Ideas are Art: Visualize Value's Jack Butcher on How Ideas Drive Art's Value

March 15, 2023

NFTs have changed how collectors collect and why creators create.

What was once a category that primarily consisted of collectible pieces for your home or investment portfolio, art has expanded as a means to build communities, change how we interact online, play games, and even generate passive income.

Jack Butcher is a pioneer in distilling meaningful ideas into clean and easily digestible graphics for a digital generation. Through his company, Visualize Value, Jack breaks down complex ideas and themes into clean, minimalistic images and infographics– and the message has resonated. In just a few short years, Jack’s audience has spiked upward of a quarter million people, and his 

Alongside his work at Visualize Value, Jack has released several NFT projects on Foundation, where he simplifies NFT concepts and the evolution of internet culture. His best-selling piece yet, “NFTs, explained,” is a simple two-panel image that sold for 74 ETH in March 2021. 

The message of simplicity and minimalism has resonated with Jack’s audience and collectors, growing his Twitter following to 261.1K.

In Episode 42 of GM Web3 ☀️ on Rug Radio, we sat down with Jack to discuss a wide range of topics, such as his backstory leading up to Visualize Value, how he personally sees the value of art changing with NFTs, how decentralized finance is impacting art, and his new project Checks, which explores the concept of verification on modern social media platforms.

The Canvas: How Art is Typically Priced

Traditionally, art’s value tends to be derived from four factors: critics, collectors, artists, and gallerists.

Art critics play a huge role in determining art trends. Two of the industry’s largest magazines, ARTnews Magazine and Apollo Magazine are consistently updating enthusiasts about what’s hot and what’s not, as well as offering tips and tricks to artists to enhance their work.

Artists had little to no say over the narrative projected onto the art world prior to social media and were faced with a gambit– should I spend more focus on creating or on doing the public relations circuit to promote my brand? 

Jack states that “Art collection was once kept as a gatekept institution,” and this was certainly the case when it came to distribution; critics can make or break an artist's career with a single review. 

While critics are slowly becoming less influential as artists can build their own audience on social media, a positive or negative article can still severely impact an artist's career.

While critics can influence opinions, it’s ultimately up to collectors whether or not a piece is deemed valuable. Collectors establish the value of art by setting limits on what they’re determined to pay. 

Collectors can build their own brands as high-value art collectors; for example, American Investor Steven Cohen is expected to have an art collection worth over $1 billion, with pieces including Young Peasant Woman by Van Gogh, Madonna by Munch, and one of Pollock’s famous drip paintings. With someone like Cohen’s following, a single purchase can influence the value of an entire collection.  

An artist’s fame will influence the value of the art. Classic works from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo can often sell for over $300 million, while a modern artist like that of Jean-Michel Basquiat will sell for upwards of $100 million. History tends to add a few zeros, but it’s not unheard of modern artists fetching record-breaking sums for their work. For example, in 2019, the New York-based artist Kaws sold his work “The Kaws Album” for almost $15 million dollars. 

Gallerists will often have connections that can be very useful for artists to sell their art and build their reputation. They can place an artist's work in the right collections, shows, and museums while attracting the attention of collectors by promoting the artist's talent. 

While these factors have historically impacted the value of traditional art, social media coupled with NFTs make for a lethal catalyst for change. 

Jack Butcher: How Art’s Value Paradigm Has Changed 

Jack highlights the power of internet culture throughout his project. 

As seen with Visualize Value, ideas drive value. NFTs such as “Keep Going” symbolize much more than just a piece of art; a collector may look at “Keep Going”​​ and find a personal calling or inspiration, driving them to purchase the piece for the current asking price of 75 ETH.

The beauty of Jack’s work is that it cuts a straight line through whatever twisty winding road people independently tend to carve out for the same thoughts– and it resonates. 

Butcher’s work tend to unwind common thought processes, particularly those that the world’s most ambitious and digitally-native populations go through. As such, his work tends to be popular with the startup community on Twitter and Instagram.

So, much like how Jack credits ideas at the forefront of the driver of the value of his collection, he predicts that art will become more personalized in the future, with social media tools and Web 3.0 removing traditional barriers to entry to the art market. 

This is not just a new perspective of how art is currently valued, but could also change how art is valued in the future. 

