Aggrieved owners of NFTs from the online project, Art Wars, which is the centre of an ongoing dispute, are speaking out—as the art market continues to get to grips with the realities of digital ownership.
The project was launched last year by the London-based artist and curator Ben Moore and the US-based developers, DeFi Network, but soon attracted headlines when some of high-profile artists responsible for the tokens in the collection that had a physical counterpart (including Jake & Dinos Chapman, Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst) argued that their permission had not been sought for the NFTs. Ownership rights were also questioned.
With no resolution in sight, investors and community members in the project are now pushing for answers as to the leadership of the project and the next steps for their current situation.
“We hold NFTs with no value and no future perspective,” says Mikk Roben, a regular NFT collector who bought two of the Stormtrooper helmets from the project, for a combined total of around 2.9ETH (around $10,400 at the time of sale). He explains how the project being backed by a "known" curator had contributed to his trust in the collection and the feeling that it was a "real art project", rather than “some meme picture”. Another NFT owner wrote on Discord how he had put all his ETH into the project.
The 1,138 NFTs have now been de-listed from OpenSea, although community members have moved the project to an alternative platform, Looksrare, where it is hoped it can take on a new direction.
Once news of the artists’ challenge over the ownership began to come out, the curator apologised on Discord (a communication platform regularly used to discuss NFT projects) and hosted question and answer sessions to deal with concerns.
“We did raise £30,000 for the Missing People Charity and I have tried really hard to resolve things with everyone who has had an issue, but everything takes longer than you expect and I received some really aggressive messages,” says Ben Moore.
He adds: “I was seen to be the spokesperson for the NFT team but as [I] sought to explain, I represent the physical Art Wars projects. I don’t have any authority to release confidential information about the NFT project.”
The lawyer representing the artists in the dispute was unable to comment.
While many have little sympathy for those investing in a market fundamentally built on its lack of regulation and decentralisation, there is growing recognition that buyers are at risk and are pushing for clarity.
Last week, owners of NFTs which are now embroiled in a US money laundering investigation into more than $4.5bn crypto assets, headed up by musician Heather Morgan (aka Razzlekhan), called on the US’s Department of Justice and OpenSea to refund them for the seized assets, according to reports by BuzzFeed News.