How the Covid 19 Pandemic and NFTs merged to create a new digital art world
Author: Mandee McFerren
Miguel Á. Padriñán CC0.
With the threat of the new, even more contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus in the form of Omicron, it’s not a stretch to wonder if things will ever go back to “normal.” Throughout the almost 2 full years of globally adapting to an international pandemic, from travel bans to take-away cocktails, it is arguable that our society will never truly be the same.
This notion can surely be applied to the art world – which like so many sectors has had to pivot to accommodate pandemic-era regulations. Museum’s began showing online exhibitions, artists turned to social media and digital outlets, and NFT art just seemed to keep becoming more and more popular.
Some traditionalists long for the days of exclusive gallery viewings and in-person shows. Others see technology as a way to democratize the artworld and bring it to a larger audience. Whichever opinion you lean toward, artists, curators, and museums have capitalised on the opportunities offered by technology – pushing the sector to survive through a major upheaval.
This can particularly be seen with NFTs, which has now become a term heard almost daily by people everywhere. While NFTs existed before the pandemic, art NFTs especially saw a huge boom during Covid 19 thanks to their ability to be seen and bought remotely. For some buyers, the new technology gave people a sense that they were investing in a futuristic, new idea. For artists, it gave a way to sell one’s art without a gallery – an option closed to them either due to pandemic shutdowns or the longstanding, pre-Covid art world hierarchy.
As shutdowns lift and become reinstated, ebbing and flowing with what seems to be a never ending pandemic, technology’s grip on the art world continues to hold tight. NFT art auctions continue to bring in millions, with longstanding auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s getting in on the action. Museums have started minting their own NFTs and discovering various ways to display them within an exhibition setting ranging from the traditional to the innovative. The metaverse is predicted to be the host of a new home for art exhibitions. NFTs, thought by many in the artworld to be a short term fad, don’t seem to be going anywhere.
Is the rise of NFTs in the art world to be credited solely to the Covid pandemic era? It’s hard to say. But there’s no denying that the pandemic has pushed us all to embrace technology more fully (sometimes by force), and in all aspects of our lives, inside and outside of art, this expansion of technology in our lives will continue. New familiarity with technology from former sceptics has brought about an abundance of change – now it is time to see how it may continue to shape the art world, physical and beyond.