Approaching the final quarter of this year, innovation in the art world is creating waves and now African digital artists are making headway in the revolutionary age of crypto art. Nigerian digital artist Osinachi NFT crypto series “Different Shades of Water” is on auction at the British auction house, “Christie’s” in London as of yesterday. Thus becoming the first African artist to sell an NFT piece through the prestigious auction house.
Not being much of an art connoisseur, if anything I’ve never been able to understand the value in art. I wouldn’t know the value of a Picasso even if it punched me in the f***. Nonetheless, despite how niche the crypto art market is, the bubble it’s creating is something that can be the start of something revolutionary.
The Non-Fungible Token (or NFT) is not new at all but what is new is how art can now be digitally created, certified and sold remotely in a decentralized manner. What created the hype in the mainstream for digital or crypto art is how digital artist Mike Winkelmann (A.K.A Beeple) sold his digital work “Everydays- The First 5000 Days” for U$69m (N$1.035bn) ! This is not a Picasso painting that you can put in your house and you know it’s real; this is a JPEG image anyone can download. Or a tweet by Jack Dorsey that sold for over U$2.9m (N$43.7m). What’s driving the hype even further is the speculation prices for these digital artworks will rise even higher than what was deemed ridiculous.
It’s turning into a gold rush everyone is invited to, from digital artists to any mammal with a pulse that can use Photoshop, the overinflated crypto art bubble is so intriguing everyone wants to know why it’s becoming such a big deal. Like why pay for something that you can use for free?
A Non-Fungible token-breaking down what this means.
Fungibility refers to the ability to exchange or substitute an asset of the same type that will hold the same value because they are identical. Examples are money, gold, common shares. If I loan you N$200 as single note and you repay the amount in four N$50 notes, it’s exchangeable. Even though the bank notes are different, they hold the same total value, its fungible.
A token refers to a digital certificate (that proves ownership and originality of said asset) stored on a secure distributed database called a blockchain. “Essentially a blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. These transactions are recorded on a list for all consumers on a blockchain to see. These records are called blocks and they are ‘chained’ together to create a long list. Each record needs to be verified by multiple computers so one system cannot invalidate the chain.
If you’re still reading this I tip my hat to you, a token of my appreciation :) The only thing that’s really important to know about a blockchain in relation to NFT’s is that the token helps to certify the authenticity of said digital artwork, thus creating value for the owner. This is because there can only be one image with a token that proves this image of a flying tiger with a Mohawk is an original for example. Even though a JPEG image can be copied and pasted, shared on social media infinitely, what truly creates value for the image is the token because it is rare, it cannot be replicated (thanks to a blockchain), thus creating its own demand.
As a disclaimer, there is a catch. Creating digital art is not cheap, from buying tokens and gas fees. Not to mention there’s no guarantee your art will be purchased etc. so only being established artists can afford such risks.
In summary, NFTs have definitely benefited the art industry. Selling art can be one of the hardest things to do. Now being able to sell their digital artwork directly is revamping the art industry. Whether crypto art is just a trend that will fade when the bubble bursts or the next big thing in innovation, it certainly has the potential to achieve something great.