often pose the question, 'but is it art'? Particularly if an NFT of a trashcan can sell for millions of dollars. But for Ziegler this isn't the right question. She tells us when you try to define what art is you are really attempting to define how people are creative.
"I think that's where the problem is because it does take creativity to create an illustration," she says, who tells us NFTs are more about the art but about the community around it, the use it represents and the meaning it holds for creators and buyers.
"I think NFTs are really showing us that if you like it you can buy it, and if you like it you can be a part of it. You don't need to have this discussion, about is this art or is this not art? Because the people in the NFT space don't really care what the critics think. Because they're doing it anyway. And I think that's really where this shift of mindset is happening."
NFTs are as much about breaking the rules, dismantling how we see art and the industry that surrounds art. Everything you thought you knew about art evaporates when you dig deeper into NFTs.
"You have 12-year-olds in their bedroom making four or five million dollars in three weeks selling drawings from their sketchbook. Yeah, how does that make sense? When we apply that to the traditional art market, it doesn't. It doesn't make sense," explains Ziegler, adding: "That's what's exciting. The new generation don't want to be defined by labels […] the NFT space is showing very rapidly that all those walls can be pushed down and you can be whatever you want to be."
Viewing NFTs live is vital
Being able to offer a live space for these new artists is something Ziegler feels personally. She has specialised in art installations and experiences since 2010, as well as giving urban and contemporary artists a voice and space to showcase their talent through events, talks, grants and education programs.
She tells us the NFT art at the Creative Debuts and Adidas show takes on a new personality and impact when you're standing in a room looking at it live on huge high-definition screens. The art takes over the space and dominates. It why more people are buying NFT displays, so they can showcase their collections properly.
She argues: "I no longer just look at it as a 2D piece of art, I'm looking at something that can completely transform the way that I think about art. So for me, I think it's essential to do the physical stuff."