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Can NFTS help graffiti culture?

@CamiloFidel // @VertigoGraffiti

Probably the most important value of graffiti culture -in any society and at any time- is its independence. For now, the two -main- sources of income for graffiti artists (who have decided to turn the practice into a profession) have been public sector calls and grants and advertising campaigns or interior design for brands or companies. Except for a few cases of artists who have had the fortune and discipline to live autonomously from their creations and are part of the traditional art circuit and market, most graffiti artists depend and shape their careers according to these sources. This reality of negotiation of concessions, demands and compromises is often reflected, in a forceful way, in what happens pictorially in the street.

Although it may seem irrelevant, the artists' private economic issues have a considerable impact on their management and presence in the public space. It is no secret that many of the resources obtained in these valuable works (with the public and private sectors) end up giving a certain solvency to the artist, who, when he has the opportunity and the will, turns them into autonomous and spontaneous artistic pieces. Painting the street for the immense pleasure it causes. However, this economy created can also discourage many to intervene independently -and above all to think autonomously- in the spaces of the city. The insatiable search for likes and followers. It is a paradox that the false comfort brought by the business can lead to a deep cultural and analytical crisis of graffiti. There are many who consider that the intervention of these foreign money have marked a before and an after of the practice. For better and for worse.

It is not a matter of ignoring -I myself have been part of many related processes- the importance of the economic intervention of mayors' offices, culture secretaries or artistic management institutes. Or the impact of the interest and creativity of brands in sponsoring events, campaigns and even artistic careers. However, it is worth asking what would happen to the future and decisions of artists -and of the streets- if there were a possibility of pursuing the elusive and slippery economic independence. An (additional) alternative that could guarantee the creative sovereignty of thousands of graffiti artists and that would result in a more sincere and belligerent construction of the city's visual landscape.

Much has been said in social networks about the NFTS. The superficial and paranoid discourse insists on dwelling on the exaggerated price bubble (a situation that has been going on since the tulip trade in the 17th century) that fills the headlines. As in almost all economic activities nowadays, a few people profit in an exaggerated and disproportionate way. That the millions of dollars do not prevent us from seeing the forest. In the same way it has happened with NFTS (digital pieces authenticated by different interdependent data banks -the famous blockchains-). Only a small proportion of works have reached huge figures, but the vast majority are works by independent, experimental and fun artists. As always, it seems better to subjugate immediately than to try to understand with serenity these new art transaction platforms.

In that sense, when looking closely at these new markets - the most celebrated being OpenSea - an opportunity to build the aforementioned third alternative of economic compensation presents itself. Let's imagine. An artist or a collective creates, thinks and designs a creative project in the public space (a mural or group of murals) and for the payment of the costs -almost always considerable- does not have to resort to private enterprise or wait for the time of the opening of calls for proposals and the decision. Rather, it creates a digital work or a series of digital works and turns them into NFTS. By entering the global market (offered by these marketplaces-platforms that do not require an additional intermediary) and depending on his ability to manage and communicate his own project, potential investors could support with their purchase the mural or murals in the street. Of course this is a strategy that requires effort and patience, but it does not seem excessive when you are obtaining the desired and profitable independence. We at Vertigo Graffiti are already imagining it.

In addition, these markets make it possible to solve a vicious asymmetry that existed in traditional art transactions and that disrupted economic relations between participants. The artist or collective can participate in a percentage of the eventual sales of the works (royalties). Before and since always, the artist was out of the economic equation in the first transaction. Now this discomfort has been solved. A not insignificant answer considering that one of the barriers of compensation for graffiti is that there was not -until today- a direct form of economic retribution from the public; as it happens in the theater or in the cinema.

For the time being, it is advisable that any artist (not only graffiti) who pretends to have some degree of independence and creative sovereignty, observe carefully this new economic alternative and if he/she considers it prudent, venture to create his/her first NFT. It is likely that artists less concerned about money and without less intervention from third parties (with interests unrelated to the practice itself) will create more robust, relevant and deliberate street pieces. A chance that would substantially raise the quality of citizen dialogues that, without a doubt, consolidate the identity and honesty of the territories and circumstances of all.

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