Token Supremacy: The Art of Finance, the Finance of Art, and the Great Crypto Crash of 2022

Knopf. May 2024. 368p. ISBN 9780593536759. $32. ECON
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital or physical objects that, via blockchain technology, allow digital artworks to record transactions that indicate ownership. New York Times investigative reporter Small’s first book is a detailed history of NFTs and the relationship between the art and finance worlds. NFTs are a complicated subject that Small explains well, without oversimplifying. Their narrative starts with the moment when NFTs were adopted by people who wanted to create, through cryptocurrency, the ability to trade directly without using intermediaries like banks or social media platforms. Some crypto users who were not wedded to utopian ideologies used NFTs as financial investment vehicles, leading to the creation of a highly volatile and speculative market for digital art. Even the traditional art market got involved, with Christie’s auction house selling an NFT for $69.3 million in 2021. Small is not dismissive of digital art—which they consider a legitimate and effective medium—but argues that the sector is rife with corruption and intellectual dishonesty. Their criticisms also reach the traditional art market, perhaps the largest unregulated market in the world and a key vector of finance and investment.
VERDICT A fascinating tale about NFTs, the art market, and investment for curious readers who have a solid understanding of how crypto and finance work.
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