Ever since Christie’s sold digital artist Beeple’s non fungible token (NFT) for a whopping $69 million in March of this year, the art world has gone crypto crazy. But if you’re new to the space you might have wondered exactly what an NFT is.
So, what is it?
Here’s our best shot at explaining it to the non-crypto-natives: a NFT is a unique, unchangeable, digital work stored on the blockchain (like a digital ledger that stores data). While NFTs can be anything digital, such as drawings, music, animations, or even a tweet, much of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art.
What’s the difference between regular digital art and NFTs?
Well not much – but also quite a lot. NFTs are still considered digital art in terms of their medium, but the big difference is that, because NFTs are minted on the blockchain, they give buyers a creation that can’t be copied (at least not without a major infringement of copyright laws). NFTs are easily authenticated, making proof of ownership and provenance much more reliable. You might ask, why buy an NFT when I can just rip an image or video of an artist’s work off Google? To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a poster of the Mona Lisa, or even take a snap of it with their iPhone, but only one person (or museum) can own the original.
Why should we care?
What’s truly exciting about this space is the democratisation of the art world. The resale market for NFTs is major. Artists can collect profits in perpetuity when their work is sold on – something that hasn’t always been guaranteed with physical artworks. For this reason and many others, artists and brands are jumping on the NFT bandwagon with unprecedented fervour.
How do I find the good stuff?
But here’s the rub: while NFT platforms and marketplaces are popping up like Murakami mushrooms, many of them are poorly curated and don’t provide artists or consumers with the creative or business strategy required to manoeuvre successfully in the space. This is a brave new world after all, and many of us (creators and consumers alike) need help navigating it.
New NFT creative agency and platform Culture Vault has been created to help artists and cultural brands navigate crypto technology, which can be confusing to even the most tech-savvy. Launching early December, it’ll help interesting and innovative artists and brands create, mint, market and sell NFTs on the blockchain. If you’re on the consumer end, it’ll be a top spot to go thanks to a highly curated selection of artists and works. Buyers will be able to browse its site and purchase digital assets with credit card or cryptocurrency.
Our cultural programming platform and creative agency, Arts-Matter, will lead the platform’s curation. We’ll be curating music, fine art, fashion, video, dance, media and more to ensure an exciting and unique collection of NFTs. Arts-Matter has solid relationships in the arts and cultural space, having programmed events with everyone from Ben Quilty to Genesis Owusu, Tony Albert, Louise Olsen, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Angela Tiatia, Rafael Bonachela, Blak Douglas, Joshua Yeldham, Ngaiire, L-Fresh the Lion and more. It’ll be this calibre of artist that ends up on Culture Vault’s platform.
While we patiently wait for Culture Vault’s premium NFTs to drop in December, here are 10 of the most exciting digital assets – created by luxury fashion houses, tech platforms and “creative technologists” – to buy and browse.
Originally free for anybody with an Ethereum (a type of blockchain) wallet, Cryptopunks’ 10,000 unique collectible characters, generated by a computer code, were quickly snapped up. Although they look like lo-fi pixelated cartoons, in the crypto world the “punks” are a social signifier of early investment into NFTs, as well as personal style and wealth. In May, a bundle of nine Cryptopunks sold for just under US$17 million in an auction run by Christie’s. They were created by American “creative technologists” Larva Labs.
Bored Ape Yacht Club
Bored Ape Yacht Club is an NFT avatar project built on Ethereum. Only 10,000 Bored Apes exist, and they sold out within 24 hours after launch, making them scarce. Besides being rare and cool-looking, each Bored Ape NFT token doubles as membership to an exclusive online hangout, described as a swamp club for apes. Bored Ape Yacht Club’s first batch of NFTs sold for more than US$2 million. Resales of the avatars have totalled almost US$100 million, with the cheapest apes nowadays going for around $14,000.
World of Women
World of Women is a rare collection of women avatars living on the Ethereum blockchain. It’s the first NFT project with a vision to empower women and amplify diversity in the NFT space. The digital avatars have a randomised combination of character traits, equalling a universe of 10,000 unique women avatars. Certain traits grant access to exclusive clubs, including a royalties club that splits 50 per cent of secondary sales between members.
Art Blocks Curated
Art Blocks is a first-of-its-kind platform where art is created with a generative script – you pick a style of work that you like, pay for it, and your transaction digitally creates a unique character string and generates your art piece. There are three types of project on the platform: Curated (works vetted by a curation board); Playground (for more experimental projects); and Factory (a home for artists who just want to get their work out there).
A digital horseracing game, Zed Run users acquire NFT horses via limited-edition drops or from existing owners. You can name your horse, but the rest – including its colour and personality on the track – is left up to algorithms that establish bloodlines and your horse’s ancestor. It’s a bit like the ’90s Tamagotchi fad: owners need to care for their creatures and can run them in peer-to-peer races.
Tom Sachs: Rocket Factory describes itself as “a trans-dimensional manufacturing plant, using NFTs to build new NFTs”. Each rocket NFT is composed of three separate NFTs: a nose cone, a body, and a tail. Combined, they form either a “perfect rocket” (three pieces with matching branding) or a “frankenrocket” (three unmatching pieces). Unusually, this is an NFT that can enter the physical world: once all three parts are put together, you have the option to “launch” your rocket. If you do so, a physical rocket to match your completed NFT is assembled then launched. Once it returns to Earth (and if it can be recovered) it’ll be sent to you in a display box. Your NFT will also be embedded with metadata from that physical launch, as well as a video of its launch.
The Currency, the first NFT collection by legendary British artist Damien Hirst, attempts to reimagine the way NFTs are used. The Currency is a collection of 10,000 NFTs which correspond to 10,000 physical artworks stored in a secure vault. Successful applicants will all initially receive NFTs. Buyers have to decide between the NFT or the physical artwork. When you make your choice, the work you didn’t pick will get burned.
Flight Facilities x Babekuhl
Collaborating with design studio Babekuhl, Aussie dance-music favourites Flight Facilities gave away a series of limited-edition NFTs across three different time zones – Sydney, London and LA – to celebrate their Never Forever mixtape. The mixtape contained five years of unreleased music and accompanying visuals. The mixtape was live-streamed to the public, then removed from the internet, with only the NFT memories remaining.
The “front page of the internet” has also joined in the NFT mania with its Cryptosnoos series – a collection of NFTs featuring Reddit’s alien mascot Snoo placed in different moments and movements in art history. The avatars can be used as the buyers’ Reddit profile picture for ultimate and enduring Reddit clout.
Luxury brand Burberry has launched NFTs for the game world. It’s partnered with game-technology studio Mythical Games to launch the NFTs – known as The B Series – within the studio’s flagship game, Blankos Block Party. It’s a multiplayer game featuring digital toys known as Blankos that live on a blockchain. As part of the collection, Burberry will launch branded in-game NFT accessories, including a jetpack, armbands and pool shoes, which players can apply to any Blanko they own. Also look out for Louis Vuitton’s in-game NFTs celebrating the brand’s 200th birthday.