"I'll just sit and grin, the money will roll right in" is probably what Faith West thought when she announced she would sell never-before-seen images of Nirvana as NFTs. But furious fans have criticized the move, suggesting that it's an insult to Kurt Cobain's memory.
Fans of the world's biggest grunge band took to Twitter to air their frustrations over the latest NFT moneymaking scheme. Kurt Cobain was famously and outwardly anti-capitalism and anti-establishment, with many of Nirvana's songs centered around themes of abjection, social alienation and not conforming to society's standards. So it’s no wonder West has received backlash for wanting to make money from these previously unseen pictures.
• Read more: What are NFTs? (opens in new tab)
The photos were taken in 1991 at JC Dobbs, Philadelphia, USA just six days after the release of the band’s bestselling album, Nevermind. Nirvana played an intimate gig to just 150 people, including Faith West who captured the show on film. Now, after 30 years, the photos have resurfaced and will be available to buy as NFTs at an auction next month by Pop Legendz (opens in new tab) via the marketplace Rarible (opens in new tab).
Price will range from $99 to an enormous $250,000 for a one-of-a-kind moving GIF image made up of 10 never-before-seen photos. Those who have enough cash to splash on the most expensive GIFs will also receive a signed physical copy of one of the photos to keep. The 10 images that make up the GIF will also be auctioned off individually, and fans will be able to purchase 100 copies of the still images. Photos are available to buy as NFTs either in classic black-and-white or brightly colored, psychedelic "acid washed" versions.
Fans have scrutinized the actions of West for several reasons. One Twitter user pointed out that NFTs are bad for the planet due to the fact they "chew through an ungodly amount of energy for absolutely nothing" while another literally just posted "Terrible". Several users also Tweeted that selling NFTs of Nirvana is like 'weeing on Kurt Cobain’s grave' (although it may have been phrased more aggressively).
I'm the photographer. For all their considerable downsides, NFTs restore proof of ownership to artists. We make so little for our labor. Right-clicking & copying makes a slave of the artist. For what its worth, I'm researching the environmentally sensitive blockchains for futureJanuary 24, 2022
In an attempt to put things right, West replied to several of the Tweets via the Pop Legendz account outlining her motives for selling the NFTs. She explained that as a creative, she missed out on a lot of earnings during the pandemic so she wanted to make up for that. Another reason for selling the NFTs was to take back ownership, since images can easily be copied and shared illegally.
West has also pledged to donate some of the money to two charities: The Trevor Project, which helps suicidal people in the LGBTQ+ community, and Grid Alternatives, which installs solar panels in homes of families who have very low income and can’t afford electricity.
Regardless of whether you agree with, understand or don’t care about NFTs, they are a controversial subject that still pose a lot of questions. There is some concern about the morality of making money from photos of someone who’s dead, but Kurt Cobain is surely not the first and certainly not the last late celebrity whose likeness will be sold for profit on an NFT marketplace.
Despite the backlash both West and Pop Legendz have faced, the auction is set to go ahead on 20 February – which would've been Kurt Cobain's 55th birthday. And while some fans are clearly skeptical about the sale, we're sure others will jump at the chance to own a little slice of Nirvana history.
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