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February 16, 2024


After two years and more than 250 articles, it’s time to put digital art’s global community into print
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Right Click Save: The New Digital Art Community, published by Vetro Editions, is available now for free with ClubNFT

Many regard the past five years as a tech revolution in art. However, I fear this narrative might bury the lead. Throughout history, artists have always integrated scientific and technological advancements into their work. But the real shift recently wasn’t primarily technological — it was social.

A diverse group: from meme-loving digital natives to experienced yet overlooked digital creators, and later a growing number of self-described “degens” sidestepped the traditional art world. In doing so, they reshaped the scene through a series of decentralized experiments and speculations. Evaluating which experiments succeeded or failed is subjective, but together they became an undeniable force that pushed digital art center stage. Unlike art movements of the past, however, this wasn’t driven by a select few or a single aesthetic — there is no Picasso, Braque, or Clement Greenberg. Instead, this new digital art community is messy, global, and full of contradictions. It therefore requires a plurality of voices to tell the story.

To assist in amplifying these different perspectives, we launched Right Click Save in early 2022 to drive critical conversations about blockchain, NFTs, and Web3. Today we celebrate the launch of our new limited edition book, which we hope will serve as one of many anthologies that testify to this explosive period of creativity. In what follows, Alex Estorick elaborates the origin story of Right Click Save: The New Digital Art Community.

— Jason Bailey

The cultural critic and scholar of photography, Susan Sontag once wrote: “Rules of taste enforce structures of power.” Rather than reiterating values derived from past traditions of painting, generative art, or computer art, we must ask whether a smart contract is capable of embedding new values at all.¹ (Charlotte Kent)

When we started Right Click Save (RCS), we sought to create a space for critical conversations by a community of digital creators historically ignored by the art world. At its core, it was a listening exercise — a means by which artists entering the new market for digital art could shape the terms by which their own work was evaluated. It was also an attempt to track the language, and therefore cultural values, of a global community that had embraced blockchain, NFTs, and smart contracts as tools of both inclusion and exclusion. Mapping this community required engaging the inhabitants of the Twittersphere, where members of the NFT space tended to congregate, and acknowledging the many pioneers of digital art who had paved the way before non-fungible tokens even existed. 

Given the long histories of digital and generative art that preceded Web3, what was needed was a series of new media genealogies — what we termed “crypto histories” — that situated ongoing developments within an expanded understanding of art. Rather than seeking to engineer a new class of tastemakers, and therefore new hierarchies of power, we offered an open platform for members of the community to submit their own article proposals, engaging scholars as well as students around the world to ensure that new research could circulate in quick-and-dirty fashion. 

Of course, social media makes for a questionable form of peer review, while the attention economy places new demands on long-form journalism. Our response was to render our website as scrollable as possible, signposting notable quotes against an off-white setting whose retro feel tallied with the site’s wider appeal to technostalgia. One noticeable trait of RCS in its design — the work of Daniel Murphy and Operating System — was that even on day one it seemed to have always been there. Our new book aims to replicate the look and easy UI of the website, preserving a physical record of a global movement at the moment when digital art went mainstream. 

A moment and a movement

As the editorial arm of a tech startup dedicated to protecting the assets of a new generation of NFT collectors, RCS would not have come into existence without the bull market of 2021. Yet its launch in early 2022 also coincided with a market downturn that prompted many speculators to leave the space. While this has made life hard for the individuals and collectives that seek to sustain a living within the fragile infrastructure of Web3, it also replaced empty hype as a driving force behind the market. 

RCS endeavored to fill the void of the bear market with the voices of a plural community that could verbalize the real cultural values underscoring new developments. It also sought to confront the logic of the contemporary art world, whereby meaningless artspeak manufactured by the keepers of the gallery system upholds the purported pricelessness of the art. 

What was needed was a space to celebrate the communities of digital designers and illustrators, as well as the legions of creative coders that had finally found a means of monetizing their algorithms. Thanks to new platforms like Art Blocks and fx(hash), 2021 was unquestionably the year when generative art came of age. It was also the moment when chance — not knowing exactly what you’re going to get until you’ve paid for it — became central to digital art collecting. The subsequent popularity of liveminting events by projects like Bright Moments, RefractionDAO, and VerticalCrypto Art has proved that buying digital things need not be a purely digital experience. It also portends a future in which generative media increasingly define cultural production. 

Given the number of essays, interviews, and roundtables we have published on the subject, the new book might well have been entirely dedicated to generative art. But that would have ignored the many digital creators who don’t write their own code, who have nevertheless built successful careers thanks to the NFT. ClubNFT’s CEO Jason Bailey was covering both generative and crypto art on long before either received mainstream attention. RCS continues what he started by framing new developments in digital, generative, and AI art in light of their historical antecedents — from the computer and conceptual art of the 1960s to the demoscene of the 1990s to the communities of creative coders that coalesced in the early 2000s. Indeed, some of the most exciting conversations hosted by the magazine have involved artists of different generations coming together and debating definitions. The result is an archive of interactions that reflects the multigenerational character of the Web3 community as well as the digital geography of the blockchain. 

At the same time, RCS is also a document of human-machine collaborations at a moment of confrontation between the reactionary politics of transhumanism and a posthuman project that embraces mutuality between humans, nonhumans, and natural organisms. We support the latter, while acknowledging the inequities that continue to plague technical systems determining who gets to be called “human.” Thanks to the work of theVERSEverse and the wider movement for blockchain poetry, we have a new forum for human-machine interaction that augments the art of machine learning, one that proves that NFTs can still engineer new markets for old art forms. Digital art may have been the proof of concept for NFTs, but it is increasingly clear that success in Web3 rests not so much on what is being sold but how

Certain behaviors: engaging with the crypto community and supporting one’s peers, especially by collecting their work, are becoming imperative in the new creative economy, where the identities of creator, collector, and curator seem to be merging into a single creative entrepreneur.

RCS itself is a product of co-creation with other individuals and organizations that share our vision of an inclusive art world. More than a magazine, we have become a means of engineering progressive conversations around the world — from Right Click Live in Tokyo to FEMGEN in Miami to reGEN, a charitable initiative in collaboration with Foteini Valeonti that supports generative artists in fighting degenerative diseases. 

We also continue to celebrate artists from the Global South who have made crypto art, in Artnome’s words, “the first truly global art movement.” However, as a global community, especially one enfolded in the market for cryptocurrency, RCS is also a collision zone for a plurality of politics. For this reason, we supported Dada’s Historic NFT Fest, which proved that you can debate from vastly divergent politics within a climate of toleration. 

Given the reach of the RCS network, it has been a singular challenge to encapsulate the more than 250 articles (and numerous podcasts) so far published on the website in one physical edition. Numerous conversations and crypto histories have had to be left out that warrant inclusion, alongside a raft of expert analyses that have made complex concepts comprehensible to the lay reader. However, we believe that this selection provides the clearest window on both a moment in time and a wide-ranging movement. Many of the essays felt evergreen the moment we published them, while other texts spotlight voices and viewpoints that have too long been ignored. There should be nothing radical about inclusivity, but in the expanding world of art it remains an urgent necessity and the guiding principle of Right Click Save.

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Jason Bailey is the creator of the art and tech blog and founder of ClubNFT, where he serves as CEO.

Alex Estorick is Editor-in-Chief at Right Click Save.

Right Click Save: The New Digital Art Community, published by Vetro Editions, is available now for free with ClubNFT


¹ C Kent, “In Search of an Aesthetics of Smart Contracts”, Right Click Save, March 28, 2022.