- Wikipedia editors have voted to exclude NFT sales in its list of biggest selling art works by living artists
- The vote, which will be revisited in the future, has a site-wide impact
- The issue of whether NFTs are art is something that the editors said is yet to be confirmed socially
Some Wikipedia editors have voted to strip NFTs of a classification as a form of art, causing consternation among the NFT community. The debate started in December when NFTs sold by Pak and Beeple were added to the list of the most expensive artworks by living artists, additions that sparked a question of whether NFTs should be counted as artworks for the purposes of the list. The editors involved in the discussion have since voted against classifying NFTs as art, with a further discussion over the matter to be held in the future where a final consensus will hopefully be arrived at.
NFTs Have Taken the Art World by Storm, but Are They Art?
NFTs have taken the art world by storm in the last 18 months, with famous sales by the likes of Beeple grabbing headlines worldwide. ERC-721, the Ethereum format on which NFTs are based, was even voted the most powerful living artist by Art Review, the first time a non-artist has topped the chart.
However, it seems that the editors at Wikipedia towers aren’t convinced by NFTs’ place in the art world, with those opposed to considering NFTs in the same sphere as ‘traditional’ art pointing to the fact that the NFT isn’t a piece of art in itself but rather represents a form of ownership in the form of a token.
They also argue that NFT sales have their own top sales list to which they should be confined until a definite conclusion has been made on the matter. The issue clearly wrinkles with the crypto and NFT community:
🚨 Art Emergency!! 🚨
There is a debate happening rn on @Wikipedia that has the potential to * officially categorize NFTs as ‘not art’ on all of Wikipedia. *
Wikipedia is a global source of truth. Having NFTs categorized as ‘not art’ would be a disaster!
— Duncan Cock Foster (@DCCockFoster) January 12, 2022
Society Hasn’t Decided, Says Wikipedia
Wikipedia’s editorial approach means that if NFTs are not counted as art on the list then they will receive the same treatment site-wide, so the issue is an important one. Naturally, the discussion eventually tapped into the matter at the heart of all artistic endeavors – what constitutes art, and who are Wikipedia editors to decide:
So are we saying NFTs are not art and thus Beeple too should be removed from this list? Are artworks on this list limited to paintings, sculptures and thus NFTs on the list be removed? Honest question. I think the challenge we are facing is about HOW do we define art and WHO gets to define what art is?
Both artists in this instance Pak & Beeple have had major NFT works sold at contemporary auction houses Sotheby’s & Christie’s respectively. If their “art” was sold in art auctions, doesn’t this then make them artists? And, NFTs are art are they not? If you accept that major art auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s sell NFTs then you need to accept NFTs as art.
When it came to the survey following the discussion, the overwhelming verdict was to oppose the acceptance of NFTs as art for the time being given that, in the words of one editor, “I don’t think society has figured out if NFT’s are by themselves visual artworks, coding, or a contractual document, and sources alone probably can’t decide as existing sources will be all over the place.”
Quite when this decision will have been made and what impact it will have remains to be seen.