NFT’s—Art and money in the matrix…

Is collecting NFT's something for you?

Blockchain company Injective Protocol bought an original Banksy in January 2021. In March 2021, they physically burned the artwork and then sold the work as NFT (a Non-Fungible Token). The destroyed artwork was a 2006 screenprint called: Morons (White). Originally intended as a criticism of the art market and to poke fun at art collectors.

The person who burned the artwork said their ethos is to inspire tech enthusiasts and artists with their statement. Let’s hope not all buyers will buy and burn art from artists. But they sure open up a new way of selling/buying art. 

Ossian Ward, author of the book “Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art” has criticized the stunt. “You can say anything is a work of art… but if you burn a Banksy and then want money for it, that ranks pretty low on the art scale for me.” 

According to Dan Patterson, a tech trends reporter for CBS News: “Still, the company is likely to lose money on the Banksy transaction, because the market for NFTs is unproven”.

The NFT was sold the following day for $380.000 (320.000 euros) in ETH. Three times the price that any of the original “Morons” prints had made at auction. The successful bidder was an Open Sea user with the screen name GALAXY, who immediately put the piece up again for sale.

What makes it interesting is that the sales happened off the blockchain. From all the bidders, only three were previously known to Christie’s. As crypto seems to become a bigger part of our world and develops more as an industry, we can expect a whole new class of crypto nouveau riche to shake up many other markets besides art. 

On the timeline of art history, will NFTs have value or is it just hype? Or will it become an art movement? We will see. 

Seth Godin warns us that the NFTs are a dangerous trap. Some call it even a disaster. And as with crypto-currencies, there are concerns about the environmental impact of maintaining the blockchain. 

CryptoArt.wtf warns of the energy use and environmental impact of the growing Proof-of-Work (PoW) based CryptoArt and NFT markets.

The CryptoArt NFT Market (i.e. selling digital art on the blockchain) according to Memo Akten can be done more eco-friendly. And calls for more ecologically friendly and transparent platforms. He offers some ways to improve the carbon footprint of NFTs. Like for example moving to non-Ethereum blockchains. “Consider an eco-NFT, one that dramatically reduces energy waste”.

I personally (at this point) don’t produce Cryptoart. Since to me, Cryptoart seems to remake digital artworks primarily to tokens of monetary worth. And content and concept as a second. Which for me, emotion, content, and concept come first.  

NFT’s have been compared with Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes and The Tulip Mania Bubble, which took place in the Netherlands (where I was born), during the Dutch Golden Age.

And even Beeple himself calls it a bubble, “I actually do think there will be a bubble, to be quite honest. And I think we could be in that bubble right now. Beeple sold his NFT collage, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, at Christie’s for $69 million (March 11, 2021).

The artwork can go up or down in financial value, but the owner of the token never possesses the original digital file. The NFT is perhaps best described as a sort of digital certificate of authenticity, and for some, it’s become a desirable collectible. What will be the long-term benefits? We don’t know yet.

“Every generation gets the art it deserves”, said minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. “What about art for art’s sake, the idea that the chief or only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it?”

A recent study out of the University of New Mexico estimated that in 2018 every $1 of Bitcoin value was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US. Studies like this are needed in the light of climate change. The “mining” that occurs to produce the NFT, which exists as a token on the blockchain, is extremely power-intensive. 

One Australian article stated it consumed enough energy to power a suburban home for 2-3 days. Even if one can barely understand cryptocurrency or even the concepts of NFTs. We have to understand that the environmental impact is significant. 

Digital artist Rafaël Rozendaal has been offering his creations as websites for sale since 2000. You acquire the domain name. And then Rozendaal adds your name in the website’s description. The site remains private but is accessible to everyone. If the site has to be projected or installed in the public sphere, then you contact the site’s owner and collector for permissions and eventual fees.

NFTs can be made from anybody’s content, including somebody else’s. While this might be one success story for a big-name artist with a large platform, smaller creators have already been trying to protect themselves against, essentially, having their work stolen and sold without their consent. 

Incidentally, this also means that indecent personal pictures can also be tokenized by somebody other than the individual who took the photo or is themselves the subject. 

For freelance artists, that primarily work with digital art, it’s hard not to be wary of NFTs. On the one hand, the “is digital art real art” debate could end. On the other hand, it’s it could increase the battle to successfully monetize digital art. Audiences already feel entitled to it for free. I offer Digital Downloads in my webshop for 6% of the price of the original art piece. A watermark is integrated into the image. The download includes also a Certificate of Authenticity.

What happens when the technology changes, as it inevitably will? Since most can’t even read digital files from floppy discs no more.

New way of collecting art?

For Collectors:

NFT is said to be distinguishable (comparable to a collection of sports-cards. Which makes them easy to verify and which makes fake circulation almost impossible. Since every NFT can be traced back to its original issuer. Also, NFTs are indivisible and indestructible. These unique features could make NFT lucrative in the field of artworks. The hype breathes the allure of ownership and exclusivity. 

You are not acquiring copyrights, trademarks, or the sole ownership of. You are buying the knowledge that your copy is the “authentic” one. You “own” this, and this ownership is locked in via the blockchain. Although an artist can sell an NFT representing a work, the artist can still retain the copyright to the work and create more NFTs of the same work. The buyer of the NFT does not gain exclusive access to the work, nor does the buyer gain possession of the “original” digital file. NFTs of artworks are therefore similar to autographed items.

A person who uploads a certain work as an NFT does not have to prove that they are the original artist, that means the authentic artwork that you are buying might be from a different person. In that sense, the old certificate of authenticity and the provenance have perhaps not changed that much. And again a photo of the artist creating the artwork might be more viable. But I could be wrong. In any case, there have been numerous cases where art was used for NFTs without the creator’s permission. For this sad aspect, BUYER BEWARE !!!

For Artists:

This could be our solution of having our digital photographs or videos and such protected. Since they can be easily and infinitely copied. NFT uses a smart contract, which is like a digital contract, a tiny computer program that is stored inside a blockchain. Using blockchain tech which makes each digital artwork unique by making it the only representation that exists of it. 

The digital representation is not merely a copy. It is possibly a new medium for us to express too. The Rock band Kings of Leon was the first group to release an album as a series of digital tokens. The album, “When You See Yourself,” became available in three NFT formats. 

Also, NFTs make it possible not only to sell something today but also to keep earning tomorrow. NFTs can be coded by the artist to collect money each time the token sells. Commonly for between 2,5 and 10% on the sale price. However, minting (making) NFTs cost energy. And are bad for the environment. So if this also concerns you perhaps you could check for alternative marketplaces. Also, artists have to pay “gas fees”, which are upfront buy-in costs and vary between $40-$1000. Which gives you no guarantee of a sale.

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