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In the news, you'd see now and then there is a buzzword that drops in the crypto market and all attention is directed towards it. NFT is exactly one of such buzzwords that took over the crypto market quite aggressively and surprisingly. So what is NFT? What does it have to do with art? And why should it matter?
NFT stands for Non-fungible Tokens. And nope, it doesn’t have to do with mushrooms.
Non-fungible Tokens in layman terms means a unit of data stored blockchain (digital ledger) that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. Each asset is unique and one of a kind in nature. A Bitcoin can be exchanged for another Bitcoin because both have the same value, this doesn’t stand true for NFT. No two NFTs are the same or considered equal.
The birth of NFT gave way to a rather odd moniker – ‘Crypto Art’. Art usually extends to the medium of different styles but Crypto Art becomes something that attaches art to technology. A virtual art in essence. NFT Art is digital art that is recorded with blockchain and is unique, distinctive, singular, and non-interchangeable like other crypto assets.
To produce an NFT, you must mint a digital file of your art JPEG, GIF, or MP4. Minting means performing computational methods to register the asset on a blockchain. The record of the art on blockchain will be stored as a smart contract on the digital ledger. The smart contract ensures ownership of the NFT and provides it with a unique address on the blockchain.
NFT and the world of blockchain sounds too techy for the art scene, though it is solving the problem most of the artists in the industry face daily. The problem of copyright laws. How to protect and safeguard their art when it can easily be copied and produced dime a dozen? How to rule out forgery? What does ownership mean?
Here is where NFT changes things up.
NFT makes it way simpler to stake ownership claims. As NFT is a unique and non-interchangeable digital asset recorded with a smart contract, one person’s ‘art’ will not be equal to another's person even if they look the same. The idea that art needs to be tactile, a piece to be a display or a physical purchase is becoming outdated. The younger generation finds it an old-world concept of owning paintings and portraits.
Today many young new artists prefer NFT technology for promoting their art due to its democratizing nature. Anyone can display their art on any of the NFT platforms by simply logging in and uploading their art. NFT is publicly viewable and comes with its entire purchase history timeline. The transparency of ownership is easy to track.
The crypto movement has been gaining some momentum for a while now, but since the year 2020 pandemic scare it has seen a meteoric rise. The market further became primed for concepts like NFTs. Artists found new ways to monetize their art.
Andrei Pesic, an art history professor at Stanford, “In the years of 2020 and 2021, as we have so weirdly and radically had to move much of our lives online, it has opened up or accelerated the process of valuing digital goods in a similar way that we value physical goods,” he said.
Younger artists are looking towards blockchain technology to find more avenues to monetize their talents. People are trying to figure out if NFT platforms are truly democratic? Can just about anybody sell art on it? Or is it still for the exclusive few?
The answer is somewhat lost in the translation. It opens up the debate of what can be considered art and what not. The taste of traditional art is evolving with time still NFT art is considered way out there. Crypto art collectors will argue the importance of being with time whereas traditional gallery curators will argue what is the definition of art.
It is also very easy to get sucked into overnight success stories about NFT art, like Beeple’s $69.3 million collage. Who wouldn’t want to make art that sells like a golden ticket? What people don’t realize is Beeple’s collage is title ‘Everydays- The First 5000 Days’ which is a collage of all his digital artwork he worked on since 2007, overnight success? – Nope.
Crypto is a highly volatile world of digital assets. Something that is nominal value can be driven up to a hundred times over by many unstable factors. When it comes to buying art, the process doesn’t seem all that democratic. Where traditional art is being bought up by people who have millions and billions of dollars, NFTs are being bought up by elite group buyers who have an excess of crypto.
Where people believed NFT will revolutionize democracy in the art world, the NFT craze is proving otherwise. Post-Beeple’s million-dollar sale it is becoming evident that NFT technology is only making a few artists rich instead. The transparency of the blockchain is hidden by the anonymity of buyers of such art, who wouldn’t even reveal their real names for interviewers, for example, ‘Metakovan’ the buyer of Beeple’s collage.
NFT technology shouldn’t entirely be written off though. The old generation art collectors and curators might still prefer galleries and auction houses, but the young tech entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley lads see value in digital assets.
The NFT technology is still developing and it's too quick to say anything concrete about it. NFT isn’t all that bad but it's not all that pertinent to the art scene. Yes, it is great to signify ownership and transparency but more of its real-life use cases are still to be seen as applicable to real life. The democratization of the art industry through NFT is still a debate swinging both ways.