• Romi Fernandez Riviello

NFT gold rush—owning a jpeg

Imagine you are an art collector. Would you pay $69M for a painting? Probably. But would you still pay that price if the art is 100% digital and “sold” via NFTs? In effect, would you pay for that artwork if it were a jpeg that anyone can see published on a webpage? Christie's became the first auction house to offer a work of art like this.

This NFT trend is a phenomenon that marked the end of the classical form of art — i.e., works you can put in your living room, in a gallery, or display in a museum — and marked the beginning of a new phase of modern art. NFT stands for “non-fungible tokens.” An NFT represents a certain kind of confusing claim of ownership, but ownership of something as public as the first tweet by Twitter’s founder: anyone can actually find it online, but someone now has a claim of ownership.

How does that work?

Even the people involved in NFTs may have a hard time explaining what they are. NFTs are limited in quantity, and their value in some cases has gone through the roof. NFTs are unique because of being backed up by a blockchain which prevents the copy/paste, alteration or the creation of a duplicate. While it may be unnatural to acquire art in a digital manner, it is similar to Spotify. Spotify allows users to listen to music even without owning the CD, but you have to have the permission granted by membership; NFTs are analogous to this membership — but even more limited and exclusive. Somehow.

The art piece sold by Christies cannot be replicated or sold, it is an ownership of the encrypted file. The work of art is “everydays, the first 5000 days” by Beeple. It is a collage of 5000 individual artworks that were consolidated into a JPG file and sold for $69M.

Image of everyday the first 5000 days.

How can one sell a digital artwork, such that you have complete ownership?

The nature of digital work is that exact copies of digital creations are easy to create; it’s what you do when saving a graphic from a website. It's similar to the Mona Lisa. We have all seen the Mona Lisa (if you haven’t click here). You have seen pictures of it, or even gone to the Louvre and taken a picture of it, maybe you even have a print to decorate your wall, nevertheless, none of the above are worth as much as the original. There is only one authentic Mona Lisa. The same is true for crypto art and NFTs; NFTs confer a kind of first claim on a work, even a digital one.

Crypto art. Art created digitally, that only exists digitally and sold digitally. “everydays, the first 5000 days” was bought with Cryptocurrency. It is a revolutionary movement and evolution in art. With an offer that started at $100 and in a few minutes was raised to $1M, weeks later sold for $69M. Art can now be intangible. What's next for the art world? What is the future of art? If our reality is becoming digital, why should art not follow the same trend?


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