Token Supremacy: The Art of Finance, the Finance of Art, and the Great Crypto Crash of 2022

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By theusabulletin.com

Zachary Small. Knopf, $32 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-53675-9
Zachary Small. Knopf, $32 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-53675-9
In this trenchant debut investigation, the author asserts that the contemporary art market has become a breeding ground for the wealthy to establish an alternative banking system and secure hedged liquidity. The New York Times journalist, Small, argues that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are essentially financial instruments disguised as digital art. Through vivid profiles of artists caught up in the NFT market, Small traces its rise and subsequent decline. One such profile focuses on crypto entrepreneur Erick Calderon, who faced resistance from the skeptical art establishment as he created an online NFT marketplace. Calderon successfully sold algorithmically generated artworks, including his own and those of other artists. However, the 2022 crypto crash posed a threat to his business. Traders illicitly bypassed the royalty system on secondary NFT sales, undermining the primary incentive for artists to work in this medium. Small also delves into the intriguing stories of notable collectors, such as Mexican businessman Martin Mobarak, who burned a $10 million Frida Kahlo drawing to increase the value of an NFT he created from it. By skillfully weaving together these character portraits, Small presents a troubling analysis of how the financialization of the art market has transformed culture into mere commercial tokens, whose worth is contingent upon their ability to yield returns on investment. This masterful exposé is truly captivating.

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