Explained | What are NFTs and why experts see them as future of art

What has captured the fantasy of prominent figures around the world, from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to artist Grimes is the promise of permanence, originality, ownership, singularity and uniqueness attached with these NFTs.

May 13, 2021 / 04:39 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens have already taken the world’s creative community by storm and if experts are to be believed, they have the potential to transform the world of art completely in the times to come.

Recently, businessman and host of the popular show Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary asserted his faith in NFTs. Bullish on its future prospects, O’Leary thinks NFTs give one the “unique ability to actually track the provenance of a piece of digital art in perpetuity. Only one person owns it and it can’t be disputed and it can’t be counterfeited. That’s really remarkable.”

NFTs have found widespread popularity, along with having expanded the horizon for what can be considered art- from memes, tweets, images and more. What’s more, they also answer the age old problem of authenticating art, preventing plagiarism and creators receiving appropriate royalties for the sale of their work.

What are NFTs?

Simply put, NFTs are digital assets. They can be bought and sold, much like normal assets, but each of them is distinguished by a specific unique code that is recorded on blockchain. This code helps in clearly tracing back the owner of the NFT. But minting a token is not that easy. Add to that the high energy consumption and ecological charges and you’ll find that NFTs are relatively exclusive.

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What has captured the fantasy of prominent figures around the world, from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to artist Grimes is the promise of permanence, originality, ownership, singularity and uniqueness attached with these NFTs. Infact, its market grew by an astounding 299%, reaching a total value of more than 250 billion dollars in 2020, as per to a report published by L’Atelier BNP Paribas and Nonfungible.com.

But most importantly, NFTs add credit and a tag of permanence to a work of art, which means its movement can be tracked and thus, artists can rake in royalties off their art without having to depend on an intermediary or third party. This is made possible by smart contracts, which are programs written with pre-specified executable conditions stored on blockchain. This will make sure that artists are able to generate and sustain livelihood, along with greater control over their work and art.

However, many are quick to point out the ecological dangers of NFTs. According to Digiconomist, bitcoin mining generates 38 million tonnes of CO2 every year- a hefty amount to pay given the already degrading current global environmental scenario. Infact, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and a prominent supporter of bitcoin also made a case for this by refusing to accept cryptocurrency payments for purchasing its automobiles.

The Indian scene

WazirX, one of India’s largest crypto exchanges is also planning to launch an NFT marketplace soon. As per the company, there is a need to be proactive about this emerging asset class, because NFTs not just aid in “creating wealth, solving royalty and intellectual property issues, boosting artist earnings and more, but also gives way for a wider platform for artists to display their work while fostering authenticity and exclusivity of the digital art.”

Delhi-based Terrain.art is one the latest artistic ventures to engage with NFTs. With more than 35 young Indian artists in its roster, the studio wishes to create a future of art that is free of duplicity and fakes.

More and more Indian artists are entering and exploring the crypto-art space. The recent NFT purchase of an image collection of Beeple worth 69 million dollars by a Singapore-based firm only serves to highlight the tip of the iceberg that is the Indian crypto-art market.
Ira Puranik
first published: May 13, 2021 04:39 pm

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