Traditionally, contemporary art was confined to physical locations such as museums and Art exhibitions. This limited the exposure, and arguably the appreciation of artworks. However, thanks to the advent of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, artworks globally now have a platform that enables them to maximize their exposure and appreciation: non-fungible tokens. In this article we will take a look at what non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are and how they are reviving the Contemporary Art industry.
What are Non-Fungible Tokens
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a blockchain-based technology that enables the digitization of anything that is unique or one-of-a-kind. It can be a funny GIF, an image, a musical beat, or in the case of this article; a piece of art. NFTs are non-fungible, which means that they cannot be replaced and are unique. For example, let's take a look at Bitcoin. A Bitcoin coin is fungible, meaning that one coin can be traded for another and you will still have the same thing. NFTs are the opposite, each NFT has unique attributes and intrinsic value.
The NFT market has grown tremendously over the last year between 2020 and 2021. According to the market tracker DappRadar, the NFT market has surged approximately $10.7 billion in the third quarter of 2021. This is almost an eight-fold increase compared to just the second quarter of 2021.
NFTs and Contemporary Art
The Contemporary Art market has grown substantially since its inception in 2000. From only making up around 3% of the global Art Market to now making up a total of 15% of the global Art Market, the Contemporary art market has shown significant growth over the years. Looking at the last fiscal year, 2020-2021, Contemporary Art has received a boost thanks to NFT technology. According to Artprice, contemporary art auctions hit a peak of $2.7 billion over the past fiscal year of 2020-2021. That’s a whopping 117% boost.
Before NFTs, artists were unable to effectively monetize their works of art. This is mainly due to the fact that they were unable to utilize online platforms to distribute their art. Selling art online is tricky because it is difficult to prove ownership and also prove that the art work online is an original and not a replica. Queue NFT tokens! Thanks to NFT technology, artists are now able to prove and protect ownership of artworks thanks to blockchain’s distributed ledger capabilities. This, coupled with the current hype around NFT technology, has provided artists a way to profit from and protect their artworks.
Using any of the available NFT marketplaces, artists can list their artworks in auctions. The process is fairly straightforward and does include a cost of between $40 - $200. Before getting their works listed on these marketplaces, artists have to mint digital tokens representing their works by uploading and validating their information on a blockchain. Once minted, the artist can list the NFT on any marketplace of their choosing. One of the biggest success stories in the NFT Art community happened recently over the last year, when Christie’s sold a purely digital piece of art for the first time. This artwork was created by Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name Beeple. The artwork sold for an amazing $69.3 million. Before this sale, nobody in the global Art market had heard of Beeple. After the sale, however, Beeple became the third most valuable artist at auction after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
Beeple (b. 1981), EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2021. Non-fungible token. 21,069 x 21,069 pixels (319,168,313 bytes). Minted on 16 February 2021. Sold for $69,346,250.
Some people argue that NFTs are overpriced and that the craze will fade and the bubble will eventually pop. However, thanks to NFTs, it’s no longer just artists and collectors in the global Art market. Speculators are now also joining the mix, speculating the price of these NFT-enabled digital artworks with the hope of making gains similar, if not larger, than what can be witnessed traditionally in the larger Cryptocurrency market. This introduction of speculators could arguably increase the Contemporary Art market in the future as more and more people rush in to buy digital artworks.
Exhibitions Are Opening Up To NFTs
As mentioned, NFTs have provided artists a platform to monetize and distribute their artworks online while also protecting artists’ ownership over their artworks. NFTs are now also becoming exciting new additions to some of the biggest exhibitions and events in the world, providing visitors with a more digital, immersive experience. One such event is Art Basel Miami Beach 2021.
Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 will host its first ever interactive NFT Art exhibition between the second and fourth of December this year. Made possible through a collaboration with the open sourced blockchain, Tezos, the exhibition will provide visitors the opportunity to create AI self-portraits of themselves and then mint them into NFTs on the Tezos blockchain. Furthermore, the exhibition will also feature a number of works from generative and NFT artists including Helena Sarin, Matt DesLauriers, Stuart Campbell and Iskra Velitchkova.
Following Beeple’s sale at Christie’s, Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 will be the second well-known Art event to include NFT artworks this year. This is exciting for the NFT art industry as adoption of the new art form slowly begins to grow.
Non-fungible tokens are blockchain-based technology that have provided artists a new platform to monetize their artworks, while protecting the ownership and authenticity of these artworks. The NFT market has grown substantially during the 2020-2021 fiscal year and has positively impacted the global Art market as a growing number of speculators join the mix. Events such as Christie’s and Art Basel Miami Beach are now including NFTs, giving artists who were unheard of before the digital Art NFT craze, like Beeple, the opportunity to display and possibly earn from their hard work. Artists can now mint their artworks on the blockchain and list the NFTs in auctions on NFT marketplaces.