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Ben there, don that for Nov. 10, 2021

NFTs beneficial for digital artists

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Art – for millennia every single culture has emphasized channeling precious time and resources to create objects of beauty. Such objects of affection have fulfilled many distinct purposes. Art has been displayed in religious contexts and ceremonies, political and governmental contexts to signify authority and authenticity, as status symbols of immense wealth, and even an artifact of beauty in itself. Over time, new technology emerged allowing for new and exciting forms of art like photography. As we have turned the corner into the digital age, innovative artists began to discover the potential for completely virtual forms of art. 

With the frontier of art expanding to include more technically complex expressions, a new set of problems has materialized. Most digital art exists as simple image and video files like .jpgs or .mp4s. Because of the nature of digital files, the artwork can be copied and distributed in its original form a theoretically infinite number of times. Imagine snapping your fingers and creating an exact replica of a painting right down to the brush strokes! Now, in case you can create an unlimited quantity of perfect copies of a piece of art, how would you preserve any kind of value in the individual artwork? This existential question has been overshadowing the entire digital art space like a dark cloud since its inception.

Artists have explored ways to make a viable living with such artwork; however, the options were limited. Selling physical products based on digital works or building an audience for advertising purposes like YouTube were the only options available. The resulting challenges prompted numerous artists to make a conscious choice to avoid the medium entirely. But innovation was hampered within the digital art space; many possibilities were unexplored.

Enter the mighty Non-Fungible Token or “NFT” for short. An NFT works like a certificate of authenticity for an attached work of art. These exist on digital blockchains in the same way as cryptocurrencies. That is what the token part of the name is in reference to. The word fungible means that an object is interchangeable with any other of the same kind. Dollar bills are fungible because one is worth the same as another. Something that is non-fungible is unique and not interchangeable. Original paintings are unique., and therefore non-fungible. Consequently, Non-Fungible Tokens are one-of-a-kind records that cannot be duplicated or forged.

By attaching an NFT token to a work of digital art, unequivocal ownership over a digital file can be proven. Because ownership can now be proven, digital artwork can be bought and sold. This has revolutionized the world of digital art in the last couple of years. Artists can create or “mint” an NFT and lock in an artwork’s ownership. Market places have sprung up to make buying and selling digital art easy to do. Now digital artists are getting their version of galleries which have dominated the fine art world for so long.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities. Tokens can be created as complete one-offs or as a part of a series: an artist can sell one token or 20 and each person has their own ownership of the artwork. Additionally, an artist can add something called a “smart contract” which triggers an event each time the art is sold. So, an artist might add a smart contract to an NFT so each time the artwork exchanges hands, 10% of the purchase price goes to the original artist. In fine art, once an artist sells work, he/she no longer receive any financial compensation regardless of how high the sale price of the work ascends to once it leaves their hands. I believe this could have amazing implications for the financial viability of the digital art space.

Space for digital art is still quite new, and thus resembles the wild west. Over time, the full usage of this powerful tool will become more and more far-reaching. With applications in art, collectibles, and simply the ability to prove ownership over a duplicatable file, the sky is the limit in terms of its usage. Instead of paper documents that are vulnerable to forgery, imagine using NFTs to prove the ownership of physical items like land or vehicles. In effect, NFTs are fixing one of the oldest problems with digital technology. I am personally excited about the world of possibilities NFTs present for the future.

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