How NFT Democratizes Making, Selling, and Buying Art in Asia (Tagalog and English)

We spoke to three distinct voices from Asia’s arts community to explore the impact digitization and blockchain technology—in the form of NFTs—have had on the Asia arts scene.

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This article is available in English and Tagalog

Few people in Asia had heard of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) just a few years ago, but now NFTs are creating an artistic and economic boom in the region. We spoke to three distinct voices from Asia’s arts community to explore the impact digitization and blockchain technology—in the form of NFTs—have had on the Asia arts scene. What does it mean for creators, audiences, and those who’ve traditionally made their businesses or investments around art?

Creating NFT art: an artist’s perspective

Brunei-based generative artist Yazid Azahari minted his first NFT in early 2021 and says adopting the technology has changed how he thinks about creating art.

“Prior to that, I don’t think I truly ever allowed myself to accept the identity of an ‘artist’—that I could create art because I wanted to, and have people appreciate and wish to own it. Seeing the interest and appreciation also drove me to want to continue improving my craft,” Azahari said.

“Now, I truly believe anyone serious enough about it can experience creative fulfillment from creating art through NFTs.”

Azahari has a thriving career in the technology industry after taking what he describes as the ‘pragmatic route’ to study IT, but he has been creating visual and code-based art since his teens and also dabbled in graphic design as a side gig.

He revived his interest in code-based art in recent years, using software to produce generative art in the form of interactive NFTs that produce variations of a work with a click.

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“I loved that you could use code to generate a large number of creative permutations of the same artwork using the exact same codebase.”

Azahari has since successfully released a number of NFT collections featuring his abstract, minimalist style of digital art and participated in Crypto Art Week Asia. He’s chosen to make and sell his digital art NFTs via several marketplaces that use the Tezos blockchain including collections on fx(hash) and Hic Et Nunc (HEN), which he favored due to their inherently low fees, open nature, unique technical capabilities, and strong sense of community.

In particular, Azahari likes how fx(hash) enables creators and collectors to more easily mint and access pieces that change over time.

“The platform has unique technical abilities that allows artists to publish “generators” and for collectors to mint unique iterations of the generator as individual generative art NFTs—something that could be found on other chains but either had a long curation queue or was financially restrictive due to the network fees.”

He thinks the medium opens up economic and career opportunities for creators from previously under-represented locations in Asia and around the world.

Azahari’s comments are epitomized by his work being featured alongside 21 other artists supported by TZ APAC at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong, the premier arts event for Asia and part of Art Basel’s global calendar of events.

“In my case, I’ve never felt better or more fulfilled about using my skills and abilities to create things, so I plan on continuing to create art through NFTs for as long as the practice allows me to feel this way about my craft.”

How NFTs have changed art: a curator’s insights

Joyce Toh is an independent contemporary art curator with over 20 years of experience in the arts and cultural sector in Singapore and overseas, including the role of senior curator of the Singapore Art Museum.

Toh said the rapid rise of crypto art and NFTs would not negate other types of contemporary art but has shifted presentation methods and the make-up of audiences and collectors as well.

“We’re going to see a lot more work on screens as opposed to physical, real world spaces,” she said.

She said that while conventional notions of art are object-based—a painting or a sculpture—many long-standing contemporary art styles like performance art, conceptual art, video, and new media are non-physical and have been presented in major shows but less collected.

“An NFT is visually a lot more accessible: viewership can be distributed to a lot more people across the world because all you need is a screen. Some might say, ‘If a million people can view it, what’s the value?’ But I’d say ownership is quite different from simply viewing a work.”

The role of curators in working with artists and preparing works for exhibit according to themes will not change according to Toh, but more effort may be needed to make crypto art meaningful to audiences.

“As it is a new media, there’s quite a lot of interpretation that has to be done. Some audiences are savvy, but many are new to digital art and are skeptical. We need to give people some clues so it’s not so alien or bizarre,” Toh said.

“I do see there is a distinct new breed of art lover, and these are simply people who are far more adept with living in the crypto world, so it’s almost certainly a much younger audience.”

