What is the prospectus for the NFT art market? What’s the significance of current transactions and high-profile auctions centered on blockchain-based ownership of copyrighted crypto art?
Digital creations have persistent cultural and potential monetary value.
It’s an interesting argument to make in the digital era, when many of us have foregone collecting or owning even preferred content in favor of subscription streaming services that enable easy access to both old favorites and new discoveries
Or go back yet another decade to the Beanie Babies debacle— I mean, craze — and you may forgive the skepticism of some Millennials and Gen Xers.
Crypto art is, at least in part, a gamble that commodifies digital fine art (and memes and other ingenious inventions) in the hope that they will retain more lasting cultural and monetary value than my iTunes downloads have maintained.
Cynicism aside, it’s not implausible that NFTs really will revolutionize the art world, especially for generations that value fandom but often lack the wall space or storage required for more traditional collecting endeavors.
Are NFTs just more hype, or are they actually the building blocks of the creator economy? Understanding blockchain technology can seem like a lot, but NAB Amplify has the expert knowledge and insights you need to remain at the top of the intersection of art and technology:
- NAB Amplify’s NFT Primer
- NFTs: Digital Dream or IP Nightmare?
- Weird Science: The Connection Between NFTs and… Human Nature?
- What Is the Value of an NFT?
- NFTs: Content Strategy or Digital Craze?
Australian creative and writer Joan Westenberg offers some thoughts on why we shouldn’t dismiss the value of NFTs, despite the hype.
In a post on Medium, Westenberg debunks the idea that crypto art is valueless (or even valued-less) because of the numerous digital copies that surely abound. After all, this isn’t really about downloading or viewing a file.
Yes, there is certainly cachet in claiming ownership of an original work, whether made of oil and canvas or marble or blockchain. But consider that much of the masterworks prized worldwide are readily viewable online, which somehow adds to the perceived worth of the archetype, whether owned privately or on display in a museum.
The nonfungible nature of a Rembrandt isn’t destroyed by reproductions nor photographs. Therefore, Westenberg says, “The argument [against collecting digital art] is easily dismissed when you understand why owning art is essential. It’s not holding it that matters. The value of an asset gives incentive to collectors, but it’s not the point. It’s supporting the artist who created it to enable them to make more and sustain a career. Because without that, we simply don’t have art.”
Additionally, Westenberg thinks that the individual interests of a collector should apply to digital investments as well. “[W]hen you buy something that means something to you because of its meaning or history that becomes part of who you are as well,” she writes. “By choosing to value beauty, you are making a statement about its importance in your personal priorities, values, and hierarchy of needs.”
Aside from these arguments, there is the situation on the ground. Or rather, in the blockchain? The Metaverse? Places where people are spending money and viewing art in 2021.
THE MEANING OF MEME PRICING
Creatives benefit by having an understanding of what prices the market will bear. Art for art’s sake is important, but so is paying your rent.
Trends come and go, and collectors are often swayed by the newest hot thing, so both artist and buyer beware. Meme NFTs are a case in point.
In May 2021, three different memes each sold for six figures. But by the time that Side Eyeing Chloe was brought to auction in September, it barely cleared $76K (still a substantial amount for a screenshot of a little girl’s reaction to a surprise from her parents!)
Mashable’s Matt Binder writes that Dubai is responsible for the discrepancy in pricing. Or rather, a “Dubai-based music producer who goes by his production company, 3F Music” may explain at least part of the difference in valuation. 3F Music was the winner of all of these expensive NFT memes.
In the spring, the meme market was hot, and competition was apparently fierce. But fall meme temps have cooled off, enabling this single collector to acquire “Chloe” at a relative bargain, despite Internet popularity that rivals the far more pricey “Disaster Girl” meme (which sold for $500,000).
In general, Binder writes, “[o]verall [NFT] market activity has dropped and keeps dropping,” so it’s less surprising that a niche within the sector would see such a steep decline.
AN NFT AUCTION FOR FILM FANS
Enthusiasts of a different sort are likely to gauge the strength of the NFT art market based on very different auctions.
In October, Sotheby’s will sell the first NFT created by celebrated Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, describing it as part of the “star lot of Sotheby’s Modern Art Evening Sale.”
