An NFT created of the late Chadwick Boseman for the 93rd Academy Awards is being redesigned after sparking backlash online. The non-fungible token artwork of Boseman, who was nominated for Best Actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, was included in gift bags for Oscar nominees. The Distinctive Assets company, which provides gift bags to awards shows and is not affiliated with the Oscars, hired artist and animator Andre Oshea to make the piece, which originally included Boseman’s face in gold.
The piece left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. The idea of the late Boseman being commodified in such a manner as a gift for rich people’s party bags seemed distasteful to some fans of the actor. The continuing drama around crypto-art and NFTs didn’t help. Some accused Oshea of just using a 3D print model of Boseman’s head that could be bought on CGTrader for $50.
The piece was not commissioned by the Academy, it is worth noting. The Distinctive Assets company is a self-described ‘niche marketing company offering celebrity placement, product introduction and branding opportunities within the entertainment industry and beyond.’ In 2016, the Academy actually sued Distinctive Assets for trademark infringement, but they later reached a nonmonetary settlement. They’ve spent a lot of time trying to remind people that the swag bags aren’t affiliated or endorsed by them. Those goodies are basically marketing gimmicks, with major luxury brands footing the bills for stuff like fancy hotel trips, yacht hires, and even cosmetic surgery in the hopes that the nominees will tweet about them or provide good coverage. The catch? All recipients have to pay income tax for the monetary value of all accepted and redeemed gifts.
Oshea took to social media to explain his plans to redesign the work and the ‘learning experience’ of the past couple of days. He also noted that the piece was not designed for the gift bags but a single auction to raise money for charity.
Oshea has not said what the redesign will look like, although I imagine it won’t be gold anymore.
Boseman not winning Best Actor hit hard for a lot of people. It’s not that the win was a lock or that anyone seems particularly outraged by Hopkins’s victory. It’s more that the Oscars ceremony bent over backward to turn that award into an emotional climax for their show. They seemed certain that a posthumous win for Chadwick Boseman would be the tear-jerking, standing ovation inciting, viral-friendly moment of the night. Then it didn’t happen. Even if it had happened, there is still something very ghoulish about the hijacking of Boseman’s family’s pain — as well as that of Black audiences for whom Boseman was particularly special — for ratings gold. I think that’s another reason this NFT felt like such a wrongfooted move. Regardless of the artist’s earnest intentions, the image of a dearly missed man as a CGI gold idol — clearly evoking the Oscar — being put on sale seemed off. This isn’t honoring his memory. This is another way to prop up Boseman for profit and selfishness.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.