Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor

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Paints, brushes and a canvas are the tools usually associated with the visual arts, but not for Osinachi.

He has become one of Africa’s leading crypto artists, using digital means to create and sell his work.

Sitting at his dining table in his cozy but modest home in the Nigerian town of Lagos, Osinachi opens a laptop and fires up Microsoft Word. He balances the screen with his stylus.

“There’s a lot you can do in Word,” he explains, selecting basic shapes in the program, warping and playing with their dimensions, filling them with vibrant colors, and drawing with brush strokes. flourishes of his pen.

“What I’ve done over the years is push myself to go deeper and see what I can accomplish with this word processing tool.”

Man in a Pool I, like all of Osinachi’s work, was created using Microsoft Word

Although digital art emerged decades ago, “crypto-art” is a phenomenon that has materialized more recently.

The term was coined because the blockchain technology used to buy and sell so-called non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which prove ownership, is the same as that used for cryptocurrencies.

“Only one person can say, ‘This room belongs to me.’ That’s why digital art is valuable now,” says Osinachi.

Additionally, artists can ensure that they receive a commission each time the work is sold – a significant advantage not enjoyed by the traditional art world.

Last October, the 30-year-old became the first African crypto-artist to see his work sold by the Christie’s auction house in Europe.

Her series of five NFTs, Different Shades of Water, premiering at the London edition of the 1:54 African Art Fair, is inspired by the work of British artist David Hockney.

Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor
Pool Day II is one of the pieces in the Different Shades of Water series

The images are a commentary on the prioritization of work over well-being, according to Christie’s, but they are also stunning to watch, enveloping the viewer in a warm embrace.

“I think the number one thing that attracts them is the beauty of the work,” Osinachi says, reflecting on what makes her work popular.

“Then followed by the message that I convey through the work. And beyond the message, there is the process. ‘How did you do that?’ When they discover that I use Microsoft Word, it is mind-blowing for many of them.

Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor
Osinachi believes that Christie’s auction of Man In A Pool II and the other works brought him greater recognition

Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe, to give his full name, was born and raised in the industrial city of Aba in southeastern Nigeria. When his father brought home a computer at age 15, Osinachi began experimenting with creating digital images using Microsoft Word.

As he developed his work and attempted to sell it through a traditional gallery, he was rejected. However, in 2017, he discovered he could sell NFTs using blockchain.

He recalls that in the beginning, before the idea of ​​NFTs took off, limited edition prints of his work would sell for as little as $60. At Christie’s auction in October, his work fetched over $68,000.

In fact, using online marketplaces such as SuperRare, OpenSea and Nifty Gateway, Osinachi has sold NFTs for more, but he says the recognition of his work by the international auctioneer has been invaluable.

“To me, it’s a validation of NFTs,” he says. “Furthermore, this is a big win for African digital artists [to see] that an African artist actually does that.

Isabel Millar, Associate Specialist in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Department, observed how an initial divide between digital art collectors and traditional buyers is gradually blurring.

“I think what’s really interesting is that now there’s been this crossover,” Millar says.

The acceptance of Bitcoin as a means of payment during auctions is further evidence of this development.

Global attention was drawn to crypto art when Christie’s sold a digital collage by little-known American artist Michael Winkelman, known professionally as Beeple, for $69 million last year. It revealed the demand for this way of exchanging art.

Millar notes how empowering the medium is for artists, which could help African artists circumvent gatekeepers. “It kind of bypasses a lot of the traditional art world structures of galleries and fairs,” she explains.

However, this does not prevent these platforms from adopting this innovation.

Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor
Digital art screens were on display at the recent Art X fair in Lagos

Lagos-based Art X, West Africa’s most important international art fair, held its first exhibition dedicated to NFTs in November.

Multiple screens showcasing vibrant digital images were mounted on a jet black wall in a sprawling marquee. It was organized by Osinachi and featured 10 artists from African countries including Nigeria, Morocco and Senegal.

Art X founder Tokini Peterside says she’s excited about what she describes as an “NFT revolution”.

“We realized this was a fantastic way for…digital artists to monetize their practice,” she says.

Peterside cites the rise of 21-year-old digital artist Anthony Azekwoh, also based in Lagos.

The young talent earned around $40,000 from his NFT art series, The Deathless Collection, in 2021 with the NFT for The Red Man selling for $25,419.

Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor
The Red Man was created by artist Anthony Azekwoh

However, some cultural conservatives are skeptical that the platform democratizes art and question the extent of the medium’s transparency.

“It’s as if there were a lot of [tech] the brothers who set the prices,” says a gallerist who asks to remain anonymous, referring to the heavy involvement of tech entrepreneurs who traditionally patronize NFT art.

“Will be [New York’s] Museum of Modern Art become less relevant? No. Established institutions will remain important.

Nigerian artist NFT Osinachi: the work created using a word processor
This piece by Ade Adekola is called Bride 3 and is part of his Anthology of an African Wedding series

A crypto-art enthusiast, Ade Adekola has been a digital artist for over 20 years and recently started selling his work as NFT.

He shows me his latest works exhibited at the B57 gallery, his own space located in Victoria Island, an upscale neighborhood in Lagos. The artist explains that while NFTs are an exciting new opportunity, Guardians still exist.

“What makes you a winner in the NFT space isn’t your ability to create,” says Adekola. “It’s your ability to sell, and your ability to sell is fundamentally based on your ability to communicate.”

But this opportunity for African artists to reach the rest of the world via NFT art markets offers them a chance to get a wider audience, according to Osinachi.

“Intermediaries tend to decide who passes and becomes a great artist. In the NFT space, the artist can decide to go do their thing and make a name for themselves and earn money from their work.

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