Home Magazine The Big Controversy in the Art Market: NFT Art

NFTs are evolving - controversial yet empowering. It is essential to understand NFTs to look at each side of the debate. What are NFTs? How do NFTs work? What do they mean for artists and the Art Market?

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Since Beeple’s record sale at Christie’s barely two months ago (read more here New frontiers in the art market: Christie's and crypto art), the Art Market has been shaken by the new NFTs in a time when more than ever before our lives are dominated by the digital. This controversial event has created a huge divide.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible-Tokens. They are digital artworks, traded mainly by artists or creators on a specific platform. The artworks are tokenised. They can be traded in exchange for crypto currencies online.

Through these platforms, artists sell their digital artworks in jpeg, gif, video or other formats, paying a ‘gas fee’ to cover the cost of keeping the artwork on the platform, converting it into a NFT. The works are then all stored in the Blockchain, a central ‘database’ for digital record-keeping. 


Beeple, Tom Hanks beating Coronavirus, 2021, Courtesy of bbc.com ©Christie’s images LTD / Beeple.


By buying a NFT, collectors get access to the artist’s file. They enter in possession of the original format in the best possible resolution - in all its incorporeal nature. Interestingly, even though inconsistent, these digital pieces come with a very detailed trace of provenance – gold for any collector or gallery!

Digital Art has been evolving since the 70s, but with NFTs digital artists can finally have their own space. In fact, until very recently there was hardly any room at all for the digital in galleries and auction houses. What more, artists can earn on the resales of their works – unthinkable in rest of the Art Market.


Eve Sussman, 89 seconds atomized, 2018, Courtesy of Forbes.com ©Snark.Art


NFT platforms are very democratic and empowering (although they are becoming increasingly selective). A great deal of people can create NFTs and, given that great part of our lives plays out through digital technologies, it is only a natural evolution for creatives to integrate the digital in their works.  

The possibilities of this type of artwork are practically limitless. But with all the strength of NFTs, come some very strong down sides.

The ‘junky side’ might be the first noticeable negative aspect of this new artform. Many NFTs seem appear more like advertisements or games. Even celebrities making pieces and selling them online. This is partly the culture they represent, but a lot of works have very little depth.

Among a lot of rubbish, there are very interesting artists who have surfed the wave that solves the issues of greatly uncollectable artworks. We might just have to wait and see how this art form develops. These platforms could help revolutionary emerging artists jumpstart their career. 


Osinachi, Elephant in the Room, n.d., Courtesy of the artists ©2021 Osinachi.


As we know them today, these artworks are having a strong effect on the environment. Austrian architect and designer Chris Precht even decided not to sell his works because of the environmental impact this would have. For this one drop he calculated that he would be using the amount of electricity he would consumes in two decades. This is simply insane.

In fact, after the initial explosion which followed Beeple’s record, some platforms have cancelled the sales. Artists have withdrawn their works or searched for alternative systems. In fact, more sustainable platforms are slowly emerging. 

Whether standing with or against, we cannot deny the revolutionary effect NFTs are already having on the Art Market. Galleries all-round the world are hosting dedicated exhibitions and trying to attract NFT artists. Auctions are being organised solely for NFTs. And museums and other institutions will most definitely follow. 


Matt Hall and John Watkinson, CryptoPunks, 2017, Courtesy of Justincone.com.


Although many believe we will see the end of NFTs very soon, when talking about Art we must remember art forms are all unique and come with different pros and cons. NFTs appear to be a ‘fast fashion’, but they can give way to a system which can be environmentally sustainable and viable in the long term. NFTs are evolving and who knows where this will take us.

These new artworks are not physical, and NFTs will never replace a material artwork. But this doesn’t mean we should denigrate the artists who were ready for this.

As American art dealer, artist, curator and critic Kenny Schachter correctly said, “This is a licence for people not to steal, but to create” (School of Visual Arts, 1 April 2021).


Shreenshot of Remoteness, 29 March 2021, by Chris Precht, Courtesy of Dezeen. ©Precht


Shreenshot of In Doge We Trust, 15 March 2021, byYoung & Sick, Courtesy of Niftygateway.com ©2021, Young & Sick.


Cover image: Matt Hall and John Watkinson, CryptoPunks, 2017, Courtesy of Justincone.com.

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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