Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a relatively new phenomenon trickling into public discourse around the world, and the playbook is being written in real-time. There's a ton of information to be absorbed, but amongst many artists and collectors, they are the most exciting development since... well, maybe ever. The impact they are poised to make in many aspects of our life, including but not limited to all forms of art, cannot be overstated or underestimated (in my opinion).
In the context of my work, they might be thought of as digital equivalents of limited edition prints. As opposed to existing on paper, the image exists entirely in the virtual space, or metaverse. Which isn't strange if you consider that – whether its a digital photo or a digital scan of a film negative – the original source of the image is in a digital format. A print is merely a physical token of the source material, underwritten by a paper document or a signature; sometimes merely a verbal agreement. In my attempt to bridge the gap in understanding the value, I typically offer my work in very limited editions (between 1 and 5), and offer a physical print to the first purchaser of each NFT, as an incentive: you get the NFT to collect and get involved in this space (hopefully accruing some value too), and a gloriously vivid print of your artwork to hang on the wall. The ability to add unlockable content like this has endless potential for artists to add value for collectors in interesting ways.
With NFTs, a limited number of editions (from 1 to 1000s) are 'minted' – i.e uploaded and registered on a blockchain, with an underlying Smart Contract that guarantees its rarity (e.g. edition of 5) with more authority than any paper contract from even the most prestigious gallery in the world could ever claim. The blockchain is immutable, and transparent – every edition, and its trading history, can be viewed by anyone at any time. Moreover, on most NFT marketplaces, the artist receives a commission on all secondary sales. The ability to easily buy, sell, and trade art is one of the major appeals of NFTs for collectors and artists alike.
So it's an iron-clad certificate of authenticity, and a collector's item... but it's also a digital print of the artwork. You can keep it in your phone, or on your desktop, or display it in a digital frame. It will never fade, crack, warp, or need a wipe-down. In the very near future, ultra high definition screens will replace picture frames in the home, and your digital art collection will rotate at intervals of your choosing. Galleries will go this way. Perhaps bars and clubs too. Maybe they'll begin to merge. People will trade art at the touch of a button in a global marketplace. Our homes in the metaverse will be decorated with NFT art. In fact, forget the part about the 'very near future' – this is all happening right now.
So, why should you consider collecting NFTs? Well, first of all, you definitely don't have to. If the stock market, or property, or cryptocurrency, or antiques get you excited, stay in that zone! But if you're drawn towards the idea of art as a commodity in the Web 3.0 economy, or the shaping of an entirely new creatively-driven culture, or you simply love the idea of collecting digital art... then definitely read up a little, and wade in at the shallow end of the pool. Beyond the multi-million-dollar record auctions in the news, there's an unprecedented surge of talented artists putting their work into the virtual world, and you can collect some beautiful art at very reasonable prices. It may or may not make you money down the line. That depends on whether you play the game as an investor, an enthusiast, an artist, or a collector. Investing in NFTs is more of a paradigm shift than a financial strategy.
None of this will replace 'traditional' art forms. There is simply an entirely new dimension to play in now.
There's so much potential – pitfalls too, undoubtedly – and so much to be said on this topic. I look forward to writing more about NFTs on my blog. For now I have some useful links you can read to learn more... after which I'd encourage you to take a look at some of the NFTs I have available to collect ;)
Have more questions? Of course you do!
OpenSea has put together 'The NFT Bible' – currently the most comprehensive overview of non-fungible tokens: the technical anatomy of an ERC721, the history of the NFT, common misconceptions about NFTs, and the current state of the NFT market.