‘Ecological nightmare’ backlash forces ArtStation to drop NFT plans

Prominent online art portfolio platform ArtStation has caved in to pressure from artists and environmentally-conscious users hours after announcing a series of non-fungible token, or NFT, drops from several notable artists.

On Mar. 9, the platform announced the program was scheduled to begin today and featured works from artists including Halo Infinite art director Nicolas “Sparth” Bouvier, retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Assassin’s Creed franchise art director Raphael Lacoste, painter Craig Mullins, and Magic: The Gathering illustrator Alena Aenami.

Following a furious bombardment of criticism, all mentions of the announcement were pulled down and replaced with a short message on the website stating that “In light of the critical reception on social media regarding NFTs, it’s clear that now is not the right time for NFTs on ArtStation.” Despite the setback, the firm didn’t shy entirely away from the technology, hinting at its potential future use:

“We are very sorry for all the negative emotions this has caused. Despite our attempts to validate our approach, we clearly made a mistake and admit fault. It was our bad. We feel that NFTs are a transformative technology that can make significant, positive change for digital artists.”

Dapper Labs founder and CEO Roham Gharegozlou stated the decision to cave in was “short-sighted” adding that “for one, blocks will get mined anyway — for the other, the criticism basically doesn’t apply to proof of stake blockchains like Flow Blockchain [used by NBA Top Shot].”

ArtStation’s original plan appeared to use the ERC-721 token on Ethereum which remains a power hungry Proof of Work blockchain until most transactions move to the more efficient Proof of Stake blockchain Eth2. It is unclear if the platform considered other blockchains that can host NFTs using a fraction of the power.

This apology only appeased some of the community, however, with artists like Ashley Grace taking to Twitter again to voice their concerns about the apparent inconclusive wording of the post, likening NFTs to an “ecological nightmare pyramid scheme.”

Prior to pulling down the initial announcement, ArtStation unsuccessful attempted to placate the push-back, adding that it will be “contributing to offset the carbon footprint costs of any given piece of digital art transacted on the platform.”

Twitter user “Bleached Rainbows” stated that “ArtStation going into NFT and saying ‘but don’t worry! We’ll pay for carbon offsets’ is the equivalent of setting a house on fire then placing a single potted plant on the burned property as ‘compensation’.”

The backlash came on top of other controversies including rumored sexism and adult content, with artists threatening to cancel their subscriptions. Other issues included the unregulated nature of the NFT space and ability for scams to arise, and criticisms the move was a cash grab for the platform and most prominent artists.

Despite the intense controversy, NFTs continue to garner widespread support with Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days auction on Christie’s heating up. Kinetic founder Jehan Chu attempted to join but was outbid at $7.25 million with 2 days still to go.

The highest bid is currently $9.75 million.

Nine hours after ArtStation canceled the NFT launch, NFL tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rob Gronkowski announced his new NFT collection of four cards to represent his four championships. The cards will be sold at auction via Opensea on Mar. 10.

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