Why NFTs could transform art
Non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, have experienced an enormous wave of interest. But what are they exactly?
NFTs are collectibles, like one-of-a-kind digital trading cards. Owning an NFT signifies legal ownership of the underlying asset, which could be a digital or physical item.
Each time the NFT changes hands, the original creator receives a royalty payment, and the NFT will store the new owner’s information. With physical goods that change hands, you often don’t know who owned the item before you; with an NFT, the digital asset history goes right back to the NFT’s creation. For the artist or creator, NFTs are a new revenue stream, in perpetuity, instead of a one-off sale.
The allure of NFTs for art collectors (and in general, anyone who buys and collects NFTs) is the digital social currency it provides. You own the asset but you also know who else has owned it.
The attempt to correctly price this new type of social currency explains why the market would pay so much for an NFT; Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet on the platform sold for $2.9M USD, and the famous ‘Disaster Girl’ meme sold for over $500,000.
Aside from these outliers, NFTs stand to deliver long-term value to artists and brands. In the future, people will be able to showcase their NFT collection online, maybe even as part of their social media profile where followers can see the digital assets they own. Not only that, but picture a day in the future when the owner of the NFT is paid every time the tweet is quoted online or the meme is used.
We were fortunate to be able to interview two NFT insiders: Jacquelin Napal and Kat Emery. They are co-founders of Art Angels, a contemporary art gallery based in Los Angeles known as a first mover in working with artists on NFT drops.
How did Art Angels first learn about NFTs and their potential for the art industry?
About a year ago, we began hearing about NFTs by word of mouth through artists and friends from other creative industries. Most were pretty involved in the crypto and technology spaces.
We began to educate ourselves and get involved with conversations to learn more about the potential of art in the technology space. NFTs quickly became a trend we embraced.
When did Art Angels host its first NFT launch?
Our first NFT launch was in November of 2020 with artist Christopher Florentino, “FLORE,” on Nifty Gateway. We were unsure how things would continue to evolve, but we continued to drop and test the marketplace to find what works.
What kinds of opportunities do NFTs present for the art community?
We believe NFTs have opened the portal for art and technology to come together in a way that will inevitably push into private collections and public displays. As screens and technology have become integrated into so many aspects of our daily lives, NFTs add an artistic component to society.
For artists, the opportunity to expand their creative stories is enormous. We’re seeing a charcoal artist, like Micah Johnson, create a digital character, use different colour palettes, introduce new textures, and cultivate an entirely new storyline which all stems from his inner inspiration and journey.
Can you explain the end-to-end process for those who aren’t clear on how NFTs work for the art world? For example, how does one ‘purchase’ NFT art? Do they own it? How can they sell it?
NFTs are digital artworks that have been minted (imprinted) onto the Ethereum “crypto” blockchain. Which means everything about the provenance of the art — where it was first purchased, sold, and then resold — is forever stored digitally. It presents a lasting solution to the authenticity of artwork and ensures royalties are given back to the artist.
Due to the fast growth of cryptocurrency, many people with a stockpile of crypto funds are looking for investments. NFT art has offered a solution. All NFT art is purchased and resold through various digital platforms, called marketplaces. Once you buy a piece, it is yours to store and display just like physical artwork.
Are NFTs attracting seasoned art collectors or those who are new to art collecting?
What has been so interesting about the NFT space is that the collector community can be relatively anonymous. In the digital sphere, seasoned art collectors are called whales who often keep their identities under the radar. We see a new community emerging between seasoned fine art collectors, new collectors, street culture enthusiasts, crypto pioneers, and the list goes on. There is space for everyone to explore, connect, and expand their interests outside the confines of the regular art scene. The NFT space is mysterious, and that’s what makes it fun.
Do you think NFTs are here to stay? Why or why not?
Yes — we believe they will stay; we think they will continue to adapt and change, and we also foresee the goldrush of NFTs calming down. With the NFT space, it’s so important to approach the trend with an open mind — we encourage everyone to think forward, consider the technological advances that have already changed our homes and spaces, and wonder who will become collectors of the future.