Once upon a time, art wasn’t accessible to everyone. And not every artist or creator had the same chances. Rich people commissioned paintings or sculptures and, often, those works remained hidden in the family’s house. Sometimes, these works made it to museums or galleries, easier to see and enjoy but still, not easy to own. NFT art might just turn the table, actually upside down.
Or, as NFT artist Trevor Jones said to The Guardian, “I went from having to borrow money from friends to pay the bills to making $4m in a day.”
NFT art is changing traditional art
Jones is the mind behind the digital token Bitcoin Bull, an animated painting of a Picasso one. The NFT sold for $55,555.55. Just as famous and ground-breaking was the piece titled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by artist Mike Winkelmann, known with the name of Beeple. This digital work of art was a collage of his past jobs, mostly gone unnoticed. But this one didn’t. It caught the attention and the interest of auction house Christie’s, which ended up selling this particular NFT art for $69.3 million. Million, indeed.
So, a traditional institution like Christie’s placed a bet on NFT art. And it won. So, it kept on betting. The auction house sold tokens of nine pixellated cartoon characters from the CryptoPunks series for $16.9 million. Indeed, Christie’s won its bet again. But not everyone in the traditional art world is ready to welcome NFT art with open arms.
In fact, digital tokens don’t need an intermediary like galleries or agents. Everything about this new crypto technology is decentralized, by the users and for the users. Digital tokens circumvent traditional art institutions and rules.
“What can a commercial gallery do for me?,” artist Jones said, “having a gallery exhibition before, I worked a year creating paintings, I paid for all the framing, the overheads for the studio. I may or may not sell, the gallery takes 45 to 55% commission. Now I sell something and three minutes later I’ve got the money in my digital wallet.” Creators seem to be hopeful, at least more than galleries and art experts.
The difficulties of co-living
NFT art and traditional art differ in many aspects. From the business model to the price evaluations. Plus, the crypto world is full of speculators and volatility and digital tokens aren’t the exception to the rule. In NFT art, the highest bidder gets the unique, digital piece but the final value doesn’t necessarily reflect the beauty and potential of the virtual piece. It’s not just subjective; it’s speculative.
Is is art or is it an asset?
Critics believe this is just another crypto bubble, just like financial experts believed cryptocurrencies were a passing trend. In the latter case, critics were proved wrong and the same might happen with NFT art. While traditional art aficionados brush off digital art as temporary, creators and collectors see it as a long-term opportunity.
Finally, NFT artists are rewarded for their work and value. Finally, collectors can own pieces that are truly unique and that can acquire a lot of value in time. However, co-living with the traditional art world isn’t easy, especially since critics believe digital tokens are a utopia. In theory, it all sounds good, but reality will soon it. Or won’t it?
For artists like Elise Swopes, NFTs are an opportunity both to make an income and to help society. Swopes uses her skills as a photographer and graphic designer to create unique pieces and she loves giving back to the community. She is a person of color in a world that isn’t open to equality, even the crypto world.
“I have also found quite a bit of difficulty with the NFT art community as far as representation of people of color and Black women specifically,” the artist said to CNBC, “I find myself having a lot of responsibility as not just a woman, but a woman of color in this community, who understands perspective and can put myself in different people’s shoes.” Swopes uses part of her income to make donations to organizations and to own NFTs from other creators of color. Digital art isn’t inclusive -not yet. Neither is traditional art. The two might have more in common that what they think.
The latest NFT art news
Auction houses and artists aren’t the only ones jumping on this crypto wagon. Celebrities are joining too and even the ex-First Lady, Melania Trump who has launched her own platform and first NFT art, called “Melania’s Vision.” It’s a portray of Melania’s eyes which also includes an audio message from her. The starting price is $185. If this is not your style, NFT apes are also going strong. In an interesting mistake, the “Bored Ape” sold for $2,844) instead of its actual value of $284,495. In a few months, it might just be worth $28,449. However, it’s not all golden. Just ask artists Anish Kapoor and David Bailey who had their art sold online without their consent.
These tokens depicted Star Wars Stormtrooper helmets, photographed by curator Ben Moore. Moore took the picture of the helmets and turned them into NFT art but he never asked Kapoor or Bailey for their permission. On the digital platform, the curator uploaded 1,138 images and users had already transferred over $5 million for these NFTs. The artists are considering taking legal action and experts believe copyright and ownership is one of the main issues with tokens.
So, NFT art has its pros and cons, depending on who you ask. The only certainty is that NFTs are changing the traditional art world. Whether the change is for good or for bad, only time will tell. In the meantime, it’s time to discover everything about non-fungible tokens with our complete guide!