On September 23, auction-house firm Christie publicly expressed the intention to sell its first nonfungible token (NFT) at an auction. The news came barely a week after the record-setting $100,000 sale at auction of a digital art piece, which also leveraged digital blockchain tokens to vest the collector’s new ownership rights.
In the meantime, Anthony Pompliano, Morgan Creek Digital co-founder, said on September 21: “I personally believe that the digital art market cap will grow to become larger than physical art market cap. This sounds ridiculous today.”
It is undeniable that the digital art market is gaining momentum every day. Duncan Cock Foster, the co-founder at digital gallery Nifty Gateway, said: “The digital art movement is growing at an incredibly rapid pace. The amount of growth we are seeing has surprised everyone involved, I think.”
Much of this is definitely credited to the COVID19 Pandemic that has little travelling and shut down museums. “Digital art allows people to engage with art from their homes, on their computers, on their phones, and send images/videos back and forth easily, which makes digital art especially suited to this time in history,” Blake Finucane, co-founder of a position paper on NFT-based art titled “Crypto art: A decentralized view,” said. However, something else may be transferring. One of the historical problems with digital art has been that it is “essentially impossible to monetize,” said Finucane, adding:
“If something exists only in digital form — i.e., a gif, a meme, a digital image, a digital video — it is easy to simply screenshot, copy or paste it, or replicate it. A digital artwork’s value is diminished when it comes to selling it commercially because it is so easy to copy — and difficult to track what is, in fact, the original artwork.”
However, suppose a digital piece of art is tokenized. In that case, the original work can always be tracked through blockchain tokens, “making it much easier to gain commercial value since someone can actually ‘own’ the original work,” she said.
“It is significant for digital art,” Giovanni Colavizza, assistant professor of digital humanities at the University of Amsterdam, said, adding that tokenization “allows us to exchange and create value from forms of art which previously were problematic.”
On September 18, NonFungible.com, a platform that monitors NFT sales data, reported a record high in art-based NFT volume ($162,385). This was followed by the second-highest daily sale of $123,205 on September 22. Generally, the increase in sales of blockchain digital artwork has been outstanding since June.
Digital Art + Blockchain = Crypto Art
Digital art has been in existence for several years. Artists started experimenting with computers seven decades ago, but it is only recently that digital art was tokenized on a blockchain network. For example, Ethereum’s non-fungible token, ERC-721, which many digital galleries embrace, wasn’t developed and rolled out until early 2018.
The traditional art industry dismisses digital art, wondering they should embrace digital art when copies can be made. They often forget that a person using the NFT technology can prove that he owns the original asset. Digital arts can be compared to eBooks, which, like digital art, existed for several years with little interest until reading gadgets, like Kindle and iPad, were invented.
“The art world has been craving a way to collect digital art, and NFTs are a picture-perfect solution to this problem,” said Cock Foster, adding that everyone should distinguish between digital art and crypto art, the latter being the tokenized or blockchain-enabled version of the former.
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