When encountering an art piece, we initially consider the technique, the artists story, and whatever the painting screams at us in the spur of the moment. The latter is typically dependent on what we bring forth to viewing, what WE have been through. But what about what the painting has been through? When viewing the Mona Lisa, you’re likely admiring the same grooves as a Noble did in 1600 Italy, or even King Francis I. This painting is not just a masterpiece but a portal between the past and the present, made possible only by the travels of that painting.
A painting travels all around the globe in its lifetime. In some cases, it has been stolen & recovered, praised & criticized, ruined & restored, or even been the catalyst to a revelation. The beauty of a painting, no colors considered, is its ethereal and immortal nature. What’s more astonishing is that, with great care, it can continue this journey for centuries. A painting then becomes, not just the representation of an artist's view, but the reflection of society at a given time. It becomes a powerful source to learn from the past. If a painting were only set to live as long as a human, where would its value be? Likely based strictly on technique, the artist's brand, or perhaps on the materials used. But the premium of history wouldn’t be accounted for.
The world’s ever-changing nature stops at nothing. Art has a similar philosophy. Today, techniques have varied, and styles have widened — technology plays a significant role in this shift. Currently, the major trend in art is an NFT (Non-fungible token). This new player has allowed the digitalization of art while maintaining its exclusivity; Despite its popularity being driven by monetary reward. NFTs provide affordability to a sector where only the high class was able to shop. Most importantly though, NFTs are used for trading. People ride the wave of booming demand and hold on to these “art pieces” indefinitely, only to sell it at a higher price.
NFTs, or variations of digital art, can never be fully comparable to physical art. They simply lie on different planes; physical and virtual. Since the ‘journey’ of a digital art piece is instant, it misses out on the literal movement that comprises the true “journey” a physical painting cannot avoid. One of the greatest achievements of the internet is lightning-speed connectivity. This immediacy strips an art piece of creating its very own history. Ultimately, travel is part of the art itself. When visiting a museum, one can immerse into the pieces’ origin, as well as where it went to be exhibited, all at once. Perhaps it was lost and recovered. Nonetheless, an aged painting experiences multiple owners, homes, museums, and countless trips in between. It likely has scars from wars, natural disasters, mistreatment, and human error. The “The Third of May” is one of the many pieces that have had this exact trajectory in the physical world. The famous painting by Francisco Goya represents the resistance of the Spanish people to Napoleon's army. Completed in 1814, throughout the Spanish civil war, this 208-year-old painting was transported to Valencia when a road accident damaged its body. This accident is visible on the physical piece in the lower left corner.
Regardless of our protest on the matter, life is experienced in a physical realm; and with that, there are some things that cannot be replaced by digitalization. Art is exemplary to the disconnect that occurs in a digital experience. It is also testament to the reward of a physical experience, specifically the feeling evoked by its presence. The dimensions and ambiance that these ones have are completely incomparable. So next time you indulge in an Art vs. NFTs discussion, or a purchase decision between these, try not to think of them as one in the same. Each one is its own commodity and should be placed on different scopes.