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Domencio Quaranta, Surfing with Satoshi (Postmedia Books: 2022)

The craze for Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) that erupted in early 2021 thrust the art world into the debate on the blockchain, the decentralised public ledger that holds these tokens, as well as cryptocurrencies, and promises to make “verifiable digital scarcity” a reality. Born out of the 2008 financial crisis and seen by many as the cornerstone of a new, more private, more secure Web3, the blockchain has changed the global economy and is now reshaping the digital environment in which art is increasingly being created, distributed and exchanged. Written amidst an explosion of technological hype and a speculative frenzy, Surfing with Satoshi sets the promise of the NFT market in a historical context, investigating the technologies it is based on, the role of certificates and contracts in contemporary art, and the evolution of the media art market over the last thirty years. Riding the wave of the ongoing debate, the book tackles a series of as yet open questions, including: what does art have to do with the blockchain? Does it make sense to talk about “Crypto Art”, and if so what can be said to define it, apart from the way it is traded? Is speculation the be-all and end-all of this trend? How on earth can an infinitely reproducible digital file be deemed “unique”? Will the blockchain’s promise of disintermediation destroy the art world as we know it? And how is the art world reacting to the situation? Are NFTs an opportunity for artists or a scam perpetrated against them? Who are the collectors willing to pay millions for a certificate of authenticity, and why are they doing it? And why do the visual arts seem to have acquired such a central role in the crypto economy?