Are NFTs just the latest frenzy or the way forward for the Arts altogether?

The place occupied by NFTs in our world has considerably increased especially since 2020: the market went from a value of about $13.7 million in early 2020, to $9.2 billion dollars by the end of 2021. If the phenomenon has touched many domains, the art world especially has been strongly influenced and transformed by it.

You probably already know how NFTs work, and if you don’t, take a look here. NFTs or Non-fungible tokens, allow an individual to gain ownership of digital goods. NFTs come with proof of both ownership, and authenticity, imparted by blockchain technology. Even though creative digital assets, remain accessible and viewable to all, the ownership is undisputed and creators, by selling an NFT of their work, get remunerated for their creative endeavors. NFTs seem to repair somewhat the negative impact social media has had on artists. Big Tech is not great for artists, as the platforms admittedly give visibility to the created content, but do not adequately remunerate the scores of artists and other content creators, who make their platforms ultimately so attractive and drive traffic to it.

It seems astonishing that individuals would spend their money, and sometimes a great deal of it, to acquire digital art, which then can still be shared freely around the internet. The First 5000 Days, an artwork by Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), was sold for $69 million in spring 2021, making it the third highest price for an artwork by a living artist.

A market tracker website, recorded that in February 2021 alone collectors and speculators spent more than $200 million on an array of NFT-based artworks, memes and GIFs. And if you still have doubts, the annual ranking of the most influential people in Art by the magazine ArtReview should erase the very last of them. The prestigious London based magazine stated that the NFT, a non-human entity, was most influent ‘person’ in the current art world.

Artists however are not the only ones to benefit from the recent buzz of NFTs. International auction houses such Christie’s and Sothebys are very pro-active with NFTs, allowing them to reach a broader and younger audience. And GenZetters are pretty wild about NFTs: an article by CNBC shows that many have invested in NFTs and that they may be more popular with young people than stocks are.

It is not clear whether the current NFT craze will last or fade away with the next digital wave, but with Mark Zuckerberg emitting the idea of Instagram as the next NFT marketplace, the phenomenon may have staying power. However, the buyer of the NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, who paid $2.9 million for the words “Just setting up my twttr” has put the NFT up for auction on OpenSea and it has attracted very few bids, the highest being $6,000. Ouch. Maybe he will have more luck if Elon Musk succeeds in buying Twitter and taking it private (sic).

Some NFTs maybe overpriced now because the concept is a bit hyped up. But our future digital selves will buy, own and sell NFTs on a daily basis, giving NFTs great staying power. For artists, NFTs could well be the way forward to make their art visible, accessible and affordable (if tokenised) to a wider audience. So, are NFTs a craze? It seems anything but.