What is Open Art?

BY Nico Yang

January 22nd, 2021 | 20 min

Open Art is a new digital art form that is characterized by the openness of creation, circulation, and collection. It relies on technologies such as cryptography, distributed ledgers, and distributed storage.

Compared to traditional, physical art, Open Art guarantees explicit property rights, robust traceability, and unobstructed circulation. In addition, by introducing a more open value discovery mechanism and interactive functions, open art has more potential collectors and a richer collecting experience.

We will briefly discuss our thoughts on open art from three aspects: creation, market, and collection.

A Bold Vision: Beyond Art History

Open Art defines a new art paradigm. One of the most fundamental ideas of Open Art is to think about artworks in a way that breaks with the developmental perspective of art history.

The analytical methods adopted by historians are mainly focused on examining the inheritance and development of artworks largely based on chronological order. As it has developed, such an analysis has produced an obvious drawback - allowing artworks to be dwarfed as specimens and references of their time. It finds justification for certain so-called "artworks" that lack vitality and prevents the public from evaluating artworks based on their own feelings.

In Open Art, all preconceptions about the work itself are discarded. Tradition does not mean obsoleteness, and modernity does not mean advanced. Any style stands as a means of expression and the service of content and expression.

Likewise, to serve expression, Open Art can be presented freely and in various forms: it can be a painting, a music, a video, a document, or even a combination of these forms. Any means of expression that can be digitized can be included in open art. In terms of contents and themes, Open Art also shows for a wide range of diversity and a high degree of inclusiveness. It can be not only an electronic portrait placed in a of the rich mansion, but also a popular video, a popular online article, a homoerotic work ......

Openness of the Creator

Artists are liberated in this paradigm. In Open Art, there is no pre-determined division between academic and popular art, no distinction between mainstream culture and subculture. Professional and amateur, female and male, even human and artificial intelligence (AI), all identity labels are erased. Artists are united by "creation and expression" in one field, and everything is spoken by the work itself.

We especially want to emphasize the acceptance and tolerance of AI in open art. As technology continues to advance, AI has now "invaded" the art world, and AI-collaborated art creation has caused widespread controversy in the art world. We believe that this trend of co-creation is inevitable and unstoppable. Therefore, we hope to focus more on interpreting the positive influence of AI on arts than magnifying its negative aspects.

AI is capable of transforming artworks across styles and genres or creating a "forgery" based on the "learning" of a painter's style. To a certain extent, AI has achieved "vertical openness" in terms of time, leaving aside the narrative of art historical development, while further breaking the stylistic boundaries and genre barriers of art creation to achieve "horizontal openness". We look forward to the creation of AI and are happy to see it happen.

Overall, Open Art is an open answer to the question of "what is art". It does not presuppose any author or work, but only requires originality. In the Open Art movement, the creators have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Openness of Art Market

Thanks to the emergence of Non-Fungible Token (NFT) in blockchain technology, Open Art is able to contribute to a more open art market than traditionally art field. Without a robust property-right-based relationship, the electronic artworks would naturally live through arbitrary duplication or reproduction, and unstoppable devaluation. In contrast, the NFT-based property right is firmly confirmed by a continuous and mechanical consensus generated by the distributed ledger technology. Guaranteed by the technical processes, Open Art works' uniqueness is preserved and protected, which lays the foundation for an open market.

Although technology has solved (or set aside) many of the problems that existed in the trading process, we still need a richer price discovery mechanism to go with it. The current models of "limited multiple editions" and "layer-by-layer sale" are excellent attempts to make it possible for a work to be held by multiple people at the same time, and we are trying to continue along these lines.

The two models mentioned above are a limited division of the artwork based on entities (editions, layers, blocks, etc.), but can we go further and divide the artwork in an infinite (within a certain time) and abstract way? In other words, we would like to find a series of more open price discovery mechanisms that would allow more people to participate in an Open Art market.

In this regard, we conceived three art sales prototypes:

  1. Add-fire Type.
  2. Lossless Type.
  3. Ruler Type.

We will elaborate on the principles and processes of these mechanisms in the future. Although they each have their own characteristics, they all rely on an equity-style division of the artwork, and their application is limited to the first sale of the on-chain artwork, while in the open art secondary market based on this, the play will only be more diverse and interesting.

Openness of Collectors

After the openness of creation and market is achieved, the openness of collecting activity has a material premise. The circulation of artworks in the market in the form of shares makes it possible for a single work to be held by multiple people at the same time. The threshold for collectors is also greatly reduced by the new "initial sale" method we envision. A person who does not have a strong bidding power in the traditional art market, but who has a great love for a work, can still become an Open Art collector.

We are aiming to develop more ways of interaction between collectors and collections as part of the collective activities, to discover more "non-property rights" in order to adapt to the changing "property rights" of the artwork itself. The old modes of interaction, which relied on a specific part of the work's figuration (e.g., the display of one's own part - a layer or version), no longer exist in open art. In other words, discovering new means of interacting with artworks is both a pursuit of open art itself and a requirement imposed by new modes of market and property rights.

Such new ways of interaction should bring about a sense of ownership (the pleasure of collecting) and generate personalized experiences for each individual who owns the property, without destroying the integrity of the work itself (because the work is only divided in the abstract).

Electronic Inscriptions and Electronic Seals based on the programmability of the work is a good idea.

Inscriptions and seals are unique interactions between collectors and collections in Chinese culture and art practices. The inscription refers to the comments and insights written by a collector, or a person designated by the collector, in the blank space of the original work or on another piece of paper, while the seal is an artistic and personal symbol of the collector, both of which expand on the content of the original work.

In our design, every collector owns the right to creating electronic inscriptions and electronic seals, while the presentation of the inscriptions and seals varies according to the ratio of shares held by the collector.

These inscriptions and seals from the collector, as in the Chinese tradition, provide a visual representation of the origin and transmission of the work, and also enrich the content of the work, alluding to the theme of open art in the form of "secondary creation". Along with the function of inscription, the collectors of an artwork naturally formed a small community - or rather, an open artwork becomes a community in itself by virtue of its inscription.

A further detail that needs to be discussed is: what can be the forms of the presentation of electronic inscriptions or electronic seals? How can the numerous "traces of the collection" from different sources be effectively combined with the original work to achieve a more effective final presentation? We will work on this for further reflection.