Is the new digital art sales boom a real opportunity or a trap?


NFTs have become a staple topic for anyone making a living as a creative person online, prompting an understanding of a concept deeply mired in cryptocurrency and blockchain tech jargon. Some promise that NFTs are part of a digital revolution that will democratize fame and give creators control over their destiny. Others highlight the environmental impact of crypto and worry about unrealistic expectations set by, for example, news from this digital artist Beeple had sold a JPG of his collected works for $ 69 million in a Christie’s auction.

Just as the trend stirs the game on what is considered “precious” digital art, it also recreates some of the same issues that have plagued artists for ages: confusing hype, whims of wealthy collectors, and theft. Digital artists are already fighting crooks who steal artwork and sell it as merchandise in user-generated t-shirt shops, for example. NFTs are now just another thing artists need to check out.

Newcomers must unravel practical, logistical and ethical puzzles if they are to enter the fray before the current wave of interest passes. And as some artists turn their digital creations into profitable offerings for a new audience of friendly and enthusiastic buyers, a question lingers in the background: is the NFT craze benefiting digital artists or artists contributing- do they make the rich holders of cryptocurrency even richer?

“This feeling … is incredible”

Ellie Pritts, a Los Angeles-based photographer and host, discovered NFT after speaking to Foundation, an invitation-only NFT marketplace, several months ago. Another artist recruited her for the site’s digital printing business, but then spoke to Kayvon Tehranian, the founder of Foundation, who mentioned his NFT sales.

“I was like, I don’t understand that. But it sounds really interesting, ”she says. “And there wasn’t a lot of information about it, but I was intrigued. This is actually the person who taught me about it.

Non-fungible tokens are unique pieces of data that are part of a blockchain, bought and sold with the currency supported by the blockchain. The ones you hear about are pretty much all supported by Ethereum.

If you haven’t heard of Ethereum, you’ve probably heard of Bitcoin. Same idea; different blockchain. And while Bitcoin is mostly about exchanging money, Ethereum is better at exchanging assets. Any blockchain can in theory support NFTs, but this one was designed for them. NFTs are sold in one of several online marketplaces, where users can “make” or create one for anything digital.

An NFT does not mean that you own the artwork itself. Instead, you’re essentially buying metadata that gives you bragging rights or, more often, the ability to sell that NFT later for even more money.

“The people who bought my pieces were doing a lot of research. They decided to invest in me because they looked at me and thought I was promising.

It’s a lot to take in and it seems a little strange. Pritts was skeptical until she struck and sold her first NFT in February. It was a short video that she had made for herself, without expecting to be paid: it sold for around a thousand dollars. Animation is time consuming and expensive to create, and has always been a hard sell for a fair price online. Maybe the NFTs would let her do that, she thought. But above all, selling was good. “This feeling that something that I created just because I like it has value is amazing,” she says. “The people who bought my pieces were doing a lot of research. They weren’t people I knew. They decided to invest in me because they looked at me and thought I was promising.

Tiffany Zhong, founder of Islands, a creative platform that focuses on revenue streams, says buyers don’t necessarily endorse artists as “money-making.” Instead, she thinks NFTs could become a different way for creators to build a fan base. Buying an artist’s work early comes with a sense of belonging, like seeing a now famous band at their very first concert. “If you’re one of the early supporters of a creator,” she says, “you bet on them.”

Pritts now feels like part of a community: She’s working on half a dozen collaborations with other artists who also make NFTs, people she would never have met before jumping a month ago. . And, she says, she doubled her monthly income – in theory. The money is all in Ether rather than dollars, and she hasn’t cashed it yet.

“You have to put the basics in it”

One of the difficult aspects of understanding NFT is the jargon barrier; all the terms that explain how it works are only really familiar to people who already have crypto. As a result, much of the information about NFTs comes from its greatest evangelists: the markets that sell them, the people who invest in them, and the artists who create them. For everyone, it’s a bamboo.

Amid the sudden surge of interest in this new avenue for their work, however, many artists have become guides for others.

Pinguino Kolb, a longtime cryptocurrency artist and advocate, has been inundated with questions from other artists about NFTs over the past month. “I get a lot of questions about why people are excited. It even comes from some of my programmer friends who know the crypto space, ”she says. “They don’t understand why people buy it.”

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