This week on ArtEvolve we were joined by James Quirk, Lead Marketing Manager at shipping and logistics provider Queen’s; Rob Eastham, CEO of Dubbl, specialists in digitization and NFT creation; Jon Sharples, an art and intellectual property lawyer with Canvas Art Law; and Ralph Lopes, Head of Crypto at Verse, who exhibit artworks secured on the blockchain. We discussed NFTs and the very real impacts they have on all corners of the art world.
What is an NFT?
NFTS, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that have verifiable ownership and are stored on the blockchain. When many people think about NFTs, they think about digital artworks such as Beeple’s Everydays – The First 5000 Days, which sold for a whopping $69million in March 2021, but NFTs can be more than just image files. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as a $2.9million NFT, the New York Times minted an NFT in the form of a newspaper article, and the YouTube video Charlie Bit Me fetched $761,000 in NFT format.
How is the emergence of NFTs impacting art organizations?
It’s still early days for the art world and NFTs, but NFTs’ disruptive nature has already raised questions around how art is bought and sold, who has access to art, and who creates art. A new art market has opened up with all kinds of predictions being made about whether this will be the future of collecting or even be seen as a valid art form by traditional institutions.
There is an opportunity to bridge the gap between digital artworks and the real world, as Rob from Dubbl explained. Their 3D scanning technology transforms real-world objects into high quality digital formats that could be used for a number of applications, such as virtually placing artworks in the homes of collectors, VR exhibitions, or virtual studios and OVRs. The goal is to create immersive experiences that feel as close to the real world as possible. Not every digital artwork will be an NFT, but Rob predicts we’ll see more high-quality digital artworks in the future, with a transition from screen-based tech into more immersive experiences.
What does the future look like?
Though NFTs have undoubtedly been disruptive to the art world, James at Queen’s emphasized the importance having an open mind. How can traditional art organizations work towards co-existing with NFTs rather than feeling threatened by them?
For shippers and logistics companies, this could mean assisting with the 3D scanning process when digital copies of physical artworks are created. The expertise of real-life experts and professionals will still be needed to ensure objects are handled, scanned, and transported correctly.
There are also opportunities around the use of blockchain as a tool to help with the traceability and the movement of artworks, improve transparency, and boost collaboration between art world players. (Take a look at our AIS webinar to find out more about the work they’re doing in this field).
Museums also look set to increasingly use NFTs as a means of new revenue, whether that be by minting digital replicas of famous works – like the Uffizi did with Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo – or creating merchandise and other digital assets.
Jon from Canvas Art Law noted that NFTs are increasingly becoming part of the legal landscape too, with over half of his work having some connection to NFTs or blockchain.
Are NFTs sustainable?
A big concern about NFTs is sustainability. Blockchain technology uses a lot of energy, mostly from electricity, which generates greenhouse gas emissions and has a big carbon footprint. A single Bitcoin transaction, for example, could power a US household for 62.5 days, a single Ethereum transaction could power it for 6 days. While inroads are being made to make NFTs more sustainable, art organizations must consider the balance they wish to strike between innovation and sustainability.
Thank you to our guests – James Quirk of Queen’s, Rob Eastham of Dubbl, Jon Sharples of Canvas Art Law, and Ralph Lopes of Verse – for joining us and shining a light on how organizations are responding to NFTs so far.