There are no two ways about it: the blockchain revolution is changing the face of art, culture and the way we participate in the world. This is a watershed moment for artists, who are able to connect with their audience in ways that have never been possible before, and boldly direct the future of their careers. Artists who might previously have struggled to find success within an exclusionary network of galleries, auction houses or record labels are now gaining greater ownership of their work, and finding a worldwide audience waiting to connect with them through their art.
Burberry’s collaboration with Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party in 2021.
As humans, we have an inherent desire to belong to something bigger than us, and NFTs provide a space to share common interests, to be creative companions within a community. They connect artists with people seeking to be part of a wider movement, and offer a visual membership card of sorts that validates this connection. More importantly, NFTs elevate digital assets into the realm of desirable objects that we use to define ourselves. Just as we have an identity in the physical world, signified by the clothes we wear, the jewellery we buy and the cars we drive, NFTs allow us to forge this identity in the digital world. Artists, too, can define their individual brand of creativity like never before. They are able to reach a much wider audience through the ground-breaking technology of the blockchain. NFTs have launched new and unique kinds of art onto the world stage that were previously overlooked by many and accessible only to a few. As a result, artists have the opportunity to form meaningful and ongoing connections with fans and collaborators all over the world.
An NFT is more than a stamp of authenticity for a digital file. It could also include access to a face to face meeting with fans, exclusive content for dedicated supporters, or a unique experience beyond what money can buy. Artists are able to give those who own their NFTs privileged access to a studio tour, concert tickets, even dinner with the artist themselves. The allure of this kind of experience, baked in to the purchase of an artwork, is an unprecedented opportunity for artists to build their brand and reach out to audiences on a completely new level.
Shawn Mendes released a collection of NFTs with Genies, including this digital replica of a vest he wore at a concert in Mexico City.
One of the most alluring and crucial things about NFTs is their ability to link money back to artists. Unlike traditional art auctions, where it’s often only the initial sale proceeds that end up in the artist’s pocket, NFTs have the power to restructure the art world economy in favour of the original creator. When an artist sells a work at auction, they receive a portion of the proceeds, with the auction house taking up to 20%. If, in five years’ time, the person who bought the work at auction decides to sell it on, noticing that it has doubled (or more) in value, the artist sees none of that profit. With NFTs, however, artists can include royalties in the smart contract, so that with each subsequent resale of their work, they continue to be paid for its increasing value.
Smart contracts, NFTs and blockchain technology may be relatively new concepts, but the premise behind them is not. As a consumer society, we already attach high value to rare items that we know are authentic, like a Rolex watch or a painting by Picasso. A counterfeit watch or painting, although it may look identical to the real thing, holds no real value. It is the story, the association with a certain name and its provenance that gives these objects their worth, rather than anything inherent in the object itself. NFTs give artists the ability to verify the scarcity and authenticity of their work with absolute certainty. They provide a guarantee that the work cannot be duplicated or faked.
Balenciaga-designed outfits available as NFTs in the online game Fortnite.
Some of the biggest luxury brands in the world have already identified the potential for NFTs to provide their clients with an undeniably original product. Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga are among those who have made recent forays into the NFT space. These designer giants recognise that NFTs naturally lend themselves to luxury goods by acting as a sort of permanent, digital stamp of authenticity. There is no risk of losing the fragile authentication card in the box, no potential for the item purchased to be a forgery. Its originality, rarity and authenticity are all captured in the blockchain ledger, visible for anyone to see. The same principle applies to art, which is valuable because it is authentic and rare. NFTs are revolutionising the ability to record and prove a work’s origins beyond the shadow of a doubt, and this in turn makes them incredibly valuable.
Artists working in the world of NFTs are aligning themselves not only with cutting-edge technology and artistic innovation, but also with historic legacy brands. In addition to the fashion superpowers mentioned above, auction houses with hundreds of years of clout behind them are bringing legitimacy to this emerging space. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have both unequivocally embraced NFTs; Christie’s famously sold Beeple’s NFT Everydays for a record-breaking profit back in March this year, and Sotheby’s recently launched an NFT-exclusive auction platform called Metaverse. All of this points to the ability for artists, whether established or emerging, to participate in the new art economy which is endorsed by powerful names and figures, but open to all.
With NFTs, art is no longer simply about what you look at or listen to. It is also about having access to an exclusive experience that cannot be reproduced, and forming a direct, social connection between an artist and their audience. In many ways, art has always been about connecting the creator with the consumer. NFTs simply make this connection visible.
This article originally appeared on Medium for Glorious Digital in 2021
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