Sunday, March 14, 2021

NFT’s In Art

Twenty-five years ago, my gallery had its own website.  There was nary another art dealer who had one.  I was explaining the concept to many well-known art dealers who did not have a clue what it meant or why they needed one!  Today, I am happy to know how to turn my computer on and from there on I need assistance!

A week or so ago my older son, Dan, sent me an article saying, “Thought this might be good for an art blog for someone who can’t leave the house because of a pandemic… If you can understand it …”.  I thought the last part was rather a sarcastic remark made to the older generation.   Boy was I wrong!  

If you are as clueless a I was you may be interested in learning something about this New Art World of NFTs. When I first read the article from an Apple-published virtual magazine called “The Verge” I had no idea what they were talking about.  So, I dId what everyone else does, I Googled.   I found an article from the hard copy magazine “Art in America”.  Then in a recent email I saw the headline, “The world’s first ‘Major’ NFT Art Exhibition is about to take place in Beijing, Headlined by Beeple, Fewocious, and Mad Dog Jones”.  This week articles about NFT’s have been flooding in.

Mike Winkelmann, known in the Digital World as Beeple

An NFT is short for non-fungible tokens which are unique digital assets, individually identified as a block chain which allows one person to own a widely disseminated digital artwork, ie the “chain” links it back to the owner and it is blocked from anyone else owning it.

One of the best ways to describe an NFT is as a sort of digital certificate of authenticity, and for some it's become a desirable collectible. Last month an NFT of the 10-year-old meme Nyan Cat sold for $580,000, and a video clip of basketball player Lebron Jones went for over $200,000.

What I find quite amazing is that these NFT’s have been around for a decade and I never heard about them before, and now suddenly every art email I receive seems to have something to say about NFT’s.  Is it possible this is because one of the largest and best-known auction houses in the world, Christies, had its first auction of this material this month.? In that sale one of Beeple’s works titled,  “Everydays — The First 5000 Days,” had a starting figure of $100 and brought sixty-nine million dollars! In an interview I saw at the end of last week Beeple said it took him 13 years to complete!

You won’t be surprised to learn that this market has been driven by tech investors in cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. At the moment you can’t buy your groceries or pizza delivery with Bitcoin ,but you can buy an NFT with digital currency.  Can you do this at Christies? Possibly, but will Christie’s accept their commission in Bitcoin?  

History will tell us if NFTs and digital art will continue to have high values.  Art is always a question of taste. The fields I dealt in for decades a for substantial sums now bring pennies on the dollar, but tastes change and what people do not value now can become popular again. Material works of art will be around through change of taste but will NFT’s survive the changes in computer technology? 

Whether Digital Art will survive is a more difficult question than will the concept of the Block Chain survive.  Just before finishing this Missive, I spoke with my son again.  He is in the real estate business and has also been studying bock chains. He said he would not be surprised if the real estate business went in this direction. The transfer of ownership of a house requires a great deal of paperwork. But what if, instead you would just need a block chain transaction to guarantee that ownership?

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