“NFTs represent a generational shift for how artists can connect with a new collector community,” says Marc Hartog, chief executive of ART3.io, a new NFT platform for contemporary photographers from the team behind British Journal of Photography magazine.
For those on the older, more traditional, side of the divide, NFTs are a firework; a fad that has suddenly exploded, is dominating everyone’s attention, but will fade into nothing but wasted money and energy. On the new side though, NFTs are a coming force, the new mainstay of the art market. And those brave enough to invest are stealing a march on yesterday’s art buying elite.
NTFs offer young collectors a chance to buy work of artists who are recognizable to their own generation. They do so with decentralized currencies and ownership models that older collectors do not use, do not trust and don’t really understand.
Yet many artists are still struggling to work out how to get involved with this new market. “There is no art gallery show equivalent for NFTs today,” says Bret Kinsella, co-founder of the Niftorian NFT Artist Accelerator, a program designed to teach non-tech artists to create and sell NFTs of their work. “We created Niftorian to help educate artists on the NFT project lifecycle and get new artwork to market.” He adds, “It can be like exploring a foreign territory without a map.”
There are further issues to work out. Chiefly, trading with cryptocurrency, and buying digital artworks currently is not an environmentally ethical pursuit because of its energy consumption. Bitcoin, the world’s most-used cryptocurrency, has a larger energy footprint than the country of, say, Argentina. The UK newspaper, The Guardian, recently reported that the sale of 303 editions of the pop-star Grimes Earth NFT, which involved BitCoin, “used the same electrical power as the average EU resident would in 33 years.”
The technology remains opaque and unfriendly to those lacking a degree in computer science. Platforms such as OpenSea and Ethereum may have received plenty of media coverage, but not many of us, in practice, could easily navigate them in their current form.
Platforms such as Niftorian are launching with this issue in mind. “The program helps artists define a strategy for their NFT launch,” Kinsella explains. “We provide them with the latest data and education about the market and give them information about the mechanics associated with each launch.” Doing this alone right now is not easy, he acknowledges. “There are multidisciplinary requirements. It takes a village to launch a sustainable NFT project.”
There are signs the environmental costs of the new technology will improve. Palm, an emerging blockchain ecosystem used by high profile artists such as Damien Hirst, claims it cuts minting costs and emission — the so-called “gas fees”— by more than 99.9 percent. As the gold rush continues and the technology evolves, more efficient, environmentally viable and user-friendly platforms are starting to emerge.
“The impact of early blockchain technology is currently extremely detrimental to the environment,” says Hartog of NFT’s carbon footprint. ART3.io, he believes, functions on the most sustainable platforms available, noting, “We hope others will follow the same footsteps.”
But one thing is becoming clear. Those who hope NFTs are a firework event might be engaging in wishful thinking. Yuga Labs’ algorithmic apes with their mournful stares may look absurd alongside paintings by David Hockney and Peter Doig or Jean-Michel Basquiat. Yet, they may well be here to stay.