“When bankers meet for dinner, they discuss art. When artists meet for dinner, they discuss money. – Oscar Wilde
A digital artist, Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, has sold “Everydays: The First 5000 Days”, a collage of computer illustrations, for $69 million at Christie’s. The work was able to command the huge sum for what was essentially a 13-year montage of Winkelmann’s messages because it was attached to a digital certificate known as an NFT or Non-Fungible Token. This deal sparked a mad rush among artists – a gold rush – to join the NFT bandwagon.
The NFT craze has spread quickly. Despite the fact that the modern art world is inherently volatile, the rise of NFTs is shaping the artistic landscape. Several Indian artists have created digital artworks and sold them to collectors around the world, using the NFT route.
What is special about an NFT?
Anyone can view individual images – or even the entire collage of images – of digital art online for free. So why are people willing to spend millions of dollars for something that can be downloaded or screenshotted? This is because NFTs give ownership of the original item to the buyer.
People can have a picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s Monalisa on their phone or go to the Louvre museum in France and take a picture of it, but the original Monalisa is priceless, and copies and replicas are simply worthless because the museum is recognized as the sole possessor of the original. NFTs on works of art are the equivalent of an attestation – they are digital certificates from the artist stating: “This work was created by me and accompanies the work of art”.
Artists wishing to sell their work as NFTs must first register with a marketplace before “minting” digital tokens by uploading and validating their information on a blockchain.
Each NFT has its own valuation, which is determined by the highest bidder, who receives a digital token rather than the actual painting, sculpture, or printed copy, when it comes to art or collectibles. The NFT contains information about the current owner of the piece, transfer procedures, artwork details, a link to the digital image or a hash code, and built-in authentication that serves as proof of ownership.
Modern monetization tool
Santanu Hazarika, a self-taught multidisciplinary visual artist and illustrator based in Mumbai, has just released his first major NFT. According to Santanu, the global NFT marketplace is slowly becoming a crucial promotional tool for all artists to monetize their work and uniquely engage with the art-appreciating community of collectors and fans. “There are many ways NFTs help artists. Individual artists can support themselves by publishing their own work without the intervention of intermediaries, galleries, art collectors or dealers of any kind,” he explains.
Cryptocurrency is frequently used as a payment method for NFTs.
Physical silver can be exchanged for cryptocurrencies and vice versa – in other words, both are “fungible”. Each unit of physical money and cryptocurrencies is equal in value to a similar unit of itself – one dollar will be worth the same as another dollar, and one Bitcoin will be worth the same as another Bitcoin at some time. But NFTs are different. Each NFT has a digital signature, which prevents it from being exchanged for another, or having the same value as another token – so they are non-fungible. Simply put, NFTs are essentially assets that have their own digital identity and ownership record, and they cannot be replicated to form new versions of themselves.
Art, GIFs, sports videos, video games and virtual avatars, designer shoes, music, and even tweets can all be associated with NFTs, making them unique and collectible. These NFTs can be sold for varying sums. For example, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold his first NFT tweet for over $2.9 million.
When it comes to art, because they establish ownership of the artwork, NFTs are valuable. They can be bought and sold online. If you have an NFT for a work of art, you have the option of keeping it, selling it, or trading it. There are many NFT marketplaces where sellers can upload their products and buyers can connect digital wallets to purchase them. To attract potential buyers, some digital artists post their work on social media platforms like Instagram.
“I love the value of the original in a world full of fakes,” says Venkat Gaddam, an artist and fashion designer from Telangana who plans to launch an NFT series soon. It’s an exciting time to be a creator, an ideator or an artist, in my opinion.”
“With NFTs, artists no longer need to pay huge commissions to galleries to present their works! Our artworks can be minted as NFTs and kept on the Blockchain forever,” says artist Swati Pasari from Kolkata.
Royalties for repeat sales
NFTs provide transparency and accessibility to the art world like never before, ensuring that musicians, artists and others are fairly compensated for their work.
Due to the nature of NFTs, artists won’t have to settle for a one-time sale of their work. They will be able to benefit from subsequent transactions thanks to royalties on secondary sales.
“I think it gives you complete control over when and how you give up your work. You realize how transparent the transactions are and you can see who is selling your artwork and how much it is selling for; you have also the royalty system in place, which means that every time your art is resold, you not only know who is buying it, but you also get paid,” says Santanu, who launched a first-of-its-kind digital artwork Breaking the Frames (BTF) on the WazirX NFT marketplace in collaboration with pop sensation Ritviz.
“Copyrights and partial sale opportunities historically have no place in the world of fine art. Artfi (a blockchain-based fine art NFT ecosystem) offers the unique opportunity for artists, sellers and collectors to earn royalties on every NFT transaction, sell 90% of their art and keep 10% locked up in their wallets for the future,” says Artii founder Asif Kamal, who is also an art connoisseur.
Creators can also incorporate clauses into their NFTs. Beeple, for example, stipulated that he would receive a 10% royalty on any subsequent resale of his $69 million coin. “In the case of a physical work of art, you only get paid once; however, with NFTs, artists receive a royalty even on all future sales of their work,” adds Swati.
Has anyone in India sold an NFT?
The answer to that is, yes, many have. Raghavendra Rathore was the first designer to use proprietary blockchain technology to convert his artwork into NFT. Canada-based Tamil musician Kaber Vasuki has sold an unreleased demo of his track “Vasanam” on OpenSea (web3 marketplace for NFT) for 50 Ethereum, or around Rs. 1.5 crore. Kanthraj N, a Bangalore-based watercolor artist, has auctioned off 12 of his award-winning original paintings on the RubiX marketplace.
“With NFTs, artists are now open to working with anyone, anywhere,” says Santanu, adding, “The process removes various barriers such as approaching galleries, expecting galleries to pick up your work, an art dealer to push and promote you. , and the logistical problems too.
Artists who have created NFTs form groups and online communities to help and educate each other.
A multi-billion dollar company in the making
According to the Artprice database, NFTs have grown in popularity, accounting for a third of online sales or 2% of the overall art market. Artists who have embraced NFTs find it empowering. Suvigya Sharma, an Indian artist, painter and fashion designer known for his miniature paintings, Tanjore paintings, murals and portraits, has partnered with OwlUnited – an NFT project bringing together business, charity and digital art . He says that nowadays digital art, especially NFTs, is used to raise funds for the launch of medium and large companies.
“NFTs are expected to be a multi-trillion dollar industry in the global economy, and many people are beginning to accumulate these digital assets for artistic or utilitarian purposes. Over the past couple of years, many NFT projects have sprung up in the market,” says Suvigya.
A revolution is indeed sweeping the art world, and it will never be the same again.