Discover the technology that promises to change the sale of digital works of art
Acronym for Non-Fungible Tokens (non-fungible tokens, in literal translation), the new technology consists of a numeric seal associated with a digital work. It is unique, non-replicable and acts as a signature to that artwork.
The sale of the digital work Everydays: The First 5000 Days , by the artist Beeple, by the renowned auction house Christie’s for R$ 69 million, last week, would not draw so much attention in the world were it not for the way the work was sold. Beeple, stage name of graphic designer Mike Winkelmann, actually sold the NFT of the work. In other words, an authentication certificate based on Blockchain technology, the same used for the development of cryptocurrencies.
Acronym for Non-Fungible Tokens (non-fungible tokens, in literal translation), the new technology consists of a numeric seal associated with a digital work. It is unique, non-replicable and acts as a signature to that work of art. For artists, the new marketing format means an open door to new possibilities. “This model has a lot of potential to change and is already changing. It’s actually an improvement on the accessibility issue. You put art up for sale, everyone has more access”, comments Uno de Oliveira, an artist known in the cryptoart world and who recently sold NFT Coelhek , an animation associated with a song that was auctioned online at the site Foundation.
The musical part of the work was done by André Abujamra. “Artistically, NFT is a paradigm shift from everything we know”, points out Abujamra, one of the first Brazilian musicians to make money with NFTs. He also touches on the accessibility point provided by the new art sales format. “You don’t have to wear yellow glasses and do a gallery launch in Soho, New York. New York’s Soho is here, now, in front of you on the computer”, he describes.
Changes in the market occur not only at the big auction houses. In addition to taking digital art to another level in terms of values and interest of collectors, the new tool gives the artist more control over the commercialization of the work. “The NFT gives an interesting rhythm to the market and exposes the artists”, analyzes Uno de Oliveira. “It gives us the right to put whatever we want on the air; if I like, I can put one art there a day. I myself am trying to maintain a frequency of two arts a week”, he adds. It is basically a digital certificate that defines originality and exclusivity to digital goods.
The value of the artwork is then associated with the authentication and unity of that piece. “There’s always a question: ‘It’s just a Jpeg (a popular image file format), why am I going to buy a Jpeg for $10K?’, but actually you’re not buying a Jpeg, you are , first, by buying an artist’s work, and, second, you’re acquiring a contract that says this file is authentic, real, made by a certain artist and with the possibility of resale, so it’s a way for you to invest”, he says. One of Oliveira.
For Professor Daniel Fernandes, from the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Brasília (UnB), this authentication associated with digital art does not revolutionize art, in the sense of creating different forms or artistic languages. “It’s actually another way to market, mainly, digital items like image, video, audio. All this type of digital file was produced before, but there was a great difficulty for those who produced these items to find a sustainable market, because in the digital environment, all things are infinitely reproducible at zero or almost zero cost”, he explains. “In the sales resources of the NFT, they found some appreciation of their work, a financial compensation that they didn’t find so much before”, he adds.
Excluding the technological part of the process, Fernandes believes that there is great mystification around the topic, to contribute to sales and the speculative market. “The art world is fed by hype”, he comments. Hype is the extreme promotion of a person, idea, product, which usually lasts for a short period of time. “The term cryptoart already suggests something secret, of mystery, and the fact that people don’t understand how the technical side works helps in this mystification. When you buy a piece of NFT artwork, you are buying a token that is non-fungible, meaning that it cannot be replaced, split, or fractionated. He is unique. You, however, do not buy the digital image file, you buy a certificate of ownership of a file to which the token is linked”, he details. Token is an electronic password generating device, usually without a physical connection to the computer. This speculation within the art market is not new and used to happen with physical works. “The whole issue of NFT is a way of trying to insert scarcity in the digital world, but the market logic is the same”.
Julia Borges Araña is one of the curators and founders of the Brazilian platform Homeostasis Lab, created eight years ago by her and curator Guilherme Brandão. The platform focuses on mapping, cataloging and displaying digital art on the internet. Julia points out, however, that while NFT opens up the possibility for digital artists to market their work safely, it is an environmentally harmful technology, due to the high electricity consumption of a blockchain sale — a service cryptocurrency explorer.
The curator believes that the growing popularity around encrypted art is related to the moment in which we are living. This took a turn and a turn of the keys, because institutions started to focus on the digital, which opens millions of possibilities and reaches more people. When institutions turn to the digital, and digital works are made to be transmitted digitally, this world, for the artist, expands a lot”, he says. However Julia ponders: “These are different experiences, which need to be thought of in different ways. The virtual has attributes that the face-to-face does not have, and vice versa”.