Toh believes digital asset ownership will become commonplace. She is also co-founder of an art-tech startup launching in June 2022 called ARTO, which is a social discovery app for people to engage and consume art in ways that fit their lifestyles. ARTO offers original artworks, art merchandise, and digital collectibles, such as NFTs.

“What we see with digital natives is that life in the digital space is very rich and full—the metaverse seems far-fetched to some people but if you consider how much time younger people spend online, this is the space that consumers are in, and it’s the space ARTO wants to be in,” she said.

Toh said after the shock of NFTs’ impact in the past two years, such as the $69 million dollar sale of Beeple’s digital art NFT, the traditional art scene is quickly becoming more open-minded and expansive.

“The newsworthiness of NFTs has brought art to a lot more people’s attention. It’s getting people excited and talking about art—and the more people curious about art, the better.”

In terms of what collectors should look for when buying NFT art, Toh said people should seek out what they enjoy in their hearts and mind, and not purchase art based on a trend.

“I believe art is fundamental to our humanity no matter what form it takes. If you’re going to collect something—whether it’s physical or digital—if it speaks to you, it’s worth it, even if its price in the market fluctuates.”

The value of NFT art: a collector’s outlook

Collecting digital art because it speaks to your heart is a philosophy embraced by Ting Song, who’s collection currently boasts over 1,000 art NFTs. This includes a personal collection of around 400 NFTs and over 700 pieces owned by a DAO Song created, which collected them through Objkt—the largest NFT marketplace on the Tezos blockchain.

With roots in China’s open-source culture, including organizing hackathons in her youth, Song is an emerging crypto art influencer (named by Tatler Asia in 2021 as a young leader shaping Asia’s future). She’s also a recognized artist—currently touring her immersive play called Peony Dream, which combines AI and human characters and embedded NFTs—and has curated multiple physical and virtual exhibitions of NFTs.

Her growing NFT art collection reflects her passion for bringing the world of blockchain, AI, and art together.

“I started collecting when I sold my first NFT artwork in 2020. I received precious love and support, and I want to spread that love and support too,” Song said.

Song has purchased NFTs from artists from Korea, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia and gravitates towards art based on engineering innovation, traditional ethnic culture topics, and Web3 approaches to re-imagining fine art.

While Song collects based on her interests, she also views NFTs as a long-term investment that offers peace of mind and carefully researches each piece.

“They are born in digital ways, so they should be stored and collected in digital form. I am enjoying the dividends of the growth of the digital economy.

“I will usually choose a period of time when I feel very chill, and have a cup of tea, open my browsers and start looking and doing my own research to discover and buy NFTs.

“After using my detective skills to explore artists, I feel HEN on the Tezos blockchain is one of the best platforms because there are many famous artists selling, they have some of the strongest works at low prices, and it’s an ecosystem that’s full of diversity.”

Song enjoys interacting with, and showcasing, her NFT art collection—she even built an online exhibition space called Ting Museum.

“I coded and built an art metaverse for myself to display my beloved artworks and the collections of others. Over 500,000 people have viewed the museum, and I’ve also created six exhibitions with more than 100 artists from all over the world participating.”

She believes it’s more likely that future generations will refer to art forms like NFTs or games (rather than an oil painting) when they reflect on the current era.

“The past is important, and the present is also important. We may be witnessing the rolling of the wheel of cultural history—the world is different from art history. Because the definition of “art” is often in the hands of later generations.”

(Tagalog) NFT sa Asia

Iilang tao lamang sa Asia ang nakakaalam ng non-fungible tokens (NFTs) ilang taon na ang nakararaan, subalit ngayon ay lumilikha ang NFT ng artistic at economic boom sa rehiyon. Nakipag usap tayo sa tatlong bukod-tanging boses mula sa arts community ng Asia upang alamin ang impact ng digitization at blockchain technology – sa anyo ng NFT – sa art scene ng Asia. Ano nga ba ang ibig sabihin nito para sa mga cretors, audiences, at para sa mga tradisyunal na negosyo o investments patungkol sa art?

Paglikha ng NFT art: ang perspektibo ng isang artist

Nag-mint ang Brunei-based na generative artist na si Yazid Azahari ng kanyang unang NFT noong unang bahagi ng 2021 at sinabi niya na ang pag-adopt sa teknolohiyang ito ay bumago sa kanyang pag iisip tungkol sa paglikha ng art.

