The advent of NFTs has revolutionized the digital economy on all fronts. The notion of ownership in the age of digitalization has undergone a notable evolution with these assets based on blockchain technology. Many applications flow from it and each sector of activity tries to adapt to this new reality. The art market is one of the very first sectors impacted. These non-fungible tokens are revolutionizing the standards of this sector, as artists see it as a new Eldorado that guarantees them more income. Focus in this article on the impacts of NFTs on the codes of art.
What is an art NFT?
An NFT (Non Fungible Token) or non-fungible token is a digital asset based on blockchain technology and that has a certain value. Defined by a unique computer code that guarantees its uniqueness, the NFT is the property of the one who bought it from its creator. It is usually linked to a digital file of which it guarantees the security, authenticity, exclusivity and traceability. By referring to this definition of NFTs, one can better understand its application in the artistic sector.
An art NFT is therefore a non-fungible token that concerns the art world, a digital file of an artistic work that is secured on the blockchain. Not so long ago, digital art had a hard time existing, because an artistic production in digital form can be duplicated endlessly: a simple copy and paste and you get two identical copies of any digital file whether it is art or not. Thus, the notion of ownership on such a file was difficult to define. With the advent of NFTs, everything has changed when it comes to digital art.
Indeed, with the blockchain, one can generate unique digital art files that are impossible to duplicate. Whether for an image NFT, a GIF NFT, a 3D NFT, a music NFT, a pixel NFT or a video NFT, a tamper-proof authenticity marker is associated with each digital artwork.
What are the origins of art with NFTs?
Even if its real value was difficult to estimate, because it was available for free, digital art existed long before the advent of NFTs. Many artists were already appropriating digital tools to practice their art freely. Digital artworks were therefore made by creators who were looking for notoriety and a way to exhibit their work.
With the debut of NFTs in 2014, a revolution began and the history of digital art changed. Created to certify the originality of a digital work, they quickly find an application in the field. It was therefore in 2014 that the first NFT of artistic type was created by Kevin McCoy. It was an animation generated by computer code that relied on blockchain technology.
In 2015, NFTs took off with the launch of Ethereum allowing the development of "smart contracts". These projects have contributed considerably to the development observed in the digital arts sector in particular. But it was from 2017 that artistic NFTs began their development, paving the way for new generations of previously unknown artists . This is how digital art products began to be sold in extraordinary amounts.
What is the impact of NFTs on artistic behaviour?
Non-fungible tokens allowed artists to find the best way to sell their creations. Indeed, the achievements of these now have value and generate profits. In the past, digital art products were marketed exclusively through copyright. Licences had to be granted for the reproduction of the works in question.
Artists are now free to sell digital copies of their productions and be paid accordingly. Concretely, digital art with non-fungible tokens allows authors to make a living by selling their creations. Better yet, they can set the price of the NFTs created and also benefit from the rights on the resale of those they have already sold. It is the guarantee of additional income that makes it possible to consider art in another way.
In addition, creators can partner with structures that allow them to better leverage their achievements to generate even more revenue. This is what the young luxury brand Kalissa Paris offers, which is a new NFT crypto trend project. This brand specializes in partnerships with artists and influencers for the launch of exclusive NFT drops, luxury NFTs. This is an original way to inaugurate luxury 3.0 and the principle of Wear-to-Earn that revolutionize luxury consumption patterns. This principle makes it possible to earn money by wearing branded clothes.
Art NFTs have therefore become essential tools for artists who want to make themselves known online and make money. The hype around non-fungible tokens allows these authors to have access to a new market allowing them to better sell their achievements.
On the consumer side, a new generation of collectors was born, that of people who were not particularly accustomed to galleries or houses selling artistic products. However, these are prospects accustomed to online transactions and enjoying works of art. To buy an art NFT, it is now enough to have a cryptocurrency wallet and go to a specialized platform (OpenSea, Rarible, SuperRare…) to choose which NFT to invest in. Through this new process, digital art lovers are in direct contact with creators. In addition to their presence on social networks, this is how communities of followers are created around them, which contributes more to the boom in the market for non-fungible tokens.
Who are the artists who have marked the history of art NFTs?
If the history of non-fungible tokens and their application in the world of contemporary art has only begun in recent years, some creators have already left their mark on it. Indeed, when we talk about art NFTs, some names always come to mind.
This anonymous creator is one of the pioneers of the world of NFTs in general and that of the arts in particular. His dystopian style is one of the characteristic features of his achievements. This Londoner creates images with flashing pixels, which gives a touch of vitality to his art.
Since the launch of the SuperRare platform, the creations of this crypto-artist have been put online. It is inevitably his production entitled "A coin for the Ferryman" that is the most famous.
He is one of the most influential creators in the world of digital art. His real name is Mike Winkelmann, he works on digital artworks long before the arrival of non-fungible tokens. The visuals for concerts for big names in music like Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Eminem, One Direction and many others were made by Beeple.
He is one of the pioneers of the "Everyday" movement in the world of graphic design. It is also the compilation of the images made by him "Everydays: The First 5000 days" which is his most expensive realization (69.3 million dollars). Another of his creations, named "Human One," sold for $29 million, while "Crossroad," a 10-second video of Donald Trump, was resold on the aftermarket for $6.6 million through nifty Gateway.
Pak is an anonymous crypto-artist whose identity is shrouded in mystery. His particular style makes his creations iconic and the way he realizes them, with unusual methods, makes him a reference in the field.
