Visual artist Santanu Hazarika breaks down how NFTs could democratise art
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are rapidly shifting power to the artists, in a way that could shake up crucial industries, be it record financing or art. Mumbai-based visual artist Santanu Hazarika who just dropped his debut NFT, thinks blockchain technology dismantles the culture of gatekeeping in a bid to empower artists. “It's important to remember that digital art was never considered fine art, and was always sidelined. But because of the NFT boom, there’s a huge shift in focus towards digital artists. It’s empowering, and it’s giving them a lot more attention,” says Hazarika.
The illustrator just made an artwork for electronic producer and frequent collaborator Ritviz, to accompany his album announcement. The NFT, released on WazirX NFT Marketplace for 300 WRX ($388.5), was sold just 37 seconds after going live, making it one of the world’s fastest NFT sales:
Tell us a little about the artwork. What was the idea behind it?
It’s titled Sanviz, a clever take on mine and Ritviz’s name. It’s a collaborative piece and hence, the name is an apt mashup. The concept behind the artwork has more to do with the relationship I have with Ritviz, since we go way back. We have been working together since his first album, and continue to work together on his visual identity which is something I treat as my own baby now. I’ve worked closely with him to build this visual identity across his albums, singles, collaborations and even his merchandise. It’s really been a beautiful journey and this artwork marks the next step in our relationship – our venture into the world of NFTs.
On the eve of World Music Day, Ritviz announced that he’d be releasing 21 songs across 21 weeks and I announced that I’d be launching my very first NFT on WazirX. So, this artwork is a collaborative concept that we’ve used to delve into a new realm of art & music.
How do you feel about the possibilities of the global NFT market?
I’m very optimistic, the possibilities are endless. We have this huge crypto boom in this digital age because of which we have so many people investing in crypto. NFTs are commodities that are a huge part of this new decentralised world and in this digital age, NFTs have a huge allure. As artists, this is a massive development, since art is being made so much more accessible. The marketplace opens up the doors to an endless number of collectors who want to buy from the artists directly.
How empowering has the NFT market been for your work (in terms of monetising or growing an audience)?
Extremely, because it’s a decentralised system. There are no gatekeepers, no galleries telling you what’s good or bad art, or what will or won’t sell. Each artist has the same platform to showcase their art, equal exposure to the market. What’s cool is that it’s not only empowering for the artists, but for the collectors, too, because now every screen is a gallery for them.
You can browse through the work of so many artists, and procure and collect whatever work you like, digitally. There’s complete transparency in the process, you know who’s buying what, and for how much, where it’s going, and how much people appreciate the artwork. Everything in the process is instant, and there’s no waiting around for payments. It’s almost a direct process between the artist and the collector, with no scope to misuse the system.
How long does an album cover art usually take you? How collaborative is the process (with the artist)?
It usually takes me anywhere between 2-10 days and depends heavily on the artist I’m working with. The process generally involves me understanding and getting to know the artists better, their inspirations and references. So I’ll spend some time trying to understand where they’re coming from, because I’ll be essentially translating their art from one form to another, from the auditory format to a visual representation. This needs an in-depth study, and an intimate insight into their head and their process, their whole creativity.
So I do my research on the genre and on the music. Then I draft out the initial sketch and from there it's straight to the final sketch – there’s nothing in between - because of which the process is much smaller.
The kind of art you want to make this year..
I’m planning a few experiments this year. In a few months, I’ll be doing my first ever augmented reality exhibition on a digital platform. To pivot to the reality of the situation with the pandemic, I’m looking to create an AR/VR experience that provides a platform for me to engage with people, and for them to explore some new, unreleased art pieces. I also want to do a physical exhibit, if the situation permits. I’m also going to be dropping a lot more NFTs with some of the most exciting music artists in the country, as part of a collaborative series.