Zuzana-Markéta Macková: Do You Hate NFTs, Capitalism, or Art?: The Three Roles of Art in Neoliberal Society


Thesis Advisor: Ana Teixeira Pinto

July 2023


This thesis explores the three roles of art within neoliberal society, complex interplay between artistic autonomy, critique, escapism, and materiality. The study begins with an overview of NFTs and their emergence in the art world, providing background information to contextualize the subsequent analysis. By concretizing the author's position and contextual framework, the thesis delves into the roles of art in capitalist societies.

Examining the question of value and its historical context, the research investigates the notion of artistic autonomy and its significance within the capitalist framework. It explores the critical role of art, considering the historical context of institutional critique and examines the inherent paradox of critiquing a system from within. The study also delves into the tension between activism and critical art, questioning the ethical implications of profiting from the suffering of others.

Additionally, the thesis explores the escapist role of art, with a particular focus on the presence of sci-fi as a potential solution or part of the problem. Through the analysis of specific cultural references, such as the "Rickmurai Jack" episode of Rick and Morty and eastern european neo-romantic turn, the escapist function of art is examined in relation to neoliberal society.

Addressing the material role of art, the research explores the speculative value of everything, including the value(s) of artwork and the emergence of art as an asset. It investigates the concept of freeports and their implications for the art market, as well as the concerns arising from the lack of inclusivity when the value of art is based on scarcity.

This thesis reflects on the roles of art in neoliberal society and the potential for AI tools to address the problems identified throughout the research. By critically examining the various functions of art within capitalist societies, this study aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexities and tensions surrounding art, NFTs, capitalism, and their interconnectedness.