TwistedVacancy, one of the sickest artists on the market, minted artwork for fellow artist Josie after Twisted’s appearance on Josie’s "Behind The Art" show. This specific piece was minted as an ERC721 via OpenSea and its related transactions are available on Etherscan here (TokenID 36 of TwistedVacancy Bizarre Store). Anyone can review the OpenSea smart contract that issued the ERC721 token.
Without digging any further, the token holder of this ERC721 may assume that the artwork is stored within the token. In other words, by owning the ERC721 token, the holder would also own the artwork. Unfortunately, that is not true. In reality, ERC721 tokens store references that point to the metadata (i.e., title, description, image URL, etc.) of the artwork. Then depending on a variety of factors, the actual image of the artwork may be stored on a hosted server (e.g., AWS, Google Drive), distributed file system (e.g., IPFS), permaweb (e.g., Arweave), or other means.
To illustrate, let’s check back to Twisted’s artwork for Josie on Etherscan and inspect how it is referenced and stored. First, navigate to the “Read Contract” tab of Twised’s “TwistedVacancy Bizarre Store” token, scroll down to “13. tokenURI,” and input “36.” The outcome of which is:
By dropping in the returned HTTPS link in your browser, you’ll be redirected to the webpage below. The portion in red is the metadata to Twisted’s “Behind the Art,” which includes a URL (next to “image”) to the artwork. As you can see, it is stored on Google as the URL begins with “https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/,” and this confirms that Twisted’s work is referenced by an ERC721 token, rather than stored within the token. And if companies involved in the minting process (OpenSea, Google, etc.) of Twisted’s artwork disappeared tomorrow, so goes the ability to retrieve this image from querying the blockchain.
It’s not the most ideal situation but it works. Of course, if Ethereum permits, we’d store everything on-chain. But say the companies did disappear, is the token now worthless because no one can verify what it once represented? Probably. It’d be impossible to know what the token references or to retrieve the artwork referenced. Ultimately, Twisted would have to mint another “Behind the Art” token that references a different “image” URL.
This challenge with metadata is universal to all cryptoart platforms, consequently any minted cryptoart token must reference the actual artwork stored somewhere on the Internet. Above is a screenshot of this spreadsheet (“Metadata Research” tab) that references platforms’ respective (1) smart contract, (2) specific function in the smart contract that retrieves metadata, (3) sample token ID for looking up metadata, and (4) link to metadata.
The majority here has opted for storing metadata on distributed filing systems, and InfiNFT and Mintbase have included the permaweb as part of their list of storage references. LexART will follow suit to store metadata on IPFS and Arweave (though I’ve been seeing storage cost is a real issue 😕). However, instead of offering a JSON view for its metadata, LexART will present a certificate of authenticity, basically metadata in the form of a PDF.
Certificate of Authenticity
Continuing with Twisted’s journey, he’s recently partnered with MetaFactory to decentralize his brand called Wicked Sunday Club (“WSC”) through cooperative management and collective creation. Below are just a few items club members will receive, from left to right: (1) a physical shirt, (2) access to style guide / asset library, (3) wearable in Cryptovoxels. For an exhaustive list of perks members receive, see here.
Of the 3 items shown, the style guide presents a new paradigm of collaboration with artists, where members of WSC can experiment, design, and create physical goods as a community, sell them, and share profits. It is truly a decentralized brand directed by Twisted and shared among the cryptoart community.
Taking this concept a step further, Twisted could mint WSC assets individually (bottom 2 rows of the style guide) and sell them with certain rights attached. This is where a certificate of authenticity, or proof of artwork(?), can be helpful, as shown below (link).
Note, this certificate will not be a document manually put together. As artists use LexART to mint tokens, content submitted will automatically generate this document, a way to simultaneously capture the artwork and artists’ intentions at minting.
Here are a few reasons why a certificate of authenticity might make sense:
Proof of art
The certificate itself serves as a source of truth for everything about an artwork. Artists can share as much or as little about it. Maybe it’d be beneficial to have a minimum set of fields for minting new work so that there’s a “best practice” of sorts for commercial activities. I’m personally thinking (1) title of creation, (2) number of edition, (3) date of creation, (4) creator, (5) creation, (6) description of creation, (7) type of creation, (8) file extension of creation, (9) URL of creation, and (10) Creative Commons license as the minimum set. Feedback welcome! 🙏
Royalties & Licenses
By including royalties and licenses in the certificate, artists can have a simple medium to communicate the rules. LexART is currently able to automatically distribute royalties to artists and collectors per art sale, and it should automate licenses and other rules soon. So taking on one rule at a time. In doing so, I think it opens up new opportunities for artists to share their artwork. For example, allowing royalties to flow through collectors seems like a fun experiment to do 😝
Build trust with transparency for everyone. Going through Etherscan to verify metadata can be quite tedious, especially for those new to Web3. Having a simple document like this may help ease the process before having a dedicated front end.
Equally important, it can serve as a basis for when disputes arise in the future. The cryptoart market is growing fast. Counterfeits may become problematic (it’s started), and this document can serve as a basis for speedy dispute resolution, even if the LexART smart contract is not able to automate everything just yet.
Aside from the addition of a certificate, at its current state, LexART is a self-service cryptoart gallery with automated royalties distributions. It is capable of spawning a factory for minting LexART tokens (ERC20 NFTs) that automatically distribute, per change of hands, royalties to artists for creating and sharing the artwork and to collectors for owning and growing the cryptoart community.
It’d be cool to do a WSC x LexART and experiment with different licensing schemes and royalties structure with the WSC assets. Each asset could have its own royalties and licensing arrangement. Maybe one asset can only be printed on coffee mugs? Or maybe prohibition on asset combinations? I think there’s a lot of ways to spin it. Why not? 🤘