In March 2021, Christie’s sold Beeple’s "Everydays – The First 5000 Days" for US$69.3 million. Overnight, art NFTs became a sensation and Beeple became the third-most valuable living artist after David Hockney and Jeff Koons. In 2021, Christies auctioned over US$150 million worth of art NFTs, and the global NFT market—including art and non-art—ballooned to UD$40 billion, equivalent in value to the entire global art market.
NFTs are revolutionising how digital art is sold.
Empowered by blockchain technology, NFTs are revolutionising the ways digital assets can be transacted. A digital asset, usually in the form of a simple file, can be easily copied an infinite number of times. However, when minted on the blockchain as a non-fungible token, it becomes possible, with a very high degree of reliability, to establish uniqueness, trace provenance and current ownership, or even to capture ongoing royalties for the original artist.
Decades after digital art emerged, its access to commercial markets is today transformed by revolutionary technological advancements, namely blockchain technology. Art NFTs join a larger world of NFTs, which is comprised of anything from sports memorabilia, to all digital assets supporting tokenised ownership. The enthusiasm seen in the past months for Web 3.0 and all the emerging ecosystems related to it, likely signals just the beginning of a new revolution going far beyond the sensational sale of Beeple’s collage only a year ago.
Thanks to more ubiquitous commercialisation, we see established digital artists gain recognition, and we also witness more established and traditional artists, who, despite being used to oil and canvases, embrace digital art and all the possibilities that this medium offers. Utilising digital media, they find new avenues to express new artistic concepts. One example is the multidisciplinary artist Urs Fischer—known for his subversive collages, drawings, and large installations— who now regularly “drops” new art NFTs. We will continue to see some fascinating dialogue between fine art NFTs and crypto art NFTs.
Art NFTs will continue to open new horizons and experiences for collectors. Crypto art is adding a strong dimension of community. As the digital art world knows, BAYC (the acronym for Bored Ape Yacht Club) developed rapidly beyond mere NFT ownership: BAYC NFT owners not only control the commercial rights for their avatars, but are also given access to “The Bathroom” — a members-only graffiti board where they can express their creativity, and receive free drops only available to owners, that can be combined with their existing NFTs to create additional, unique NFTs of value. The permutations of smart contracts are virtually unlimited. Going further, following the emergence of metaverses like Decentraland or the Sandbox, we are also likely to see the commercial art world join other brands and industries in these new virtual worlds: collectors or museums will be able to open their own galleries, share, and sell their own collections of digital art.