“Bago pa rito, alam kong hindi ko pa lubusang nalalaman ang tunay na kahulugan ng pagiging isang ‘artist’ – na maaari akong gumawa ng art dahil lamang sa nais ko, at magkaroon ng mga taong makapagbibigay-halaga rito at magnanais itong bilhin. Ang interes at pagpapaunlak na ito ang nagtulak sa akin upang patuloy na pagbutihin pa ang aking sining,” sabi ni Azahari.

“Ngayon ay naniniwala na akong kahit sinong may seryosong kagustuhan ay maaaring makaranas ng creative fulfillment mula sa paggawa ng art sa pamamagitan ng NFT.”

Si Azahari ay mayroong umuusbong na career sa technology industry matapos niyang simulan ang kanyang inilalarawan bilang ‘pragmatic route’ sa kanyang pag aaral ng IT, subalit gumagawa na siya ng visual at code-based art simula pa lamang ng kanyang teens at sumubok na din siya sa graphic design bilang kanyang side gig.

Muli niyang binuhay ang kanyang interes sa code-based art sa mga nakaraang taon, gamit ang mga software upang makalikha ng generative at sa anyo ng interactive na NFT na agad na nakakalikha ng iba’t ibang variations mula lamang sa isang simpleng click.

“Nagagalak ako sapagkat maaari kang gumamit ng code upang makapag-generate ng maraming creative permutations ng iisang artwork gamit ang magkaparehas na codebase.”

Matapos nito ay matagumpay na nakapaglabas si Azahari ng ilang NFT collections na kinatatampokan ng kanyang abstract, minimalist na istilo ng digital art at nakilahok din siya sa Crypto Art Week Asia. Pinili niyang gumawa at magbenta ng kanyang digital art NFT gamit ang ilang marketplace na gumagamit naman ng Tezos blockchain kasama na rito ang mga koleksyon sa fx(hash) at Hic Et Nunc (HEN), na kanyang pinili dahil sa napakababang halaga ng fees nito, pagiging open nature, bukod tanging technical capabilities, at malakas na pananaw sa komunidad.

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Sa partikular, gusto ni Azahari kung paanong binibigyang kakayahan ng fx(hash) ang mga creators at collectors upang mas madaling makapag-mint at ma-access ang ilang likha sa nagbabago sa pagdaan ng panahon.

“Ang platform ay may bukod-tanging technical abilities na nagbibigay-kakayahan sa mga artist na makapag publish ng “generators” at upang ang mga kolektor ay makapag-mint ng bukod-tanging iterations ng generator bilang indibidwal na generative art NFT – isang bagay na matatagpuan din sa ibang chains subalit mayroong matagal na curation queue o mas financially restrictive dahil sa network fees.”

Naniniwala siyang ang medium na ito ay nakakapag bukas ng economic at career opportunities para sa mga creators mula sa nakaraang under-represented na lokasyon sa Asia at maging sa buong mundo.

Ang pahayag na ito ni Azahari ay makikita sa kanyang likha kasama ang 21 pang ibang artist na sinusuportahan ng TZ APAC sa gaganaping Art Basel Hong Kong ngayong taon. Ito ay ang premier art event ng Asia sa pakikipagtulungan Global Calendar of Events ng Art Basel.

“Sa kaso ko, ngayon lang ako nakaranas ng ganitong klaseng fulfillment sa paggamit ng aking talento at abilidad sa paglikha ng mga bagay, kaya naman pinaplano kong ituloy ang paglikha ng art gamit ang NFT hanggat patuloy ko paring nararamdaman ang ganito sa aking paglikha.”

Paano binago ng NFT ang art: Sa pananaw ng isang curator

Si Joyce Toh ay isang independent na contemporary art curator na mayroong 20 taong karanasan sa ars at cultural sector ng Singapore at maging sa ibang bansa, kasama na rito ang kanyang pagiging senior curator ng Singapore Art Museum.

