NFT/TEA LEAVES: The New Art Of Monetizing Art
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, use blockchain technology to help artists and musicians sell their digital works online, allowing them to monetize their art in ways that were previously unthinkable. Guest contributor Albert Johnson, the creator of vyle, a multimedia music/art project, gives us the lowdown on NFTs and why they are an important innovation that is revolutionizing the lives and livelihoods of artists and collectors alike.
“In the future, everyone’s NFT will be famous for at least 15 minutes.” -- vyle
Created by minting sound, video, text, and code on the blockchain, NFTs have become a hot-button subject, raising questions about how artists promote their works, the commodification of memes, and how, through NFTs, dedicated digital creators are receiving more revenue than ever.
Short for non-fungible tokens, NFTs are placed on the internet via platforms that use the blockchain. What is the blockchain, you might ask? A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using a ledger system, allowing for a record that can only be amended through a process of verification known as mining. Most of the recent buzz surrounding NFTs is due to the enormous bid totals that they’ve been fetching as of late, with some works selling for millions of dollars.
Typically purchased in an auction format, works change hands via cryptocurrency. While there are a multitude of different marketplaces for non-fungible tokens trading via Ethereum (ETH), certain platforms have distinguished themselves by focusing on various aspects of the art displayed on them.
One of the intangibles of NFTs is their versatility in terms of what actually constitutes an NFT. Entities like OpenSea, Rarible (http://rarible.com) and Nifty Gateway (http://niftygateway.com) feature NFTs from makers of many mediums and backgrounds, ranging from unknown creators to world-class musicians and celebrities, with works that run the gamut from unreleased music collaborations with digital artists to popular memes, and that would be lost ultimately (mind you, one year on the internet = at least 4 years IRL) without the blockchain housing these moments.
Other marketplaces are centered around a finite community, like SuperRare (@superrare.co), Zora (@our.zora), and Foundation (@withfoundation). All three are artist-centric NFT platforms focused on established and semi-established designers— presenting works from names like Pussy Riot, Nicole Ruggiero, Weirdcore, Antoni Tudisco, Aphex Twin, and myself, amongst many others. Primarily driven by referrals from artists, curators, and institutions, these areas concentrate on empowering creators through their designs, gaining footing on a stage that wasn’t there previously with an average sale price of 2 ETH ($3984.76 as of 4/8/2021).
For a collector, the ability to secure art from a promising artist at such a relatively low price is almost a steal, turning these marketplaces into socially distanced, decentralized, online art fairs that can be accessed almost anywhere in the world. For an artist, it can be a way to pay your bills (or possibly secure generational wealth) during a time when the IRL art galleries, fairs, and platforms aren’t as easily accessible because many businesses are effectively locked down.
What makes an NFT worth the millions of dollars that they can sell for? To be honest, no one can quantify the value of a piece of art-- only what one would pay for it. An NFT, theoretically, could be an entire artist’s catalog, rights, and more, so I wouldn't be surprised to see tokens selling into the billions in the future as the technology is built upon.
As fan-centric coins like Jim Jones’ $CapoCoin begin to pop up, it’s very possible that you could see these tokens (and by association, the blockchain itself) being used for coupon systems, for home and office security, a new way to vote in elections, stock trading, and much more.
Since I’ve started creating immersion-based digital art in a museum-led artist incubator a few years ago and going to tech events, I would speak with people at foundations and corporations about my upcoming work, and they would tell me that I should look into placing that work on the blockchain. The only issue at that time was the fact that, outside of physical displays like Infinite Objects and a company I’ve worked with previously called NewHive (“Pump Fake” VR Environment, 2015), technology hadn’t the correct marketplace for selling things like interactive web-based pieces.
Non-fungible tokens have created a footing that wasn’t there initially for digital-based art and ephemera, allowing creators like myself to properly present works and entire initiatives in a way that gives true ownership to the artist and the collector-- which is a barrier that needed to be negated long ago. My initial NFT offering, “KOENIGSEGG MERGE RISK (Curve Signal)” is a moving audiovisual piece, akin to an installation piece, that doesn’t have to be consumed in real life to feel like you're there. Now on view @our.zora.
Chicago-born, NYC-based artist Albert Johnson is the creator of vyle, which is a music/art project focused on heritage, futurism, romance, technology and the Black American experience. Their artwork has been showcased in spaces including Artist Space, Goethe Institut, Superchief Gallery, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Bitcoin Center - Wall Street. They are also a member of NEW INC, a museum-led incubator and artist initiative started by the New Museum of Contemporary Art. You can view vyle's latest work "KOENIGSEGG MERGE RISK (Curve Signal)” via the link below.