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What are NTFs? The new way to sell art in the 21st century

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Will galleries and artists now sell their artwork digitally, Sculptures and paintings to be bought with Bitcoins and Cryptocurrencies? A piece of art that does not exist in the physical world was sold at a Christie's auction for US$69 million: the buyer will not receive a sculpture, or a painting, or even a print. He will receive a digital token known as NFT through a platform known as Nifty Gateway. This seems to be the new trend in the art world that has been growing steadily in recent years.

This new certification system has attracted the attention of the media by registering astronomical figures with the sale of the first pieces, such as the screenshot of the first tweet by Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, for more than two million dollars or the piece by the artist Beeple for more than 69 million dollars. The sky-high prices have led many to talk of a bubble and speculative fashion. As is often the case in any new field, it will pass and the NFT will allow digital artists to make a living from their work, just like traditional artists.

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What prevents an artist from selling their work with tokens? Nothing. And this is one of the reasons why NFT could be a gateway for artists and also, for all kinds of art lovers. Any content creator (really any person) can register their creation on the blockchain and get their NFT. There are platforms that, in exchange for a commission, even perform the registration process.

NFTs have given a lot to talk about. Both, because of the exorbitant prices that have been paid for some of them and for the way in which they can transform digital art. As with physical works, the buyer acquires the piece but not its rights, which remain the property of the signer. In contrast, unlike traditional art sales, and thanks to NFT's smart contract, the artist receives royalties for his or her work. The NFT offers economic possibilities to those who choose digital tools for their pieces.

But what is this new technology everyone is talking about, is it just a passing fad or the imminent art revolution? Below, we'll tell you more about NTF technology and the Nifty Gateway platform.

What is it?

NFT stands for a non-fungible token, an indestructible unit of value that cannot be divided and generate the same value. Such a unit of value is created by an organization to govern its business model and give more power to its users to interact with its products while facilitating the circulation and sharing of earnings between all its shareholders. NFTs are an "inimitable" asset in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other type of property but has no tangible form in itself. An NFT is highly secure and cannot be duplicated, which is why it is possible to know which the original copy of any product is.

NFT certificates are created based on Ethereum, a blockchain, and traded through a cryptocurrency called Ether. Since then, platforms for buying and selling NFT files such as Nifty Gateway and Opensea have been filled with artists selling their 3D models, illustrations, animations, paintings, and even renders that digitize real objects. A brief tour of their marketplace allows you to see the latest works sold, with prices ranging from $850 to 9,000 dollars and the number of copy files -certified- that have been made of each one, which is close to 2,000 for the most -popular-, although less -exclusive- and therefore, less valuable.

Translated to the art world, this represents a certificate that guarantees authorship, unique ownership and creates an intelligent contract that offers different advantages for the artist and the buyer. This opens a new way to combat obstacles with copyright and ownership, the authenticity of works and their authors, transparency, and provenance. Each artwork would be associated with a unique token that exists only on blockchains. This new market is based on what is known as "digital scarcity". This means that collectors can buy, sell and exchange digital services/products as if they were physical services/products. The system works because both cryptocurrencies and works traded with NFT exist in limited quantities.

The NFT growth cannot be explained without blockchain, the technology upon which cryptocurrencies are now based and which brings the assurance and traceability that a piece is unique. But neither can it be understood without the same ingredient that has made that throughout history humanity has given value to gold, collector's stamps, or stickers: the social agreement that this is a work, a good or an object- that does not need to be tangible- that has a certain value. In short, we are talking here, and it should be emphasized, of collector's items. And the disruptive aspect is that they are now digital archives.

How it works

With NFTs, art can be tokenized to create a digital certificate of ownership that can be bought and sold and cannot be counterfeited. The buyer of NFTs holds a token that proves he is the owner of the "original" artwork. NFTs can additionally include smart contracts that could present the artist with, for example, a share of a later sale of the token. The same works are through a blockchain system, whereby the file -ownership- is certified to be -original-, including all its rights. This is achieved with a unique string of characters created with numbers, letters, and signs, which give a specific validity to the file.

In simplified technical terms, according to the Binance Academy, Blockchain technology is a special type of database made up of fragments of information that are added to a chain but cannot be deleted or changed. Each block retains a pointer to the previous block and usually contains a combination of transaction information, timestamps, and other data to confirm its validity. Because they are linked, entries cannot be edited, deleted, or changed in any way, as this would invalidate all subsequent blocks.

