What are NFTs and do they have scope to replace physical art?

NFT / Art
By Nivedita Bosman

What is art? How do we value it? Is NFTs art? Are NFTs the mark of a new period of art, or simply a new medium? These are the key thoughts that occupy the mind of anyone entering the NFT space.

What is Art?

Art is a way that we communicate our experiences, from our emotions to visualising our mindscape. How we value art has always been subjective to how our community values our work. During Van Goghs lifetime, he sold 2 paintings and a few drawings, and after he died his work started selling for millions. NFTs are art if we say they are, and they have as much value as we give them. If NFTs continue to pave the way for new artists to enter the industry and lower the barriers to entry then this may just be a completely new era of art. A moment in history when anyone with access to a laptop can be a high earning, well-recognised artist. We are going to look through how NFTs fit into the art world, and how it’s shaping the future of art.

NFTs in history

One could argue that NFTs are creating the same kind of outrage in the art community as any legendary art form has. Jackson Pollock, Full Fathom, 1947. By all definitions of the word, a mess. What made it special? Was it Pollock’s unique style, or the lack of a subject? Was it the perceived disrespect, the blatant disregard for the art community with this nonchalant snub?

Full Fathom, 1947 (1)

Each new “hype” in the art world has caused outrage, every time the point of focus in the art world shifts, the natural response is overwhelmingly negative, and understandably so. It threatens the world each time we dare to innovate, to move a step ahead. Look at the great provocateurs: Jackson Pollock, Judy Chicago, Picasso, and Andy Warhol. The key ingredient tying them together is their use of controversy with new forms in art. Each time that an artist uses a new controversial medium or subject in their art, the world doesn’t start shouting pessimistic remarks over the art itself, but because of what it signifies for the art world. 

Higher accessibility = lower barriers of entry

NFTs are controversial because they threaten the realm of physical art. This is beyond an artist signing a urinal, NFTs shift the dimension of art into a new space, the metaverse, the digital space. Removing the need for physical art supplies means more people have accessibility to this new art form. Kids are creating NFTs that are selling for millions. Take a look at Nyla Hayes, a 13-year-old inspired by revolutionary women and brontosaurus dinosaurs.

Frida Kahlo by Nyla Hayes (red border, custom background) Image via Times (2)

Frida Kahlo by Nyla Hayes sold for $4,922.22 and she has earned roughly $7 million from her entire NFT collection of lock necked female figures (citation). 

Hayes isn’t alone, there are a number of other budding child artists that are using the NFT space to showcase their art. Justin Bodnar and Carlo Gomez are names to watch as this space develops.

How are NFTs changing art?

NFTs are changing our perception of art. When you look at what NFT stands for, a nonfungible token, you realise that an NFT  is something that is uniquely valued. Who determines this value? You do. Each time a user purchases an NFT, they are the ones determining its value. There is no NFT board painstakingly evaluating each NFT that enters the market. Just consumers decide how much a piece of art is worth to them. In the same way that the value of cryptocurrency is determined by the community, NFTs are determined by who is willing to pay a certain amount for an artwork.

What do NFTs mean for the physical art space?

There are a few major concerns that NFTs bring to art enthusiasts and experts:

Are NFTs going to reduce the value of physical art? 

Probably not, NFTs are a new medium of expressing oneself. It’s like a new paint launching in the market, only the artwork you make with that paint has unrestricted access to a large Art gallery where an independent artist can auction their work to the highest bidder. OpenSea and Rarible are examples of these types of virtual galleries. They are virtual NFT marketplaces that make it that much easier for any artist to present their work to a massive audience.