Web3's Rise within Contemporary Design

Published: 28.04.2023
Charlotte Henry
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KAWS exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London. The exhibition included several virtual works alongside physics pieces. Accessible via their app..
KAWS exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London. The exhibition included several virtual works alongside physics pieces. Accessible via their app.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

We are watching the virtual space become our new reality. The NFT craze has been a fluctuating micro-trend within fine arts and crafts, but the digital world is here to stay.

This article results from the research during my internship at Klimt02, aiming to understand, simplify, and pass on my learnings within Web3 and its potential context within fine arts and jewellery.
The digital art space and Web3 are becoming a fast-paced revolution within the arts. Web3 is a series of open-source and decentralised applications powered by blockchain technology, following Web1, the read-only and Web2, the participative social web. We are watching the virtual space become our new reality. The NFT craze has been a fluctuating micro-trend within fine arts and crafts, but the digital world is here to stay.

Beginning with E-commerce sites like Klimt02, entering contemporary jewels into a database to be viewed on the internet worldwide in the early 2000s to now leaving the physical space entirely for the idea of the Meta-verse, NFT's and Cryptocurrencies.

Art is becoming more and more digital each day. As a result, the NFT world could become a norm within the contemporary arts.

NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens, meaning their value is not directly interchangeable with any other currency. Instead, it is individual/ unique. These NFT's live on the blockchain. A blockchain is proof that any digital work needs to validate a transaction. One block contains data of the current transaction, a fingerprint and any previous transaction that this particular block has been through—the letter of authenticity in the case of artworks.

The societal value in blockchains stands with proof of originality—the human desire to be the first to begin a trend. In addition, the digital footprint will validate clout, which will, in turn, separate the artists from the influencers.

NFTs in art became a trend within the crypto community, buying and selling tokens similar to stocks and shares. Unfortunately, the straightforward nature led to the rise of Trash art- animated GIFs and other works in poor taste marketed as artworks.

Crypto is the digital currency that led to the creation of NFTs. The main incentive for inventing a digital currency was to remove all input from centralised banks. This idea is relevant when buying and selling art in the same way as selling a house. The middle man, the gallery, could take up to a 60% commission on a sale, so using crypto to buy art has reduced fees artists pay to third parties.

The rise in accessibility of computers and other gadgets with high-quality software has created a desirability for 3D digital art.

Before the crash in the last quarter of 2022, galleries began to acknowledge the NFT hype and are using it to introduce digital works into their physical spaces. In addition, the largest auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, have also taken advantage of the craze.

Beeple's collage, 'Everydays: The First 5000 Days' NFT sold for $69 million on auction at Christie's. Beeple set out to create and post a new work of art online every day he then stitched together recurring themes and colour schemes to create an aesthetic whole.

Inevitably, this higher volume of creation, there was a recent crash in the digital goods space. The infiltration of money-hungry crypto geeks creating Pepe art to sell to one another removed the sense of individuality of each work, causing the market to devalue. As well as introducing widespread critique:

Screenshot taken from Youtube comments section explaining how NFT's work.

Sales of NFTs fell to $1.6 billion globally in the third quarter this year, down 77% drop from $7.3 billion in the second quarter, according to NFT sector tracker Non-fungible.' - Khristopher J. Brooks 2022

Regulation of the NFTs produced can alter the way we see the production problems within fine arts. The stigma surrounding the term 'NFT' is prevalent in and out of the art world. Being introduced is DAB - Digital art on the blockchain. The positive, productive part of the NFT model will remain, but the need for understanding surrounding NFT's removed.

Artists can regain the ability to maintain credits and monetary gains through blockchain and AI authentification. In addition, they create a safe environment for creating, selling and resale of unique works as royalties can be automatically paid to the original creator every time the piece is resold. Implementing this technology should also consider the potential impact on the art market and the role of galleries and auction houses in the authentication and sale of art.

Despite the benefits to the artist of using blockchain technology, digitalisation has limitations in replicating physical engagement. With current technology, only one of the senses is accurately recreated; Sight. The quality and surrounding environments within an exhibition are atmospheric. Synthetic reproducing an experience is less of an issue for two-dimensional artists than for the rest of the creators.

