In essence, like many or even most startup ventures, crypto-art related schemes seem aware of a problem, but completely unaware of the existing theory around that problem, or existing potential (though less hi-tech shiny) solutions to it. It's classic "reinventing the bus" syndrome.
...the vast majority of cryptocurrency, blockchain and smart-contract approaches adopt wholesale neoliberal approaches to money, which is to say they see money as ultimately a neutral tool that naturally develops from human commerce in complex societies. Their explanation for the pathologies of today’s economy is that nation-states or powerful economic actors have skewed, controlled or perverted money’s neutral nature, offering us instead politically-manipulated tokens in the form of central-bank issued fiat currency. The gambit of most cryptocurrency schemes is that by “returning” money to its origins we could therefore return society to its rightful path
Max Haiven, Art After Money, Money After Art
In their (cruel) optimism that a new distributed, cryptographically enhanced system can restore money to its fabled neutrality and deliver us the virtues of transparency, autonomy, security or decentralization they end up participating in and reinforcing the encryption of sociality by money and finance.
Max Haiven, Art After Money, Money After Art
There is the sense of entering a new community, accessing a previously untapped market, or even getting contracted payments on every subsequent sale of your work. Of course, it requires fealty to the platform and turning yourself into a sort of blockchain evangelist...
In most cases, we already have many of the tools that can potentially be used to make a less hierarchical art world where artists have more stake in their work and its subsequent journey. There's nothing about ensuring artists get a fair portion of every subsequent sale of their work, for example, that can't be done with the old-fashioned tools of provenance, contracts, and human trust. In fact, this has occasionally been demanded or attempted to be secured legally by artists who were increasingly aware of the function art was serving as a financial investment in the post-war period. The sticking point is more often social, these kinds of ideas are difficult to put into practice because they challenge the hierarchical and extractive nature of the art world that those at the top of institutions, cultural, legal and financial, scaled or were born at the top of.
Then there's the added problem that crypto-art platforms almost always offer a new site for cultural commerce without fundamentally challenging the extractive and individualizing structure of the art market. You have to enter all of these “opportunities” as an entrepreneur, never as a collective or even merely a single artist. Are there any cases of these platforms leading to broadly more sustainable artistic practices rather than just a few flashy large payouts for media-savvy big names or early adopters? The hype of a technological magic bullet is easy to spin out into a white paper or press release, but many of the collective demands that would truly nourish art-making and solve many of the problems artists face, like free art school or UBI, don't play into the glamour of the individual art star, even though this figure may be concealed by progressive-seeming language or graphic design.
This is not to say that the art world as it exists has already solved or is working towards solving many of its problems. As I noted above, those who wish to “reinvent the bus” sometimes have identified a real problem. However, the broader historical and social context of why, for example, a city's bus system may be decrepit and inconvenient to use, or why even the most bare bones public transportation doesn't reach many places, is usually lost on them. Capitalism has hollowed out both a sense of commons and budgets for public services throughout most countries, and shifted most things towards individualized financial risk. Solutions need to think bigger than just placing this individualized risk on a different stage, or letting the market operate through a different medium to be convincing, crypto or no.
Building ~sustainable~ models to monetize and market unregulated capital gain just isn’t it. Cryptocurrency is never going to be ecologically just.
Part of the reason this is true is that cryptocurriencies are pyramid schemes. In a cryptocurrency marketplace, you make money on the people who have entered the market after you. This is not me on my socialist shit (which, don’t worry, I’ll get to later) but is rather just the fact of how they are constructed. Unlike a Ponzi scheme, there is no guarantee that it will all collapse someday- but the value continuing to rise absolutely depends on ever more users joining the network, using coins, and competing to mine them.