2021 was the year for NFTs. Top sales included CryptoPunk #7523 for $11,754,000, Beeple’s “Human One” for $28,985,000, and Pak’s NFT drop “Merge,” which set the record for largest sale by a living artist. There are now upwards of 40,000 buyers of art NFTs per month, and upwards of $20 million in sales are generated a week. But beyond the numbers, 2021 was really the year the world became aware of what NFTs are and their potential to change approaches and thinking in the art space.
The art world is always evolving and changing, but it’s rare to see so much progress in any industry within such a short period of time. Yet NFT and blockchain technology can offer new ways for artists to connect with buyers, increase access to and democratization of the art world, and provide new ways of thinking about exchange of value in the art space.
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What is an NFT?
Simply put, it’s a unique digital asset with verifiable ownership. This could be a piece of art, an asset from a game, a PDF, or even a tweet. When a creator “mints” (creates) a digital asset as an NFT, the minting process creates a cryptographic token that includes the digital signature of the wallet that created the token. This provides direct provenance verification for future collectors, recorded on the blockchain. It also provides creators with a new way through which to produce and sell their art directly to their followers, outside of traditional gatekeepers.
NFT technology is certainly here to stay. Here are some of the ways that NFTs will impact the art world — and the world in general — going forward.
5 Predictions for the Future of Art NFTs
Art NFTs aren’t just a cool new fad, but have real implications for changing who accesses art, who creates it, and how someone can buy it. Here are five predictions for how art NFTs will benefit artists, collectors, and art lovers.
Prediction 1: The Democratization of Art
Who owns art? Who has access to art? Many people create art, but who can earn a living from it? Who is deemed “an artist”? The digitization of art has forever altered the answers to those questions. Today, anyone with an internet connection can view artwork wherever they are, and they don’t need to physically be in a space to access it. Not only can anyone anywhere view art on a phone or computer screen, but virtual reality is increasingly providing the opportunity to visit galleries and museums, and explore an exhibition from your living room. NFTs are giving artists opportunities to create art and distribute it through online channels, bypassing traditional gatekeepers who for centuries dictated what art is and who has access to it. Blockchain transactions also allow artists to be directly supported by their audience and control their own careers.
Prediction 2: Increased Diversity and Representation
The digitization of art and the rise of blockchain technology and NFTs will shift the key players and influencers in the space to make art more representative of the world around us. With greater democratization of art and art spaces comes access for different people and groups traditionally underrepresented in art.
And that’s the goal of art, isn’t it? Art has the ability to give us glimpses into worldviews and experiences that are outside our own, and allow us to have our perspectives expanded and challenged. The industry needs to focus on elevating diverse voices within this space, as well as providing crypto education opportunities for BIPOC, women, and otherwise underserved creators and communities.
Prediction 3: Patronage and Fractionalization
NFTs are also going to create a future where patronage of the arts looks a lot different. Because blockchain transactions are direct, and not mediated through a third party, collectors and fans will be in a position to directly support their favorite artist or creator. Additionally, NFT ownership allows for fractionalization, or partial ownership, through which fans or collectors can share in the future earnings of artists and their work. Blockchain technology also allows for creators to receive payment on future sales of their work, and according to our recent report on “Making a Living as an Artist,” one of the top aspects artists find appealing about NFTs is the possibility of royalties.
Prediction 4: New Methods and Media
Because of these innovative technologies, we’re going to see new media increasingly used to create and deliver art as well. Artists have already been creating on digital canvases, making work accessible through VR or AR (like artists Jordan Wolfson or Marina Abramović), and prioritizing the experience generated over a static, passive object. Works that are wearables, or have everyday utility? An artist gamifying an art experience for their followers? With new technology comes an imaginative renaissance, and technology will only continue to grow and advance as more people get involved in the space.
Prediction 5: Increased Freedom and Independence
Finally, all of these elements are going to lead to a future filled with more freedom and independence for artists. Because NFTs allow for direct patronage from fans, artists won’t need to rely on corporate patronage, brands, or mega-collectors who may ask them to compromise their creative vision. While there will always be a role for art curators and advisors to help guide our experience and understanding of art, artists will increasingly be able to create the work they want and know that they can find a paying audience for their particular style, medium, or message. Being able to create their own NFTs and distribute them online through the platform of their choosing also allows artists to take more control over their own livelihood. Similarly, collectors who now have access to a wide variety of art may have more freedom to collect what they want, not what they “should.”
A Very Different Future
Art NFTs aren’t simply a fad for a certain segment of the population. Rather, this new technology is challenging notions of traditional art, and removing hurdles for those who want to participate either by creating or collecting. But, in order for these predictions to come true, the industry needs to continue welcoming in new players, educate artists and collectors on how to get started, improve the technology to make it more user-friendly, and, above all, never lose sight of the mission of connecting great art with those who will truly enjoy it.
This article is taken from a guest post by Monty Preston, Saatchi Art’s NFT Curator, for Nasdaq. You can read the article on Nasdaq here.
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