Ichi Hatano is a tattoo artist in Tokyo but, since the pandemic, his clientele, often foreign, has become scarce. So when he heard about the explosion of the digital art market thanks to “blockchain” technology, he jumped at the chance.
“It’s great for an artist to have a new market opening up, it creates a lot of possibilities,” Ichi Hatano, 44, told AFP in his narrow tattoo parlor lined with his favorite patterns, creatures from Japanese folklore.
Switching from human skin to dematerialized art does not disturb him. “My work is the same, so is my creative process,” he says drawing a “hannya,” the sneering ghost of a vengeful woman in Japanese tales, using a stylus on his touch pad.
Ichi Hatano has never sold a virtual work before, but he says he “feels” the potential of this market when he presents five works of this category at the “CrypTokyo” exhibition which has just opened in a gallery in the Tokyo trendy district of Harajuku.
“This is the first crypto-art exhibition ever set up in Tokyo,” says AFP its 27-year-old curator, Sascha Bailey, managing director of Blockchain Art Exchange (BAE), an online sales platform specializing in this segment. .
Blockchain, a decentralized and secure information storage and transmission technology that is at the heart of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – has caused the global digital art market to explode in recent months.
Because by being associated with “NFT” (non-fungible tokens), property certificates based on the blockchain, any virtual creation can now easily be the object of commercial transactions.
“Help modest artists”
The biggest auction houses got into it, and in March American artist Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, became one of the top three living artists in the world, with one of his NFT works being sold for a record price of $ 69.3 million.
“I think Beeple was an exception, but maybe it showed the mainstream art world that this new segment is competitive,” says Sascha Bailey.
“Where crypto-art is most powerful and significant in my opinion is when it helps smaller artists,” he pleads.
At CrypTokyo, the selling prices of works, fixed in advance, range from a few hundred to 40-50,000 dollars. Among the most expensive are those signed Maxim, the stage name of the singer of the British electro-punk group The Prodigy, a recent convert to the art of NFT.
Transactions can be done on site or on BAE’s platform with cryptocurrencies (Dai and Ethereum).
About 150 NFT works by dozens of artists are presented, scrolling on screens, and some trigger augmented reality effects when viewed on a smartphone.
Japanese market cautious
“The Japanese market is always more cautious about adopting new things,” said Bailey. Hence the aim with this physical exhibition “to show people how to live with such a work of art, because many wonder how they can interact with NFT art”.
Meetings with artists around the NFTs are also planned during the exhibition which lasts three weeks.
“More than for the artistic field, NFTs are known in Japan for selling celebrity tweets at astronomical sums, but few really know what it is,” Yasumasa Yonehara, 62, told AFP. Japanese artist participating in the exhibition.
In March, an authenticated version of the first Twitter post by founder and CEO Jack Dorsey sold for $ 2.9 million.
“It may already be a success in that sense, but I believe that it will not be the case until we manage to sell real works,” adds Mr. Yonehara.
However, the beginnings are encouraging: Botchy-Botchy, a 48-year-old French artist living in Japan, has just sold his first NFT work at the CrypTokyo exhibition.
With NFTs, “the real plus is that the artist receives royalties” with each resale of his work and “that’s really new” in the art market, he says. .