Italy is emerging as an unexpected hub for crypto art. But Regulatory Challenges Are Restraining Its NFT Market Growth | Artnet News

As the complex phenomenon of cryptocurrency continues to revolutionize the way the world does business, an unlikely player has emerged on the crypto art scene: Italy. For a relatively small country that stands out for its thousands of years of art history, Italy’s “cryptographic art renaissance,” as some call it, is both surprising and heartening.

In recent years, a growing number of young, digitally pioneering Italian artists have driven demand for Italian crypto art and fostered what some describe as a “cultural revival” in a country whose creative output has long been rooted in the traditional media.

“Italy has been a pioneer in producing NFT artists,” digital art expert Giacomo Nicolella Maschietti told Artnet News. “Italian artists have been experimenting with digital crypto art and NFTs since 2018, a few years before the global NFT market exploded in 2021.”

In the large NFT SuperRare marketplace, Italy ranks third in the world for total sales. Transactions of works by a total of 56 Italian artists brought in around $10.4 million, according to the platform. The country ranks seventh in the world for the total number of SuperRare users (around 200,000), which puts it among the ranks of much larger nations like the United States, Canada and Germany.

Hackatao, hack of a bear. Courtesy of SuperRare.

“From the earliest days of crypto art, there was strong interest and traction in Italy,” Jonathan Perkins, co-founder of SuperRare Labs, the company behind the market, told Artnet News.

A husband and wife duo known as Hackatao were SuperRare’s third artist, closely followed by other Italian artists like Mattia Cuttini, Perkins said. A prominent curator and publicist, Eleanora Brizi, has published a book on Rare Pepes. And the guardians of the Italian cultural landscape have also embraced NFTs and cryptographic art, with articles appearing in Italian vogueItalian Viceand Abitareamong others.

Italian NFT artist Federico Clapis’ work sold for up to 44.7 ETH ($180,000), while Hackatao’s fetched up to 185 ETH ($575,000). Another major player, based in Milan, DotPigeon, sold NFTs for $250,000 on Clever Gateway.

Amedee Modigliani, Testa di Giovane Donna (Head of a young girl). Designed in 1915 and digitized in 2021 DAW® (Digital Artwork), Image by Perry-James Sugden.

A digital cultural revival

Several successful digital art exhibitions held in recent months offer further evidence of Italy’s nascent crypto art scene. In July 2021, Cambi auction house hosted Italy’s first crypto art auction in Milan. The collection, titled “Dystopian Visions”, was curated by Serena Tabacchi, director and co-founder of the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art (MoCDA), another influential player in the Italian digital art market who previously worked at Tate Modern. The sale featured digital art and NFTs by Italian artists, mostly in their 20s and 30s.

Last fall, Milan DART | La Permanente Dynamic Art Museum presented the first exhibition of NFT and crypto art in an Italian museum. The museum opened a follow-up exhibition on March 30 called “NFT Art of the Future” (until May 25). The august Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is also preparing to open “Let’s Get Digital”, which will feature the work of some of the biggest stars in the NFT world, including Refik Anadol, Daniel Arsham and Beeple, who has also just been invited to participate. at a major exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin.

But interest in digital art has not permeated all spheres of the Italian art market. Galleries at miart, Milan’s modern and contemporary art fair, did not feature a single piece of NFT art, demonstrating an ongoing struggle in Italy over how to place digital art within a traditional art framework.

Vittorio Bonapace, Hellenica–Physical Counterpart.  Image courtesy DART of Milan |  La Permanente Dynamic <a class=Art Museum.” width=”811″ height=”1024″ srcset=” 811w,×300.jpg 238w,×50.jpg 40w,×1920.jpg 1521w” sizes=”(max-width: 811px) 100vw, 811px”/>

Vittorio Bonapace, Hellenica – Physical counterpart. Image courtesy DART of Milan | La Permanente Dynamic Art Museum.

The hesitations of some have not prevented the country’s digital scene from progressing and some of its players are actively working to forge a link with the country’s artistic past. Major Italian museums took part in the “Eternalizing Art History” exhibition, held at Unit London in February, which sold digital replicas of Italian masterpieces.

“More than the financial role of Italy in the NFT space, it is the artistic relevance of the Italian scene supported by many Italian institutions”, said Alessio De Vecchi, chief curator of SuperRare and also Italian 3D artist. accomplished, at Artnet News.

As elsewhere in the world, working in digital art also offers Italian artists more career opportunities, especially in the context of a deepening financial crisis and the severe blows of the pandemic on the Italian cultural sector. Italy’s underemployment rate, along with Spain and Greece, was ranked the worst in Europe at the end of 2021, according to Bloombergdespite the fact that unemployment in the whole of the European Union is falling.

Working in the digital realm has “changed the lives of many artists”, according to SuperRare’s De Vecchi. They have been able to gain increased international exposure, opportunities and contribute to the economic and cultural renewal the country needs to remain a global destination for contemporary art, he said.

The artist designates Milan as the hub of this new Renaissance. “Milan has always been adventurous in terms of art, even after the Second World War; it’s a city that embraces new art forms,” he said. “When I left Milan about 18 years ago it was a depressed time for the arts, but…crypto art skyrocketed during the pandemic because we were all stuck at home in front of our computers all the day. People have moved closer to technology.

Federico Clapis, In Search of God.  Courtesy of SuperRare.

Federico Clapis, In search of God. Courtesy of SuperRare.

Regulatory challenges, no marketplace

For all its proponents, the large-scale adoption of cryptocurrency in Italy faces great challenges in the form of regulation. The issues lie in how NFTs, a type of crypto asset, are taxed in the country. Italian financiers have also sounded the alarm about the growing popularity of crypto in the absence of strong regulatory standards. Admittedly, the absence of clear regulations creates an opportunity for criminals use crypto for illegal activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing. But it is also holding back the growth of the crypto economy in Italy.

“There are no major cryptocurrency companies in Italy like there are abroad,” said digital art expert Maschietti, noting the art technology market. Reasoned art as an exception. Those who want to do business in crypto are better off going to places like Switzerland or the United Arab Emirates, which have better regulatory frameworks in place.

“At the European level, we are only at the stage of publishing consultations,” Luca Fantacci, co-director of MINTS (Monetary Innovation, New Technologies and Society) at Bocconi University, a research unit, told Artnet News. of the University.

While Italian regulators have set anti-money laundering requirements for virtual asset providers, or VASPs, that comply with European directives, it will take some time for them to fully catch up with crypto. The process for companies to operate as a VASP in Italy involves setting up a registered Italian branch or subsidiary to operate with Italian customers, and addressing monitoring and risk assessment processes for customers to comply with regulations. “This is impacting some services in the NFT space such as NFT exchanges and custodians,” Ioannis Kympritis, a member of the Bocconi Students Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies Association, told Artnet News. “It’s doable but not easy.”

The challenges Italy faces in establishing a cryptocurrency market are twofold. On the one hand, Italy needs a strong regulatory framework to inspire confidence in the market, but it also needs that framework to be easy to navigate if it hopes to compete with other countries for dominance in the sphere. cryptographic.

“It’s about increasing, not quantity, but regulatory certainty,” Fantucci said.

Although there is clearly a rising scene for digital art in Italy, the lack of a regulatory authority for virtual assets in the country, like what has been established in the emirate of Dubai, has made it difficult for Italians trading crypto at home. Until that happens, it looks like Italy will remain a hub for crypto art as the art generated can be enjoyed, but not as a place to buy and sell.

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