This designer has also collaborated with Sotheby's for the auction of the collection "The fungible" which brought in $ 17 million. For the record, this collaboration began when Pak issued an invitation on Twitter to Sotheby's to offer him a gift, an invitation to which the publishing house responded.
Pak's most iconic creation is "The Merge," the one that holds the current record for the most expensive non-fungible token in history. It was sold for $91.8 million.
Victor Langlois aka FEWOCiOUS is a young artist who has already marked the history of digital art. It was at the age of 17 that he sold his first digital artwork for $1500. In the space of just one year, he will chain the successes and his first collection will bring him 17 million dollars. He thus became the third best-selling NFT artist .
This author is the one whose achievements had the Christie's website crashed in June 2021. After he gained notoriety with his production "The Everlasting Beautiful", many buyers had logged into the platform to make offers for the acquisition of his next collection. This influx of Internet users caused the website of the auction house to crash. It is estimated at more than 7300 ETH (more than 22.6 million dollars at the time of sales), the total value of the productions already sold by this young creator.
There are other artists who have positively marked history in this register. These include:
- Mad Dog Jones;
- Trevor Jones;
- José Delbo;
- Refik Anadol;
The influence of these creators guides the steps of new players who continue to reveal themselves in this rather flourishing sector.
What about the changes for art auction houses and museums?
1. The auction
Non-fungible tokens have turned habits upside down in art consumption patterns. They disrupt the codes of art, which means that galleries and art auction houses are impacted. As digital artists do without these, they have no choice but to embark in part in this sector, competing with new NFT platforms and marketplaces.
It is in particular the liquidation of Beeple at Christie's at nearly $ 70 million for his work "Everydays: The First 5000 days" that has made the major international houses launch into the NFTs. A certain frenzy is then observed for these digital assets on the part of the traditional actors of the art world. Sotheby's auction house has completed art NFT sales worth more than $100 million.
For their part, museums around the world are following the trend of NFTs so as not to remain on the sidelines of the ongoing revolution. They usually offer tokens minted from the old creations that are in their gallery. This is the case with the Uffizi Museum in Florence which created the non-fungible token of a work by Michelangelo held by this museum. The only certified and authenticated copy of the work "Tondo Doni" in question was sold for 140,000 euros. Similarly, the British Museum in London and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg have launched digital reproductions of some items from their galleries in the form of NFTs.
In the United States, in addition to the NFT Museum in Seattle, what is called "the world's largest museum of NFT" is being installed at the top of the Steinway Tower in New York. On the other hand, the NFT France or rather the art sector with the NFTs is a little late especially because of the legislation that is not too favorable to it (prohibition to sell intangible objects at public auction ).
In February 2022, a museum dedicated exclusively to this type of asset was opened in Seattle. It offers original creations that are accompanied by explanations to bring the general public to become familiar with the world of non-fungible tokens in general and that of art NFTs in particular.
3. Virtual galleries
On the other hand, the advent of metaverses and virtual realities opens up new perspectives regarding digital art galleries and virtual exhibitions. Avant-garde projects such as VR-All-Art, which is a platform giving artists the freedom to easily create virtual reality exhibitions, are gradually positioning themselves in the landscape of the art world, with an infinite virtual gallery space allowing creators to sell their artworks without time limitations, of space and geography.
What are the prospects for art with NFTs?
The horizon seems clear for digital art with NFTs and the many applications they make possible. The volume of trade already carried out is colossal as are the sums injected, which makes the growth of the sector exponential and some people are already taking full advantage of it. The art NFT market is becoming more and more attractive. Taking into account the weight of sales over a year, amounting to more than $ 17.6 billion in 2021 for a total valuation estimated at more than $ 40 billion (all types of NFT combined), making it almost as lucrative as the traditional art market , which counted $ 17 billion in the same year (for a total valuation estimated at more than $ 65 billion of dollars), it is easy to notice that the future of the art market is written in the digital.
Already, this new digital Eldorado is attracting many individuals in search of profits to make by doing the right deals. Thus, both creators and collectors have understood that the future of this sector is played out through these digital assets. This is a real paradigm shift: the major historical impact of NFT technology on the art world in 2021 can be compared to that of the Renaissance! Never before had such a transfer of power into the hands of artists been achieved since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, when the creators of the time were able to print their first editions. This revolution allowed artists to generate income and control their production in their studios, for the first time in their history. Today, NFTs initiate a paradigm shift of the same historical level.
The coming years will confirm the current trend with the great development of metaverses. Several sectors will intertwine to give a new direction to the expression of art in the digital age. A palpable example, we can note the association of NFTs with real objects in the fashion and luxury sector. This is the type of project proposed by the Kalissa Paris brand that links NFTs with art on luxury clothing. Even better, this brand has programmed stores combining luxury and metaverse in the largest cities in the world. It's a great way to combine art, luxury, and virtual realities.
In short, art NFTs are a revolution that is shaking up the traditional codes of art. The definition of what a work of art is and even what an artist is is impacted. However, if some are still wondering, the trend initiated by art NFTs is very real and inevitably progresses. Artists are the primary beneficiaries of the advantages offered by this new mode of expression of digital art. After hesitating for a few years, auction houses and galleries joined this new market. This is the best they had to do not to be left behind in this revolution that allows creators to carry out their transactions directly. In the future, they will also play their part in the non-fungible art token sector.