Phygital can and should be art's future: Harmonising digital and virtual living within exhibition spaces.

Art Dubai, in collaboration with the Morrow Collective has been seen to be leading the way in terms of introducing a digital space within their 2023 fair featuring the work of more than 50 digital artists.

Accessibility is automatically increased through the met-averse, with people from anywhere worldwide viewing footage, exhibitions and pieces. The cultural input can be expansive without transportation and material costs. Collaboration is therefore made simple, as well as increased exposure to the arts. Unfortunately, there can be difficulty in entering arts without knowledge of 3D software. The price of learning about Web3 can be a barrier to entry. With access to modelling software, one can learn to use them.

The possibility to increase interaction in the Metaverse in comparison to that of a physical gallery: holds an opportunity to alter the perception of those from outside the industry.

However, there is potential for the older generations to miss out due to the limitations of the development of the NFT market has to do with the educational tools surrounding it. The information seems difficult to understand, and limited free courses create an intellectually elitist mentality. The generational difference will likely delay digital jewellery sales.

The existence of digitally advanced physical jewellery has been around for a number of years. Still, it remains a relatively new concept that combines fashion and technology to develop wearable gadgets that are both functional and fashionable. Some buyers think it is only of high quality if it is wearable. However, the tactile nature of jewellery means it is intended to be touched, tried and worn without boundaries.

Rudee Tancharben at Munich Jewellery Week 2023. Works included a virtual experience, speaking to elevated graphics as well as sound features.

Currently, the Web3 jewellery sphere is limited to a few forward-thinking high-end fashion houses and artists, bringing their clothing and jewellery lines to the Metaverse to dress the avatars that live within these spaces as well as the introduction of digital try-on with AR. We see NFT's from Adidas, Prada Gucci and Louis Vuitton leading the way.

In conversation with Cécile, For luxury jewellery brands, we see more digital try-on with VR and online personal shoppers. Does physical interaction with contemporary jewellery matter to the buyer?

It's everything. To a buyer, details matter, weight matters, and the reflection of light matters. Suppose you are a collector; it wouldn't matter.

Would a digital jewellery space change what galleries and other sellers do in terms of quality control?

Not really. It depends on the jewellery style and how much quality control sellers need. If it is a statement piece, no. However, most minimalist pieces must be perfect. So there is a higher level expected within this style.

The question of quality would speak to the broader conversation within the arts: Art vs Jewellery.

Zak Sheinman's award-winning AR jewellery piece.'...pieces that began as digital animations that distorted and blew up traditional jewellery shapes into puffy silhouettes. Once crafted digitally, they were brought to life and teased into voluminous shapes.'- Hannah Silver.

The newness of AI technologies will impact all realms of art. OpenAI and ChatGPT were recently released to the public. Theres no hotter topic in tech right now than generative AI - Business of Fashion Instagram

AI has the potential to refine search results through a cataloguing of habits and buyer preferences while keeping the data it presents to the shopper new, fresh and exciting. Helping to neutralise the sometimes overwhelming nature of online shopping could introduce new customers to the contemporary jewellery market.

Do you think generative AI is overblown at this point?... Nothing about this is overblown. This is a big fucking deal. This isn't Metaverse. This is not NFT's. This is like once-every-10-or-20-years structural change in what you can do in software. /Benedict Evans and Marc Bain.

Siebren Versteeg's sample image from (For a Limited Time 2023) 'the collection is a year-long experiment that invites collectors to decide when and what to mint...Quite simply, across the next 12 months, the project will be generating a new image every 10 to 15 minutes, capturing the moment’s trending events and stories, scraped from the internet, in computer-generated yet painterly collages.' - Min Chen for Artnet News.

Overall, while the digital world is here to stay, there are still limitations to replicating physical engagement, and the quality of the surrounding environment in an exhibition is atmospheric. However, the Metaverse offers increased accessibility, collaboration opportunities, and exposure to the arts.

There is great potential within the authentication system that NFTs hold. There will have to be reform and regulation of the market for any success to come of it. However, more contemporary artists would need to get involved for the market to flourish, ensuring the restoration of respect for artists and traditions.

