- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are changing the way art works in a crypto-related world.
- The subsector is bringing power back to the artists by ensuring authenticity and originality.
- The industry has seen a re-emergence in recent times as record sales are being recorded.
If you mention the words “Bitcoin,” “Ethereum,” or “Cryptocurrency” next to any digital savvy individual, they probably have an idea of what you’re talking about. But if you should mention NFT, only a few familiar with the cryptocurrency market and blockchain technology would actually be able to understand you. A non-fungible token (NFT) is a cryptographic token that represents something unique. They are ideal for unique digital items. While they are built on a blockchain network like cryptocurrencies, its difference lies in the fact that one token cannot be interchanged with another.
The crypto industry has been with us for close to a decade but NFTs did not start gaining public attention until the Crytptokitties project became popular around 2017. Cryptokitties is a game on the Ethereum network in which players buy, sell, and breed cats which are represented by unique tokens that are created by a smart contract. The game made many people aware of NFT and opened many to its potential, however this was short-lived. But towards the tail end of 2020, the crypto subsector began to re-emerge and today, news of how multimillion sales are being made dominates the headline.
NFTs and the art world
One sector that has benefited most from NFT is the art world. For years, digital artists have struggled with protecting their copyrights and monetizing their works online. This has now changed with NFT. With these tokens, digital artists are able to create their works and sell them online, with the buyer getting a unique token which certifies authenticity.
NFTs and its Smart contract possess unique attributes like owner identity, accurate location of the artwork, web links, etc., which can be embedded in the work of art. Beyond this, Defi platforms and apps such as Raribles, Zora, Nifty Getaway, Foundation, and SuperRare have also emerged. All these platforms enable creatives of any kind, including digital artists, to monetize their creations.
What has spurred the growth of this space is the quest to own collectibles. For years, people have paid huge amounts of money to own physical collectibles like baseball cards, Pokémon Go cards, etc. This mania is now re-enacting itself in the digital space as well. Dapper Labs, the company that created CryptoKitties is leading the scene with NBA Top Shots.
The growth of the digital art space due to non-fungible tokens is unprecedented. In the opinion of some analysts, it is reminiscent of the Renaissance period in art. According to Ben Gentili, the digital artist whose work Block 21 sold for more than $130,000 back in 2020, “non-fungible tokens have created a paradigm shift in the art world with power returning to the hands of the artist.” He made reference to a similar scenario during the Renaissance.
What he forgot to mention is that the present phenomenon has more in common with the Renaissance than just giving the artists the power back. According to Art historian Alexander Nagel, concepts such as authenticity and forgery meant nothing in art until the Renaissance period. Today, it is that same concept of authenticity that NFT is bringing back to art. This is what made it possible for Chris Torres to sell his Nyan cat meme for $590,000 by adding an NFT, which distinguished that particular copy from the millions that are on the internet.
Recently, the musician Grimes collaborated with the digital artist Max Boucher to release the WarNymph collection that sold for a record $5.8 million. This is quite close to the record made by Beeple with his $6.6 million sale of CROSSROADS on Nifty Getaway. At present, the total value of NFTs sold is over $250 million.
The traditional art auctioneers are not missing out on the action either. As far back as October 2020, Christie’s auctioned Ben Gentili’s digital artwork, Block 21, which had 18 bidders and sold for more than $130,000. In its first purely digital art auction, a collection of Beeple artworks reached over $1 million in bids under 10 minutes of going up for sale. These further point to how in-demand NFT artworks are at present.
NFT and the crypto space
The crypto market stands to benefit a lot from the growing popularity of NFT. This boom also means that the adoption of crypto will increase substantially as the transactions for these non-fungible tokens are usually in cryptocurrencies. Even Christie’s is accepting ETH for its latest digital art collection auction.
With the ability of NFT to be applied across various industries such as art, gaming, ticketing and events, collectibles, and even in real estate, the growth of NFT will spur crypto adoption at an incredible rate.
Is NFT all glittering?
While NFT is already making waves and has a lot of uses and potential, it is important to understand that it is still in its early stages. Even the blockchain technology it is built on is still evolving. Thus, it is not without its challenges.
At present, the technicalities involved in using NFT platforms are a major challenge. The additional charges also represent a challenge, and the safety of the artwork, which is generally not stored on blockchain but a different website, remains questionable. However, it is too early to know how these challenges will be dealt with.
There is no doubt that NFTs have disrupted the paradigm of the art world, giving digital artists control over their works. While many critics have criticized the simplicity of the artworks that sell for so much, it is impossible to ignore the positive possibilities that this means for the industry as a whole.