Sinabi ni Toh na ang mabilis na pagsikat ng crypto art at NFT ay hindi makakasabagal sa ibang uri ng contemporary art subalit babaguhin nito ang paraan ng presentasyon at ang bumubuo sa audience at maging sa mga kolektor mismo.

“Makakakita tayo ng mas maraming likha sa mga screens kumpara sa mga pisikal o real world space,” kanyang nabanggit.

Nabanggit nya rin na madalas na naiisip pagdating sa art ay mga object=based – mga painting o sculture – marami pang iba’t ibang anyo ng contemporary art style gaya ng performance art, conceptual art, video, at bagong media ay non-physical at ipiniprisenta bilang major shows at hindi madalas kolektahin.

“Madaling makita na ang NFT ay mas accessible: ang viewership ay maaaring pag hati-hatiin sa mas maraming tao sa buong mundo dahil ang kinakailangan mo lang ay isang screen. Sinasabi din ng ilan na, ‘Kung milyon milyong tao ang nakakakita nito, nasaan na ang halaga nito?’ Subalit ang masasabi ko naman ay magkaiba ang pagmamay ari ng mga ito kumpara sa panonood o pagtingin lamang.”

Ang papel ng mg curator kung saan sila ay  makipagtulungan sa mga artist na ihanda ang kanilang mga gawa para sa isang exhibit ayon the tema ay hindi magbabago ayon kay Toh, subalit mas nangangailangan ng dagdag na trabaho upang mas mabigyan ng halaga ang crypto art sa mata ng mga audience.

“Dahil isa rin itong new media, marami pang interpretasyon ang dahil gawin para dito. Ang ilan sa mga audiences ay maalam, subalit karamihan ay bago lamang sa digital art at magiging mapanghinala. Kinakailangan natin silang bigyan ng pahiwatig upang hindi sila manibago dito,” saad ni Toh.

“Nakikita ko na mayroon nga na bago at bukod tanging breed ng mga art lover sa ngayon, at ang mga taong ito ay mas panatag sa pagpasok sa mundo ng crypto, kaya naman malakas ang hinala ko na mas nakababata ang mga audience na ito.”

Naniniwala si Toh na ang digital asset ownership ay magiging mas magiging katanggap-tanggap. Siya rin ay ang co-founder ng art tech startup na magsisinula sa Hunyo 2022 na ang pangalan ay ARTO. Isa itong social discovery app para sa mga taonng engage at kumukunsumo ng art sa paraang sumasang ayon sa kanilang lifestyle. Nag aalok ang ARTO ng mga original artworks, art merchandise, at digital collectibles gaya ng mga NFT.

“Ang nakikita natin sa digital native na ang buhay ng digital space ay makabuluhan at puno – marahil ang metaverse ay parang malayo sa ilang tao pero kung ikukunsidera mo kung gaano kadalas online ang mga kabataan, ito ang lugar kung nasaan ang mga consumers, at ito ang lugar kung saan nais ng ARTO mapabilang,” kanyang saad.

Sinabi ni Toh na matapos ang pagkagulat sa impact ng NFT sa nakaraang dalawang taon, gaya na lamang ng $69 milyong pagkakabenta ng digital art NFT ni Beeple, ang traditional art scene at nagiging mas bukas ang pag iisip at mas malawak dito.

“Ang newsworthiness ng NFT ang nagdala ng art sa atensyon ng mas maraming tao. Binibigyan nito ng kilig ng ang mga tao at pinag uusapan din nila ito – at mas maraming tao ang nagkakainteres sa art, mas mahusay.

Tungkol naman sa kung ano ang dapat alamin ng mga kolektor tungkol sa pagbili ng NFT art, sinabi ni Toh na dapat hanapin ng mga tao ang kung ano man ang nagpapasaya sa kanilang puso at isipan, at wag bumili ng dahil lamang sa trend.

“Naniniwala ako na ang art ay pundamental sa sangkatauhan ano man ang maging anyo nito. Kung ikaw ay mangongolekta – ito man ay physical o digital – kung nakakaramdam ka ng koneksyon dito, masasabi kong sulit na ito, kahit pa pabago-bago ang presyo nito sa merkado.”