The use of blockchain technology provides proof of originality and can help establish the authenticity of digital artworks. In addition, using cryptocurrency can reduce the fees for artists when buying and selling art by removing mediators.

Despite the overwhelming environmental costs, as the field of technology continues to grow and evolve, we'll likely see even more innovative and creative designs for digital jewellery in the future. This development will come with many positives for creators, buyers and observers.

Finally, AI will bring a new excitement and trend cycle that will influence the way the now older technologies we have already been observing and enjoying from Web3.

Beth Frey's AI-generated work. 'Canadian artist Beth Frey has a knack for creating an uncanny universe inhabited by fleshy, muppet-like creatures that seem to belong to their own little tribe' - Rolien Zonneveld.


/, Beeples’s Opus, Chrisites, 2022
Art Dubai, 2023
MAGHAN MCDOWELL AND MALIHA SHOAIB, Louis Vuitton to release new NFTs, Vogue Buisness, 2022
KATERINA PEREZ, Jewellery NFTs: How Luxury Brands Are Embracing the Metaverse, Katerina Perez, 2022
Anna Tong, Can NFTs work for luxury jewellery?, Vogue Buisness, 2021
Hannah Silver, New designer Zak Sheinman blows up jewellery for Motley, Wallpaper, 2022
Eric Paul Rhodes, A Short History of NFT Trash Art, Outer Realm, 2022
Katherine Jemima Hamilton, What Are DABs? (In Defense of the Blockchain and Why You Should Be Mad at NFTs), Collecteurs
Richard Whiddingtion, Never Mind the Crypto Crash, Christie’s Is Powering on With a Sale of More Than 15 NFTs, Timed for Miami Art Week, Artnet, 2022
Min Chen, Another Instagram-Famous Photographer Has Owned Up to Using A.I. to Generate Some of His Oddly Ravishing Images, Artnet, 2023
Min Chen, Digital Artist Siebren Versteeg Is Debuting a Collection of Time-Based Generative NFTs That Critiques… NFTs, Artnet, 2023
Jacob Kastrenakes, Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million / Through a first-of-its-kind auction at Christie’s, The Verge, 2021
Fei Lu, Introducing The Latest Tool In Art Authentication: AI, Jingculture&crypto, 2021
Ahmed A. Mansour, NFTs Boom at Art Dubai 2023 as Curation Needs and the Collectors of the Future Gain Attention, Dencential, 2023
Mark Bain, How Web3 Is Shaking Up Digital Marketing, Buisness of Fashion, 2023
Tamison O’connor, What’s Next for Luxury Brands and Blockchain, Buisness of Fashion, 2022
Marc Bain, How the Smart Money in Fashion Is Thinking About Web3, Buisness of Fashion, 2022
Rolien Zonneveld, Beth Frey - A fleshy world made from watercolours and AI tools, Wepresent, 2023
Jodie Marie Smith, Digital Jewellery: Ethics and digital jewellery 4/5, Current obsession, 2021
KHRISTOPHER J. BROOKS, NFT prices slump as FTX's collapse shadows digital collectibles, CBS news, 2022
Hosted by Ben Luke. With guest speaker Aimee Dawson. Produced by David Clack, NFTs crashed last year—does Art Dubai fair show signs of a ‘Crypto Spring’?, The art newspaper ‘The Week in Art’, 2023

Exhibtions + Talks:
Moco Museum, ongoing
BoF Professional Summits, Business of Fashion, 2023
Multiple speakers, How AI and Web3 Are Shaping Fashion’s Future, Buisness of Fashion professional summit, 2023
Buisness of Fashion Podcast
Week in Art podcast

Achiever, What is DIGITAL Currency?, 2015
Alice Fulwood, What are NFTs?, The Economist, 2022
Forbes, Generative AI Is About To Reset Everything, And, Yes It Will Change Your Life | Forbes, 2023
3Blue1Brown, But how does bitcoin actually work?, 2018


About the author

Charlotte Henry is studying BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Eager to broaden her knowledge and experience within the industry, she is taking part in the Diploma in Professional Studies in her third year. Her practice has been focused on depicting the female body with a central science and logic point. Transparency within branding and thoughtfulness with the sourcing and production of work is crucial to her ethos.

Instagram - @charlottehenryart
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