In this way, whether it is a work by a recognized or emerging artist, in whatever format, collectors are assured that the piece they are acquiring is unique or part of a limited and numbered edition. The concept of unique or limited characterizes the art market, a field where, however, contemporary artists whose supports and tools of creation are digital have not been able to enter with force.

Digital art is not presented on a canvas or in a sculptural piece that you take home with a certificate of authenticity. It is an archive and, although certification systems existed, none had been consolidated. When Christie's opted for the NFT, recognition was given to this protocol that guarantees the ownership of the piece, its traceability, and its definition as a unique work or part of a limited series.

But the NFT can represent both a digital and a physical object. It could be a house, a song, a sculpture, etc. One could take a picture of the work or get a copy but just one original piece will exist.

Artists and artwork prices

Beeple: Artist Mike Winkelmann, was the most successful forerunner in selling digital art files in NFT format. On February 21, 2021, he sold his work 'Everydays: The First 5000 Days' for US $69 million, a collage composed of digital images taken in the day-to-day life of the creator. It thus became the third most expensive artwork created by a living artist.

Sarah Zucker: Based in Los Angeles, this artist is well known for her VHS Video Art and for being the first to display .gif images as artwork at the Brooklyn Museum. Zucker has been tokenizing her work as unique, limited editions, on the Ethereum blockchain, since April 2019. Her works exist only in the form of NFTs that can be stored in a digital wallet like cryptocurrencies. Zucker is also a collector, curator, and consultant of digital artworks. Her work can be found on SuperRare, Foundation, KnownOrigin, NiftyGateway, and Rarible, and values start at US $100.

Robbie Barrat: The American AI artist and graphic designer has specialized in works showing the use of neural networks in driverless cars. Her works can be found on the SuperRare platform for less than US $6,000.

Bryson DeChambeau: The artist has turned to the Opensea marketplace to post his creations, one of many platforms that have grown in the heat of this new craze for unique digital art. On them, you can find all kinds of creations from one euro cent. Something like an eBay or an AliExpress of digital art where you can buy collectibles.

Andres Reisinger: The award-winning director of Reisinger Studio and 3D interior designer holds a few of his collections in marketplaces like and NiftyGateway and SuperRare, where he sells digital art and associates its corresponding NFTs. The artist sells his furniture together with NFTs. With them, a buyer can create a digital gallery and place his furniture inside and could also sell it for profit. But additionally, the artist opens the door to ship the physical furniture. In this matter, the NFT is a digital endorsement in addition to just owning the furniture. The buyer also acquires the rights to create a gallery with the furniture or resell the design for others to make.

The artist was able to sell furniture for US $450,000.

Why it’s so trendy?

- With NFTs, a tool has been created to support artistic work. What used to be one-off agreements or commissions are now linked with an NFT to incorporate additional recognition. In the future, any professional illustration or design commission should include the NFT.

- It will allow digital artists to make a living from their work without intermediaries between buyers.

- It is a tool based on trust with the seller and the original artist. This relationship is a limit to its value and may collapse in case the artist is not who he claims to be or decides to manage his work in a way not expected.

- It responds to a real need for many contemporary creators.

- It will democratize investment in art and reduce the counterfeiting of artistic works, helping to provide a fairer return to creators.

-It will reduce art forgery with traceability and provenance verification.

NFTs are changing the ways in which art is capitalized on, being the first digital system that has the ability to grant a kind of certificate of authenticity to the files that are sold thanks to it. While in traditional art the center is on the piece or the artwork itself, simultaneously with its corresponding certificate, in digital art all eyes have moved towards the artist's own certification. The NFT goes beyond its technical particularities, in the end, it is an asset entirely based on trust with the seller.

And this can have its respective problems, from the seller not really being the artist or someone authorized by the artist, or the artist selling us an NFT as something unique but later selling NFTs of the same work to other people without our permission.

In just a few months, NFTs have entered the world of collecting and digital art to such a degree that several of these artists no longer consider their work without them. Will it blur the role of gallerists and intermediaries? We will not know this for the moment, but they are already beginning to wreak havoc in marketing, and artists see the NFTs as a gateway to success. This is how the appearance of NFTs has influenced them, what benefits they perceive and how they guarantee that this technology is here to stay.

Check out Gary Vee's latest video on NTFs

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Note: Prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of the published post.

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