‘The peak of crypto art is not far away’
NFTs, non-fungible tokens, are the internet sensation of the moment. Crypto fans and online art enthusiasts pay insane amounts for the ownership rights to purely digital gadgets. ‘An NFT is a status symbol of the virtual world.’
Become the exclusive owner of this illustration
Would you like to get an NFT yourself? We are auctioning a digital version of the illustration in this piece, a work by De Tijd graphic artist Filip Ysenbaert, in the form of a non-fungible token. Mining NFTs on a blockchain can be done through all kinds of specialized marketplaces and usually requires the installation of a crypto wallet and the payment in ether of so-called ‘gas fees’, transaction costs for the Ethereum blockchain. You can then bid on it. We have mined an NFT at the Antwerp company Arkane Network, which operates a marketplace that exceptionally requires no cryptocurrency.
At the end of January, Arno Kiss, a 30-year-old graphic designer from Antwerp, received a message via Instagram. Whether he didn’t want to sell his work as NFT on KnownOrigin, a specialized online auction platform. Kiss had mainly made a name for himself as a designer of unique music posters and also works for clients such as the video game ‘Fortnite’ or the streaming service Netflix, but the completely new idea for him to sell his work purely digitally appealed to him. He dug up an old design, took off the band name, put it online, and after half an hour the NFT was sold. Price: 4 ether – that is a crypto coin – or: just under 6,000 euros.
To be clear: the buyer did not receive a neatly framed print, but received an NFT in his virtual wallet, thus becoming the sole owner of something that only exists digitally. In recent weeks, Kiss has already sold some 50 NFTs of his designs, usually deliberately at much lower prices, ‘because it is too absurd’. Kiss describes the experience as an enormous artistic ‘liberation’ that allows him to experiment without limits because his work is appreciated purely for what it is. And yes, it does pay off. I’m not going to complain about that. ‘
The most absurd things are now being sold. Lots of ironic shit projects too that are far from art.
Anyone who reads NFT and thinks ‘WTF’: that is understandable. An NFT is a non-fungible token, a blockchain-registered certificate of ownership. Non-fungible means non-exchangeable, like a 10 euro note, for example, for any other 10 euro note. Blockchain is that decentralized, energy-guzzling network of computers on which transactions are stored forgery-proof and transparent, best known as the underlying technology behind crypto coins such as bitcoin and ether. The latter is the common currency in NFT land, running on the Ethereum blockchain.
Hard to explain
Digital files can by definition be endlessly copied and downloaded, but with an NFT, one person buys himself the right to say: this is mine. Those files can be anything: a jpeg, a gif, a meme, a tweet, an animation of a flying cat, a virtual sword from a game, a scan of a drawing of your six-year-old daughter. ‘It’s a very abstract concept,’ says Kiss, who has already acquired a collection of nearly 30 NFTs himself. ‘I also often have trouble explaining it.’
Despite its lackluster name, the phenomenon exploded from niche to mainstream last week when a buyer paid nearly $ 70 million for a Christie’s auctioned collage by American digital artist Beeple. Twitter boss Jack Dorsey auctions the very first tweet as NFT, the highest bid is $ 2.5 million. The rock band Kings Of Leon and DJ Steve Aoki launched NFTs of new music. The American basketball association NBA made $ 200,000 on an NFT from a short video of a thin LeBron James.
A real digital robbery already took place this week when tens of thousands of dollars of digital art was stolen from an NFT platform. And the inevitable Elon Musk was planning to sell a video clip about NFTs as NFT, got a $ 1 million offer, but declined because it didn’t feel quite right anyway.
The insane fad teaches once again: value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. “There is a lot of speculation and fomo,” says Yan Ketelers, marketing director of Arkane Network from Antwerp. Arkane is a specialist in blockchain technology, including NFTs for the gaming industry, which is another market of its own. ‘The most absurd things are now being sold. Lots of ironic shit projects too that are far from art. My feeling is that the hype is heading towards peak and that afterwards much less will be said about it. While NFTs create enormous added value in art, music, gaming and for collectors. The good projects will survive. ‘
Arkane recently signed up for a pretty dizzying NFT action together with American YouTube superstar Logan Paul. He sold highlights from a video in which he unpacked boxes of rare Pokémon cards, which he had previously bought for a lot of money, as separate NFTs. Yield: $ 2 million. Some time ago, Ketelers acquired one of the very first NFTs. He bought a CryptoPunk, a unique image of a pixelated head developed by the American blockchain studio Larva Labs. Only 10,000 of them exist. “In the beginning it was not easy to convince Charlotte, my wife.” But the scarcity made it a sought-after collector’s item, a bit like rare oldtimers or sneakers. The cheapest CryptoPunk today costs $ 40,000, the most expensive changed hands last week for over $ 7 million.
Who buys such a thing? Believers and collectors, for sure. With NFTs, digital creations are finally becoming marketable while still being linked to their creator. They can also receive a fixed commission for each resale, such as with a football transfer. Enthusiasts can support artists and create their own virtual collection. But NFTs are also a playground for the super rich, mostly crypto aficionados who made a fortune on bitcoin or other virtual coins and see NFTs as a way to further speculate with them. ” Such an NFT is a modern status symbol in the virtual world. ‘says Ketelers.
‘I like to invest in undervalued artists and innovative projects. This could be a bigger market than the traditional art market. Crypto art has no limits’, e-mails an anonymous crypto art collector who can be called Matrix. He limits his biographical information to “I am in Asia” and “I have been dealing with crypto coins for many years.”
His or her NFT collection on various platforms is hundreds of works in size. It’s about having. ‘The screen is the wall of the digital age. People are going to spend more time in the digital world than in the physical world. The works can be displayed anywhere in the digital world. As a collector, I don’t mind that anyone can download my collection for free. Great art should be seen by as many people as possible. But I am the only one who has the NFT. ‘
Three weeks ago Matrix paid 6 ether (about 9,000 euros) for The Last Supper, a hyper-detailed illustration full of references to consumer culture and the corona pandemic by Musketon, the alias of the Ghent graphic designer Bert Dries. The buyer promptly put the work up for sale again for a fabulous 999,999 ether (1.5 million euros). ‘I fell in love with this piece when I first saw it. I am now offering it at a really high price because I think it is worth so much. And if I can sell it, I have more money to support more artists. ‘
The NFT madness is also a crazy ride for Dries. Until a month ago, his designs appeared mainly in print or in other physical forms. “My life has changed a lot in the last three weeks,” he says on the phone. He is equally amazed by the names and the amounts that are circulating. ‘It’s absolute madness when you think about it. Take that $ 70 million for Beeple. But on the other hand, that’s a digital representation of 15 years of work. He has put together 5,000 drawings. For 15 years he has been creating something every day. Every day: you should try that. I once lasted 30 days. ‘
The hype comes at a good time. ‘For years I have invested a lot in developing my skills. And I have a very large archive. This gives me the opportunity to do something with it. But I also don’t want to put too much online. Being at home makes it treacherous to keep working too much. I’m going to take a break now. ‘