NFTs storming the Art Market | WT* are NFTs?

The sudden rise of the word NFT has struck the art world. 

But what are NFTs and what do they mean for the art market?

As this is a complex and ever-evolving issue, we decided to create a series around the subject. This will allow our Artscapers to reflect and understand in more depth this new ‘trend’ and how you might consider the way you look at this strand of art. 

It is still early to understand if this is just a temporary hype or if this is really what the art market is going to look like in 10 years from now. But the truth is that NFTs are generating interest rapidly and collectors are investing large amounts of money on these. For you to have an idea, Nyan Cat’s creator made over $600,000 in February. Pretty huge amount of money for a 'hype', right?

First, let’s get our head around definitions. 

NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’. This cryptocurrency is different from bitcoin because bitcoin is ‘fungible’, which means it can be traded just like physical money; bitcoin exists as copies. When it comes to an NFT, this is a one-of-a-kind token, which can be compared to owning a unique piece of artwork itself. There are no two identical NFTs, and so its trading cannot be matched. Think about owning a Mondrian; there is no other Mondrian painting like the one you own. In simple, this is what NFTs are. 


“Where a bitcoin is comparable to a dollar bill, an NFT can be likened to a cat, a sculpture, or a painting: You can’t sell part of it without spoiling the whole, and its value is rather subjective.”


Crypto assets are quite abstract as concepts, so it can be hard to understand them in their entirety. But you can visualise NTFs as anything that exists digitally (from music to digital drawings on an iPad or other electronic device)- in short, even your selfie can be an NFT. NFTs are forcing us to face the truth about our reality: the world is increasingly becoming more and more digitised. And the art world can’t move away from that same reality. (Look at Artscapy, for instance!) 

NFTs may sound like a purely deranged invention but it does make sense, especially for digital artists or street artists, who have often struggled to make their work sellable. 


Why is it that these digital artists struggle? Well, first of all, for digital artists, it is almost impossible to monetise their work. Not only because of the storing/displaying issues digital art proposes to art collectors (as in, digital art can’t be part of your art collection in the traditional, physical form) but also because society is becoming increasingly numb to digital content. Digital images are undervalued as they become saturated in the breadth of digital content we are exposed to on a daily basis. At the same time, we have years of learnt appreciation for traditional art forms such as paintings or sculpture, but we are just starting to dive into the digital art world.


NFTs can be the breakthrough of digital art hype. They allow digital artists to authenticate their work as originals and, therefore, make money from their art. Despite this, a sold digital work does not impose rareness. What do we mean by this? Most of these NTF artworks can still be seen, used, and downloaded freely by other users online. So, what does it mean to own a digital artwork through NFTs? It is simple: you own the certificate of the original file. But is this transaction as simple as this?

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