Ang halaga ng NFT Art: sa pananaw ng isang kolektor

Ang pangongolekta ng digital art dahil malapit ito sa iyong puso ay ang pilosopiyang sinusundan ni Ting Song, na mayroong koleksyon na sa ngayon ay umabot na sa 1,000 art NFT. Kasama na rito ang kanyang personal na koleksyon na nasa 400 NFT at mahigit 700 piraso na pagmamay-ari ng DAO na nilikha ni Song. Nakolekta nya ang mga ito mula sa Objkt – ang pinakamalaking NFT marketplace sa Tezos blockchain.

Mula sa open-source na kultura ng China, kasama na ang pag oorganisa ng hackathons sa kanyang kabataan, si Song ay isang umuusbong na crypto art influencer (kinilala ng Tatler Asia noong 2021 bilang isang batang lider na humuhubog sa kinabukasan ng Asia). Isa rin siyang kilalang artist – na kasalukuyang nagto-tour para sa kanyang immersive na play na tinatawag na Peony Dream. Pinaghahalo nito ang AI, human characters at ang embedded NFT – at nakapag-curate na ito ng maraming iba’t ibang physical at virtual exhibitions tungkol sa NFT.

Ang kanyang lumalaking NFT art collection ay nagpapakita ng kanyang passion upang mapagsama ang mundo ng blockchain, AI, at art.

“Nagsimula akong mangolekta noong mabenta ko ang una kong NFT artwork noong 2020. Nakatanggap ako ng mahalagang pagmamahal at suporta at nais ko ring ibahagi ang pagmamahal at suporta na ito sa iba,” saad ni Song.

Nakabili na ng NFT si Song sa mga artist na mula sa Korea, Japan, Thailand at Indonesia at ang napipili niyang art ay nakabase sa engineering innovation, traditional ethnic culture topics, at Web3 approaches na nagrere-imagine ng fine art.

Habang nangongolekta si Song ng base sa kanyang interes, nakikita nya rin ang mga NFT bilang long-term investment na nakakapagbigay sa kanya ng kapanatagan habang mabuti nyang pinagaaralan ang bawat piraso nito.

“Nagmula ang mga ito sa digital na paraan, kaya marapat lamang na ilagay sila at kolektahin sa kanilang digital form. Tinatamasa ko ang dibidendo sa pagusbong ng digital economy.

“Madalas ay pumipili ako ng panahon kung saan chill ako, pagkatapos ay magkakape muna ako, bubuksan ang aking browser at magsisimulang tumingin at mag-aral upang makadiskubre at makabili ng mga NFT.

“Matapos kong gamitin ang aking detective skills upang makahanap ng mga artist, pakiramdam ko ay ang HEN sa Tezos blockchain ang isa sa pinakamagandang platform dahil maraming kilalang artistang nagbebenta rito, narito ang ilan sa pinakamalalakas na likha sa pinakamababang halaga, at isa itong ecosystem na puno ng diversity.”

Si Song ay masayang nag-interact at nagsho-showcase ng kanyang NFT art collection – gumawa pa nga siya ng kanyang sariling online exhibition space na tinatawag na Ting Museum.

“Nag-code ako at gumawa ng art metaverse para sa sarili ko upang maidisplay ang aking minamahal na mga artworks pati na ang collections ng ibang tao. Mahigit 500,000 katao na ang nakakakita sa aking museum at gumawa rin ako ng anim na exhibitions na mayroong mahigit sa 100 artt mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo ang nag participate.”

Naniniwala siya na maaalala ng future generation ang mga NFT o mga games (imbes na mga oil paintings) bilang repleksyon ng ating kasalukuyang era.

“Mahalaga ang nakaraan, mahalaga din ang kasalukuyan. Marahil ay nakikita natin ngayon ang pag gulong ng cultural history – ang mundo ay magkaiba sa art history. Dahil ang depinisyon ng “art” ay madalas na nasa kamay ng susunod na henerasyon.

This article is published in collaboration with TZ APAC: How NFT Democratizes Making, Selling, and Buying Art in Asia (Tagalog and English)

Disclaimer: BitPinas articles and its external content are not financial advice. The team serves to deliver independent, unbiased news to provide information for Philippine-crypto and beyond.

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