by Shraddha NairMar 10, 2022
In the newest addition to the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) New York, NFT Diamonds is a digital art project by New York-based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz, that takes its starting point as the speculative nature of the international diamond industry. As the first digital artwork to be added to the Museum of Art and Design collection, the project makes a case against the manufactured scarcity of diamonds; Errazuriz contends the speculative nature of valuation and its historical creation into a rare commodity and marker of class. With a limited set of a hundred unique digital diamonds, the digital artist links their price to that of diamonds in the real world, directly commenting on the disparity in the latter's valuation, when most are synthetically manufactured. The Chile-born artist asks the question that if a diamond can be synthetically manufactured and valued, why can't we have digital diamonds created from an artist's studio? With this speculation, Errazuriz likens the NFT collectibles as gems themselves, due to their rare commodity status within the limited series.
In reference to the NFT and cryptocurrency boom that is currently taking place and how NFT Diamonds was an attempt to survive in this burgeoning space, Errazuriz says, “One has to understand that what you are going to create is no longer going to be exhibited in a measured and relatively small world. It is going to be a giant, growing black hole of a world, and your artwork is going to have a lot less impact unless it can figure out how to survive, how to swim amongst all this. And so, the logic there was to try and create an artwork that instead of swimming in this giant sea, can become an island in and of itself. And now, its own platform, its own ecosystem.”
The platform and marketplace for NFT Diamonds becomes an extension of the project, as it places a tracker for the values of gold, diamonds, Bitcoin, and Ethereum at the top of the landing page, emulating stock market tickers. Each digital diamond is listed with its carat value, corresponding to its carbon weight in the real world. The website lists each digital diamond profile in the form of a marketplace, where any user can place a bid on the respective digital assets. The diamonds are ever-evolving in size, increasing in carat value every time there is a transaction against the respective digital diamond to denote the carbon footprint produced by cryptomining. Through this replication of enforced scarcity through the limited set, Errazuriz comments on the nature of the very same in the real world through commodification.
Only around 50 per cent of the diamond supply goes towards the jewellery market, while the rest is towards industrial use for the cutting of tools. It is interesting to consider the 'production' or 'manufacture' of diamonds due to its process of mining, retrieval, cutting, cleaning, polishing, that creates its ultimate value as a commodity. This process of producing the diamond is opposed to the notion of unearthing gems as a naturally occurring phenomenon.
The graphic artist says in our conversation, “What if we could create a double category of an artwork that is also a jewel. And since there weren't any digital diamonds, it seemed very interesting. In a way, an NFT is a lot purer than a diamond. So suddenly, well it makes even more sense that as an artist, I am creating artworks that are actually jewels that can be mined in its own platform, and that actually make more logical sense. Then a physical diamond, that I can't differentiate one from another, I have no way of proving that one particular diamond is different from another. And so, it becomes a fascinating subject.”
Through NFT Diamonds, the visual artist questions the notion of extrinsic value of assets and how it is ascertained. “When a big component of what is talked about of the category of art today is its price, its value, it's constantly fluctuating, changes from a financial standpoint is such a big part of the NFT, that if you are creating an artwork that does not address that, it is not a responsible artwork,” he says.
Taking into account the rising values of Ethereum and Bitcoin, Errazuriz’s intervention brings to light the necessarily speculative nature of NFTs and cryptocurrency, and its volatile nature and lack of regulations and oversight. He taps into the contemporary debate on Web 3.0 and its uses, drawbacks, environmental repercussions, not to mention the very notion of decentralised finance, the artist is using the current project to finance a newer augmented reality platform that will allow all artists to put their works up for sale through the future website.