With art galleries across the country closed for much of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where exactly do you go to enjoy or purchase works of art? Well, if recent trends are any indication, you do it on your computer.
It’s called tokenized art, non-fungible token (NFT) art, or just NFTs (sometimes pronounced Nifties). “Non-fungible” means it’s unique and unable to be divided or copied, unlike fungible cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. And it’s basically where digital art meets the crypto world.
NFT art is verified as legit on the blockchain, recorded with identifying data, so just having a digital image of the artwork is not the same as owning the NFT. That’s why true NFT art is fetching surprisingly high prices of late.
Some NFT paintings are sold with physical counterparts while others are solely digital. Some are animated like a gif, even with sound effects attached, while others are still images. Some are one-offs whereas others are offered as part of a series, or the equivalent of limited-edition prints. There are also NFT “trading cards” and other collectibles.
Traditionally, digital art has been easily stolen or duplicated. But blockchain technology prevents manipulation or tampering, so NFTs can’t be counterfeited. And the coolest part of the process is that every time an NFT work of art is sold or resold in the future, a percentage goes back to the artist or creator.
Artists don’t necessarily need coding experience to create NFT art. New apps and platforms like Rarible simplify and automate the process, starting with any jpg, png or gif file. Just keep in mind that every NFT artwork created will be a blockchain transaction, which incurs a miner fee on the network.
Prices for tokenized art have been climbing over the past few months, with record-setting six-figure sales in September and October. Last month, in December 2020, the total NFT artwork trading volume hit an astounding all-time high of $8.2 million, according to data supplied by analytics platform CryptoArt. That’s up from $2.6 million the month before.
While most of these purchases are made with Ether or Ethereum-based stablecoins, a few platforms also accept fiat payment by credit card. Some of the digital art marketplaces that sell NFT works are Rarible, SuperRare, OpenSea, Async Art, MakersPlace, KnownOrigin and Nifty Gateway, which was purchased in 2019 by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss of Facebook and Gemini fame.
So, what exactly do these newfangled artworks look like? Well, one called EthBoy, created by Trevor Jones and Alotta Money (ha ha, get it?) is an animated digital painting of Ethereum founder Vitalik Butin, dressed as a harlequin, jumping into the air as the current price of Ether flashes onscreen. That particular piece, which uses technology called layering to update it in real time, sold for 260 ETH in November — approximately $141,500 at the time of sale, but worth $329,000 today with the rising price of Ether.
Other top sellers include Block 21, part of the “Portraits of a Mind” series by Robert Alice, which set a record at $131,250 in October. That one was the first NFT sold at Christie’s auction house, and included a physical counterpart as well.
Prolific artist Beeple sells surreal (and somewhat disturbing) Salvador Dali-esque images featuring sci-fi and fictional characters, like Shrek, Jabba the Hut, Mickey Mouse and Super Mario. He also has works depicting actors like Tom Hanks (beating up a coronavirus creature) and Keanu Reeves (making COVID vaccines by being hooked up to a torturous-looking contraption), not to mention one of Elon Musk being crucified in a space suit. Yes, seriously.
Meanwhile, Pak focuses mainly on geometric shapes rendered in black and white, XCopy uses distorted visual loops to explore subjects like death and apathy, and HackaTao makes comments on society using flat graffiti-inspired figures. Even DJ Deadmau5 has gotten into the game, selling digital collectibles created on the WAX blockchain platform.
You can buy Ether or WAX Protocol tokens at any Coin Cloud Bitcoin ATM, which allow you to purchase your rare NFT artworks and collectibles.
Disclaimer: The information and views supplied on the Coin Cloud blog are for educational and entertainment purposes only. We are not financial advisors, so please do your research and consult with a trusted financial specialist before investing your money.
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