By Chen & Lampert
With a world in crisis and an art market spinning out of control, ace art-world consultants Chen & Lampert deliver hard truths in response to questions sent by Art in America readers from far and wide.
As a serious painter, I’ve been paying no attention to the NFT art boom. People in my world keep talking about them, but I barely understand what NFTs are and can’t say I especially care, given that my work has nothing to do with media or video art. I’ve taken a couple meetings with crypto companies just to humor my gallerist, and each time they talked in circles about a setup that made a bunch of unrecognizable artists into millionaires. After checking out the work on their sites, I’m still clueless—none of it looks like art to me. Now, a curator I admire wants to work with me to launch a collection on yet another unknown new platform. I don’t see the audience for these digital things being interested in my work. If I sign on, the pieces sell, and then everyone makes money, that’s great—but how bad would it be for my career if my NFTs are a flop? Will it damage the sales of my actual paintings? It took me a long time to build up blue-chip prices.

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Wow, you have a high estimation of your art, and like all painters you constantly stress about anything that might sully your handcrafted pictures. Let us remind you that paintings are the original NFTs. Throughout the ages, they have been hoarded like Pokémon cards by royalty, clergy, industrialists, and mouth-breathing finance bros. How is it that you can act as if you are above it all? As a market painter who ultimately produces money-laundering vehicles, you should see that NFTs are kissing cousins to your crass canvases.
Perhaps you don’t believe it, but the tweens, twenty-somethings, and incels of all ages grinding out NFTs deserve a little credit for trying to pioneer a new art form that doesn’t resemble preexisting models. Finding themselves excluded from your fine art world, they smartly figured out a new way to play the game. Sure, their newfangled screensavers mostly suck and are devoid of aesthetic value, but at least these people are reckoning with life in the twenty-first century. Look at it from their vantage point: your analog work looks more like a stillborn than a still life.

It is doubtful that your NFT escapades will damage IRL art sales. Your serious collectors probably don’t stand in lines to buy Yeezy’s latest offerings or invest in neo-Nazi GIFs. If anything, the publicity you generate might bring a momentary blip of attention and as many as forty-seven hits on your artist page at your gallery’s website. In the meantime, consider churning out 1,000 NFT variations of dancing Rasta dolphins and see if you can live with yourself. But given your active disdain for the medium, it is easy to see how fast you are bound to fail in the brave new world.
I’m an artist who’s made money in the last couple of years despite the pandemic. A poet collaborated with me on titles for two shows, and it’s been on my mind lately that I should pay for the help. The poet hasn’t wanted credit for the work and has never suggested any type of payment, but it seems only right. Since I’m paid for my work, the writer should get paid too. Any suggestions on how to calculate how much to give?
An artist in a studio
Writes wanting to know
How much they owe
A poet who bestows
The title for their show
Poems are not free
And poets are poor
Does anyone read
Chapbooks anymore?
Gift them a work
That they will hang with pride
Or maybe offer a piece
They can sell on the side
What the hell
You could just give them some cash
To score a brick of hash
Titles are hard
Which is why
You need a bard
Treat them with courtesy
And they will reward
You verbally
Your queries for Chen & Lampert can be sent to
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