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Affordable Art Fair Begins in Chelsea Amid NFT Craze

SHANTEL DESTRA, HOST: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, became a hot topic last year after digital artist Beeple sold an NFT for 69 million dollars at a record-setting Christie’s auction. But as Uptown Radio’s Sarah Yokubaitis finds, many artists aren’t ready to toss their physical brushes and canvases aside to jump on the latest technological bandwagon.

SARAH YOKUBAITIS, BYLINE: It’s the opening night for the Affordable Art Fair and twenty-two year old Jacob Talbot is a photographer and multi-disciplinary artist making his New York City debut. His dark, moody photographs are covering a section of the Metropolitan Pavilion’s bright white walls in Chelsea. He says that while younger artists like him have a better understanding of technology, they’re also more aware of the potential downsides.

JACOB TALBOT: I'm not a fan of NFTs, I see it very much as a currency rather than about the artwork. And I think one of the biggest things of artwork is you should be able to enjoy it in the flesh.

YOKUBAITIS: The place is brimming with color, energy and stylishly dressed collectors. Surrounded by so much art, it’s hard to imagine how different these galleries would be if NFTs became the norm.

TALBOT: At the end of the day, the artwork assignment should be free and affordable for anyone to enjoy. And I think NFT's is a way of monetizing that and making it a lot more, what's the right word, capitalist?

YOKUBAITIS: Prices here range from ten to ten thousand dollars, thus the name the Affordable Art Fair. The organizers admit affordability is all relative, but Talbot believes that art should be accessible to the general public and that belief extends beyonds pricing.

TALBOT: You know, I'm all for someone buying a piece of real artwork, having it on their wall and enjoying it every day. But to buy something on a computer, and never actually see it in the flesh, I think is quite weird for me.

YOKUBAITIS: Down the hall, standing in front of a wall of painted color wheels, AfterNyne Contemporary Gallery Associate Director Laura Green she’s intrigued by the idea of NFTs, but not sold yet.

LAURA GREEN: “I mean, obviously, a lot of people are talking about NFT's. But it's not necessarily something I buy into. I think it's a bit of a fad. But that's my personal opinion, it's not the reflection of the gallery at all.

YOKUBAITIS: Still, art is a business and she’d like to see her artists expand into the rapidly growing field.

On the second floor of the art fair, Sue Dean is displaying several large portraits from her gallery in England. She has seen an uptick in online sales during the pandemic, but they’re traditional physical works of art. She’s not sure that NFTs are the right fit for her gallery.

SUE DEAN: We're all about real painting. You know, we're painting and drawing and color in light and we talk to our artists about the future, but for many of them, you know, NFT is something in the distance.

YOKUBAITIS: NFTs may be art’s future, but for now, most of the artists here are keeping their art on the walls and off the blockchain.

Sarah Yokubaitis, Columbia Radio News.


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