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NFTs as Collectibles

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

“Everydays: The First 5000 Days” is a JPG file by the artist Beeple, who has been posting images every day since 2007. (Christie’s Images Limited 2020)

The last time the art world saw a huge shift in the genres of art produced by painters and sculptures was when abstract expressionism captured the hearts and minds of the international community of artists and writers in the 18th and 19th centuries. In art: the form of abstract expression took the international art world by surprise between the mid-1940s onwards, the impetus being a movement by American artists to be recognized worldwide at par with their European counterparts.

Leo Tolstoy was one of the founding pioneers, of this movement. His theory of expressionism was developed to create a form of expression that would "elicit and provoke an emotion" a connection between the creator and the viewer. In the past few months...CryptoArt is the new type of art that has broken all barriers that to date had been held by traditional mediums of paintings, sculptures, and most recent art installations. Taking its place and shape beside traditional canvases and sculptures through computer technology.

What is Crypto Art?

There is no true definition of what constitutes a work of crypto art while there is agreement on crypto-themed artworks which include subject matters of culture, politics, economics or philosophy. It is a way of imagery depicted through digital mediums. NFT- a non-fungible token- another word something of a digital collectable- comes under the sub-heading of crypto art and-has arrived. Last week famous auction house Christie's auctioned "Everydays: The First 5000 Days" by artist Mike Winkelmann, a 39-year-old graphic designer from Charleston, S.C., who is known for creating concert visuals for pop stars like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, who uses the name "Beeple" for an astronomical 69.3 million US dollars. It is known to have been purchased by a Singapore-based Indian Cryptocurrency investor ‘Metakovan’. Although Metakova is a pseudonym of the investor, which means King of Meta in the Tamil language, no one really knows the true identity of the bidder. “It will one day be worth $1 billion,” Metakovan said in a statement.

Mike Winklemann, better known as “Beeple”

This set a precedent in the art community as the digital art market now has registered the selling price of the traditional works of masters done on traditional canvas for the first time creating legitimacy to digital artworks and displaying a huge shift in the world of art. Unlike traditional art "Everyday" does not come with anything physical or tangible in form. There is no box or plaque.

When Christie’s announced the sale last month, it made waves when it revealed that it would accept cryptocurrency as payment. The caveat was that the buyer’s premium had to be in a traditional currency. But as the days went on and people continued to push the price even higher, that policy changed.

The surprising fact that there were thousands of buyers willing to bid on this piece of work speaks volumes in that "acceptance" and "legitimacy" of digital art has come full circle and is willingly purchased in the mainstream market by art lovers and serious art collectors for the first time in history.

The chronological evolution of crypto art is as precarious- one might think- as its art. Starting with the bitcoin revolution and the validation of the bitcoin as a cyber currency. A new way for buyers and sellers to cut a deal and make a sale.

This begs the question: why would someone spend millions of dollars to buy crypto-art which is in essence a link to a JPEG file? Many respected artists of the social media community like Mario Klingemann and Jason Bailey advocated for this art. Ownership of crypto art has no actual rights other than being able to obtain ownership. You don't own the copyright and you don't get a print. "This database is decentralized using blockchain so that no single individual or company controls the database. As long as the specific blockchain survives in the world, anyone can read or access it, and no one can change it."

So why buy this art? Like traditional art, some people buy art to display in their homes while others buy art to put in public places to reach more people. Crypto art falls in the second category. The artwork is the hub of conversation and representation of communities, culture and individuals. Art can be a form of protest. Art can be something to be admired or serve as an inspiration to many. Art can freeze a time in the history of mankind in one image and is immortalized in museums and art galleries universally.

Thus, the sale of the crypto artwork by Christie’s for a huge sum of money should come as a surprise.

In a time where photo albums are a remnant of the past and taking photos with film and a camera not heard of then, why should art also not take its place on the digital stage? In owning the URL to the artwork you have the ownership of the URL and you are exhibiting the crypto artwork on a platform that can be accessed by millions of people from various backgrounds. You are giving art the availability to be viewed by people who might otherwise not visit or may not be able to afford to visit a museum. Nonetheless, the original “one-of-a-kind” file is solely owned by the individual owner. This is a way of “tokenizing” artworks and creating a “digital- certificate” of authentication. Forgery and fraud are next to impossible due to the data being present in thousands of computers around the world.

The downside to this may be the trivialization of art as it becomes readily available. People may veer away from investing in traditional art due to the logistics and cost of care, maintenance and security.

In summary...

In summary when there are millions of dollars involved in people buying Picasso or Matisses or Rothkos then it should not come as a surprise that people would want to invest in crypto art because the platform for exhibiting the art would be the same you are buying something that has an astounding value outside its life and originality format... whether this is a fad or will be the new normal in the art world time will tell.

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