Sotheby’s online catalog says this original short film, “In the Mood for Love – Day One” was “edited from never-before-seen footage shot on the first production day” of the 2000-Cannes Grand Technical Prize-winner from which its name derives.
According to Sotheby’s, “the NFT short film contains rare footage starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as characters utterly different from the iconic lovers in the original film. This unique artwork celebrates the critical and wondrous moment when a creative idea is first conceived, while marking the first Asian film NFT ever to be offered in international auction houses.”
Just as this short NFT film will break barriers, Leung’s performance “In the Mood for Love” earned him the Best Actor accolade at Cannes, the first Hong Konger to do so.
Wong told Sotheby’s, “Where did the first thought of ‘In the Mood for Love’ originate from? Hard to say. What’s certain was that February 13, 1999, was the first day when I put that thought into action. The first day of every film production is like the first date with your dream lover — it is filled with fright and delight, like skating on thin ice. An arrow never returns to its bow; twenty years on, this arrow is still soaring.”
He continued, “Today, we are able to eternalize this first day in a brand-new form. In the world of blockchain, this arrow can chart a new course. Here’s to more of us that will live and chase that first spark in every flash.”
The sale is timed to commemorate three decades of work from Jet Tone Films, Wong’s production company. The auction house says the 30 certified collectibles on offer “will serve as a retrospective of Wong’s career to date, with each item encapsulating a symbolic moment in his oeuvre.”
According to Wong, the pieces “symbolize the different stages of filmmaking from production to exhibition.” The collection also features work from Jet Tone collaborators (William Chang, Christopher Doyle, and Wing Shya) as well as art created to celebrate the company’s Pearl Anniversary.
If Wong Kar-Wai isn’t your thing (why?), another Chinese filmmaker is also offering his film on the cryptomarket.
The South China Morning Post’s Erika Na writes that British-Chinese filmmaker Bizhan Tong plans to distribute his 2021 feature film “Lockdown” as a hybrid NFT.
Na explains that “‘Lockdown’ is a collaboration between Tong’s own production house and ATV [Asia Limited TV], the former Hong Kong broadcaster that is now an internet-only media company” and Marvion Media, a blockchain technology company.
The movie is a thriller featuring Walking Dead’s Xander Berkeley and Hong Konger Anita Chui Pik-ka, who are challenged by a disturbing audition with consequences that would go far beyond a thespian’s normal challenges.
Five fans (or at least five NFT collectors) will have the opportunity to own limited edition originals of the film, traded via OKEx. Their buys will enable them to access the full-length version, as well as some exclusive content, outside of a movie theater.
HONG KONG NFT AUCTION ACTION
Additionally, Na reports that Sotheby’s, no stranger to the fine art market, is representing the creators and owners for a few notable upcoming sales. Specifically, four others in the Fragrant Harbour are expected to bring impressive hammer prices (and commissions).
She writes for the SCMP, “NFT art has grown in range and complexity” since the first CryptoPunks debuted in 2017, and cites several other upcoming Hong Kong crypto art auctions as evidence.
The first combines three of 2021’s most buzzy terms: NFTs, machine learning, and the Metaverse. Turkish artist Refik Anadol’s “Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse” series envisages how machines might dream of the universe. The eight NFTs are composites created by machine learning, drawn from two million photographs captured on satellites and spacecraft.
Na explains this as seeing the perspective of “the telescopes that captured the original images [if they] could actually think for themselves.” If that’s not exciting enough, these NFTs are intended to be viewed in virtual reality as part of the Metaverse.
Later this year, Sotheby’s plans to broker the sale of yet another notable crypto artwork that’s optimized for the Metaverse. Shanghai-based artist Jacky Tsai has minted a new version of his infamous flower skull, which he says “will change according to the location of the purchaser, just as flowers change according to the season and the weather.”
Tsai’s art will be showcased at NFT-focused Start Art Gallery, at Kowloon’s K11 Musea, which bills itself as “the world’s first physical blockchain art gallery.”
Not to be left out, Christie’s is also hosting a charity auction for Make a Wish Hong Kong, featuring 14 NFT artworks furnished by Hong Kong native and actor Shawn Yue Man-lok. “No Time Like Present” includes six CryptoPunks, one of which is rumored to go for more than HK$5.5 million (US$706,500), although the remaining five are expected to net around HK$1 million a piece.