German Wolfgang Beltracchi, who is best known for his decades-long scheme of forging famous works of art, has jumped on the bandwagon and joined the world of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), where digital assets function as a type of collector’s item that simply cannot be duplicated. For his first pick, Beltracchi will be selling 4,608 original digital artworks of the world’s most expensive (as well as controversial) painting, the 500-year-old ‘Salvator Mundi’ by Leonardo da Vinci. Here’s how it will work.
According to Beltracchi’s website, the collection, called ‘The Greats’, is a “a digital journey through the history of art,” as each version of the ‘Salvator Mundi’ recreation incorporates the style of seven art eras, including painters such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci.
The original ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting, which is Latin for “saviour of the world,” sold for a whopping $450.3 million at a Christie’s auction in 2017 to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. “Experts, however, have struggled with whether Da Vinci truly painted the piece,” writes Business Insider. In fact, scientific evidence showed that the Italian polymath only made a contribution to the painting—but that’s a story for another time.
Beltracchi’s recreations of the piece will be on display when the sale starts in about a week, a spokesperson told The Block, adding that the artist chose to do the collection because he’s “the only person with the necessary skills to implement it. He has managed to fool the ‘art experts’ hundreds of times with his recreations of famous painters’ work.”
Beltracchi has remade famous paintings throughout his career of over three decades, but all in the form of forgery—meaning he refurbished works of famous artists and sold them in their names as original paintings when they were in fact fake. Between 1980 and 2011, the infamous forger conned the art world out of an estimated €35 million (just under £30 million).
He was then sentenced to six years in jail in 2011 by German authorities for forging 14 famous works of art and selling them for millions of dollars but was freed in early 2015, having served just over three years in prison. His wife was also sentenced as an accomplice to four years in jail. Beltracchi’s scheme began in the 1970s and shook the art world when it was first discovered.
Since his arrest, art museums, galleries, and auction houses have barred him from exhibiting and selling his art, which explains why the 70-year old ‘artist’ has now turned to the NFT space. “The NFT market offers artists a platform to market themselves independently and makes them independent from traditional art market mechanisms,” Beltracchi said in a statement shared with The Block.
The Greats will be making a “hidden sale,” said the spokesperson. That means buyers won’t know what NFT they are minting. To ensure the highest level of arbitrariness, The Greats says it is using Chainlink’s Verifiable Random Function (VRF), a verifiable source of randomness designed for smart contracts. The purpose of using the Chainlink VRF is to ensure that NFTs don’t get “exploited” by parties such as a miner, continued the spokesperson.
This sale is the perfect example of what today’s digital art represents—whether you approve of it or not is a whole new ball game. What you see on the canvas is not the only important thing anymore. Everything around it, such as the sales mechanism, the record of each owner and sale, the technical implementation, are also part of the art.
Cara Delevigne is auctioning off a piece of art about her vagina. Yes, you read that correctly. On Friday 14 May, the English model and actress announced the news in an Instagram video where she stood naked, narrating a monologue about her vagina. The unique NFT made by Delevingne herself, famous for her appearance in Suicide Squad, in collaboration with Chemical X Lab, will go up for digital auction on 22 May 2021.
In the video about her NFT release, she stated, “My first word was ‘mine’. To me, that means something that is most mine, my vagina. I own it. It’s mine and no one else’s. I choose what I do with it. And no one can take that away from me.” And to be honest, I fully support her, and you should too. Not only is she tapping into the lucrative NFT market to be rightfully rewarded for her creative work, but she’s also breaking stereotypes concerning body image and ownership—all while raising money for environmental causes, LGBTQIA+ communities, anti-racism causes, and the list goes on!
If somehow you’ve missed the NFT craze, we’ve already covered how the technology is the innovative future of digital ownership—it could be a gamechanger for all forms of the creative industry, from fashion all the way to struggling writers. But if you don’t fancy going down the rabbit hole, let me briefly explain NFTs for you.
A non-fungible token, NFT for short, is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist’s signature, which acts as a verification of ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece. It allows for original versions of content, anything from memes to tweets can be sold as cryptocurrency—similar to how traditional pieces of art can be auctioned off for insane prices, often by absurdly rich out-of-touch art critics.
But thanks to NFTs, the once out of reach art marketplace is now accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection—meaning you can be in with a chance of digitally owning Delevingne’s vagina monologue. That being said, these NFTs are selling at high prices, so don’t go thinking you’ll be able to buy a digital Mona Lisa with some spare pennies you have lying around any time soon.
Despite the eye catching and thought-provoking nature of her art, there’s also a number of reasons that sets it apart from the crowded NFT market. First, in light of how damaging cryptocurrency can be to the environment—a reason for why Elon Musk pulled Bitcoin from Tesla, causing market prices to plummet—Delevingne’s NFT will be the first in the world to be minted on Bitcoin rather than Ethereum, using no new energies to create it. Delevingne’s edition is the first in a series that will repeatedly feature NFT artworks from Fatboy Slim, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and the electric duo Orbital.
The money raised will go towards a good cause too. Delevingne’s work will be in collaboration with Chemical X to benefit her foundation, The Cara Delevingne Foundation, an organisation that supports women’s empowerment, environmental causes, LGBTQIA+ rights and tackling institutional racism while also offering COVID-19 relief. The official Chemical X website notes that “Cara’s support for women and girls and the LGBTQ community is one of the driving forces behind her foundation and her decision to make this artwork with Chemical X.”
Lastly, Delevingne’s art is a statement on body ownership and image, setting an example for young women who are struggling with these issues themselves. The artwork couldn’t come at a better time, as women’s rights and the #MeToo movement are at the forefront of our public discourse, highlighting the deep gender inequality in our society. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Delevingne noted, “I want this to remind people of how incredibly powerful they are, what a beautiful thing their bodies are and to take pride in that.”