From digital communication, to digital currencies, and now to digital art. The ever-evolving digital world has changed the way we interact with one another, the way we make payments, and now, the way we see, and purchase art.
Art created using digital technology is not a new art form, and we know art, whichever way created, to be physically presented and live only in one place, be it on our walls, or in museums. Blockchain technology has turned this notion on its head, as we are now seeing people spend millions of dollars on digital-only assets. This means, art collectors are now making big purchases on GIFs, JPEGs, animated videos, music, or anything that is shareable via a digital file.
Crypto art sales skyrocket
In February of this year, a digital-only asset, created by a graphic designer known as Beeple, was bought for a record-breaking $69.3 million at a Christie’s auction. This work is called Everydays: The First 5000 days and took 13-years to create. To put things into perspective, this artwork sold for $15 million more than Monet’s Nymphéas did in 2014. More so, it has become the third most expensive piece to be sold by any living artist, and this was only the beginning for Beeple. He then went on to sell many other works at varying amounts, one being Crossroads, for $6.6 million.
Commenting on the idea of selling his digital art, Beeple stated: “It’s a bit surreal, because digital imagery wasn’t really something that I pictured, in my lifetime, being able to sell. So it has come out of nowhere. But at the same time, I also really feel like this is going to be the next chapter of art history.”
Other artists have also made bank selling their digital-only assets. Christopher Torres sold his Nyan Cat meme for $600,000, and musician Grimes, sold a collection of digital artworks for $6.3 million.
What does Blockchain technology have to do with it all?
Blockchain technology has everything to do with it. These artworks are regarded as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) which are built on Blockchain technology. This allows for a secure record of transactions, very much the same as for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The difference between cryptocurrencies and NFTs is that cryptocurrencies, let’s say Bitcoin, can be traded for another Bitcoin, while NFTs are 100% unique and like cannot be traded for like.
As NFTs these artworks become one-of-a-kind, whereby the proof of ownership cannot be corrupted, and while digital files are shared so easily, by the click of a button, these ones come with title owners who hold the original work in their possession.
NFTs can also involve smart contracts, which could allow the artist to collect royalties from any future sale of their work. Platforms that sell NFT artworks, usually place a cryptocurrency price tag on them, and with this, as the price of cryptocurrencies increase, so does the value of the piece.
Do NFTs have staying power?
There is wide debate over whether or not the crypto art craze is just a ‘bubble’. The answer is unknown, but what we do know is that the NFT market is rapidly growing and is currently worth $250 million. In 2020 alone, NFT investments grew by 299%.
As for the auction of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 days, Christie’s Auction House said that two thirds of the bidders were millennials, clients the well-known establishment had never had before.
It is evident there is a pattern of NFT buyers, being crypto-users, and millennials. One could argue that while the digital world is booming, so too will NFTs, but only time will tell.