For example, the masses have flocked to artists like Banksy, who embed strong social commentary and controversy in their work (ideas) rather than strictly on aesthetics alone. 

Each traditional factor, like collectors and critics, is slowly becoming less influential because art can become more personalized in a buzzing digital landscape.

“The idea of art collection and art creation was reserved for a certain tier of society,” says Jack. “That is no longer true. With these tools (Web3), this is no longer the case. Hopefully, in ten, twenty, thirty years, we’ll look back at pieces of work commenting on that idea and you can just embed a tonne of content on what was happening at the time. This way, they’ll become more relevant as the thesis becomes more true.”

The audience for whom art is created is changing. In the modern world, an artist can find a “product-market fit” with millions of people on Twitter, leapfrogging the need of an art critic or gallery owner for exposure. 

Traditional factors will likely always have a role in determining art’s value, and they have their NFT world iterations. Still, the important difference is that artists have another route for distributing and discovering their creativity. 

Jack's View on How DeFi Is Changing Art

DeFi unlocks a plethora of opportunities when it comes to NFTs. It’s been used to build communities like Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), as monetize gaming with projects like Axie Infinity. It also solves many of the issues associated with current social media platforms. 

Centralized platforms like Instagram and Facebook have multiplied an artist's ability to find their audience. However, their centralized nature leaves artists prone to censorship and de-platforming, in which they can lose their audience overnight. With DeFi art, the artist has absolute control over their work and audience, which is explored by Jack in our conversation. 

Firstly, Jack discusses how DeFi impacts the provenance of art. Traditionally, the idea of an art piece, including when and why it was created, is completely unknown. With NFTs, this can be brought to life with descriptions and the message behind the art itself. 

NFTs provide artists with a foundation for their art to live. During the discussion, Jack describes much of his art as previously being on “rented land,” referring to social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. 

This is because if the social media platform decided to remove his account, Jack wouldn't only just lose the interaction he had with his art, but also his audience. With the blockchain, artists can have full control over their audience and build a micro-community. This creates a more robust network for artists and allows them to build a deeper connection with their audience that lasts, rather than one that exists with permission from a centralized social media company.

“Minting is just as important as the visual itself, as it captures the exact moment that particular pieces have been brought to life,” Jack explores. 

The concept of minting should be more than just a sale, which is a fairly foreign concept in the traditional art market– artists historically have had to jump through many loops before the broader public ever sees their art.  

What Is Checks? The NFT Social Experiment Turned Cultural Movement

Jack Butcher's Checks NFT project was first released in 2023 as a social experiment observing the impact of blue checks on social media platforms. At the time, Elon Musk had just released a paid option for users to verify their account with a blue check. 

“The aim of this piece is to capture a moment in time,” says Jack, “it explores the status game we’re all embroiled in and see what we’re in it for.” 

Each NFT in the collection starts with 80 checks. Burning two of those together will create a “Forty,” burning two forties will create a “Twenty,” burning two Twenties will create a “Ten,” burning two Tens will create a “Five” until you can eventually get a “one.” With this sequence, it’s possible to create 250 single-color checkmarks. 

The final mechanic is a “Black check,” which requires an individual to burn 64 single-color checkmarks, equaling 4096 original checkmarks. Jack believes this game is a “commentary on NFTs and art itself. Many people ask, how many should I get?” to which Jack says, “well, it’s your collection; you decide.”

Once the burning process begins, Jack plans to tell the social story of how it plays out. This will include how many people burnt their first token, how many achieved a single color checkmark, and how many people never burned anything. 

“This makes it an art piece in the macro sense, as well as a journey for everyone going through it.”

Checks has been perceived in a number of ways by the general market. While some believe the project is a critique of centralized authority, others state its a general degradation of veracity on the internet. 

Final Thoughts: How Will Ideas Impact The Value Of Art In The Future?

Jack implores both creators and collectors to consider how much weight the value of an idea behind an art piece can influence its value. With art being more accessible to the mass market, and individualism at an all-time high, creators now have the opportunity to personalize each piece they create and connect with their audience on a deeper level. 

Talking of connection, ideas can also be expressed throughout art with NFT descriptions. Instead of leaving an art piece up for interpretation, the provenance of art can be explored to add further meaning to the creation. Over time, as Jack mentions, this could add to the value and relevance of a piece as its thesis becomes more true.


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