Why 1stDibs is betting on digital art

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Today, 1stDibs will unveil a new auction, featuring pieces from 10 artists from across the world. Here’s the twist: Winning bidders will not receive a signed canvas or notarized sculpture, they will receive a code that certifies them as the proud owners of a unique digital artwork. Yes, 1stDibs is launching into the NFT game.

They were blown away by the media for jaw-dropping sales figures (the record is currently set at $ 69 million) and satirized on Saturday Night Live. By now you are probably familiar with the general concept of non-fungible tokens. But in case the details are unclear, here’s a quick primer: NFTs are units of code that exist on a global network called a blockchain, which cannot be hacked or changed. How? ‘Or’ What? By the power of numbers alone. Imagine keeping a file on your computer listing your favorite colors. If a hacker could gain access to your laptop, they could change the first entry from blue to red. Now imagine that your color list is stored on a hundred thousand computers around the world. Even if the pirate could change your favorite color on a computer, 99,999 of them would still know the truth, and the record would quickly be cleared. It is the blockchain.

“The Beholder Complex”, a digital artwork created by artist Marc-O-MaticMarc-O-Matic

The most popular application of blockchain technology is cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and others. However, in recent years the concept of using blockchains to store other types of information, such as digital art, has become increasingly popular. Although the technology is complex, at its core, NFTs are simply certificates of ownership, indicating that the holder has custody of a particular digital file, whether it is a GIF, a tweet, or even from an audio recording of gas.

The NFT phenomenon is often derided by critics who scoff at the seemingly fleeting nature of digital property. (The typical criticism: “You pay $ 10,000 for a JPEG ?!”) Such a criticism is valid, but it overlooks the already transient nature of art ownership. After all, technically the Louvre has the Mona Lisa, but you don’t have to go to Paris to see that famous smile – Leonardo’s work has been reproduced millions of times on prints, mugs, T’s – shirts, and yes, even JPEGs. In an increasingly digital world, the difference between owning a physical web and an immutable piece of code that means possession can seem less and less relevant.

NFTs have also been criticized for boom and bust cycles that have driven their value up and down. 1stDibs is interested anyway. The medium of digital art, CEO David Rosenblatt recount Home affairs, is relatively young, but holds enormous promise. “It’s hard to imagine why digital art wouldn’t be a compelling medium,” he says. “It can create great experiences and visuals. It can be expressed in different ways: on your wall, on your phone, on your laptop. [Art] has always adapted to technological changes; I don’t see why he wouldn’t adapt to this one, given that technology rules almost every second of our lives. “

1stDibs’ entry into the digital art world is modest but not trivial. Rosenblatt says the New York-based luxury ecommerce company has hired a team specifically to work on the project and that it will host bi-weekly NFT collections auctioned off: once a reserve price has been met, the auction for each piece will last 24 hours. The artist will receive 95% of the sale price, and the collections themselves will be curated by artists already integrated into the world of digital art. The first auction, “Portals”, is organized by a British artist Lee mason, more commonly known as Métageist.

“We are looking at an artist-first approach,” says Sarah Liebel, Director of Revenue at 1stDibs. “We know that the best digital artists are actually the best taste makers in this space and the most critical of art, even more so than we are. “

Why 1stDibs is betting on digital art

“Zenith”, a digital artwork from OgiOgi

In theory, the business that sells digital art makes a lot of sense. Rosenblatt, a veteran of the digital advertising platform Doubleclick and then Google, was keen to reinforce the good faith of 1stDibs as a technology platform as opposed to a mere antiques resale market. “Our platform is highly scalable to new verticals, including NFTs,” he said. “We started out as a vintage and antiques market, [but] we have expanded to other new verticals: jewelry, new and personalized creations, etc. This is the latest in this story of category expansion, and it’s made possible by the flexibility of our technology platform.

However, the switch to digital art is not only a technological leap, but also a demographic leap. The same audience interested in buying a pair of 19th century consoles can take some practice to appreciate the value of a Metageist work. The auctions, at least initially, will be conducted entirely within the Ethereum blockchain (no old-fashioned dollars allowed), which will limit the pool of potential bidders to those who understand the cryptocurrency at least. at a rudimentary level.

Even though the bidding is a bit outrageous for the base 1stDibs demo, Rosenblatt sees the project as a worthwhile investment in a booming field. Plus, it’s great marketing. “I think it will expand our audience,” he says. “This will hopefully introduce the larger 1stDibs market to people who might not otherwise have been a part of it.”

Home page image: “Doubt”, a digital artwork by AL Crego


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