It’s time to separate NFTs from digital art

It’s time to separate NFTs from digital art

About the author

Abigail Carlson is Director of web3 Marketing at ConsenSys Mesh. She has previously held communications positions in Political Campaign, in Higher Education, and in Nonprofits and B Institutions. She’s on Twitter @abi__carlson. (Disclosure: ConsenSys is one of 22 strategic investors in Decrypt.)

I recently realized while touring the Matisse Museum in Nice, France, that I had gone to see a temporary exhibition in David Hockney.

If you are not familiar, Hockney is considered one of the most influential contemporary British artists. his work in 1972″Portrait of an artist (a pool with two characters)Sold at Christie’s Auctions in 2018 and Break the auction house record At $90 million (a record that was broken the following year Jeff Koons “Rabbit”which sold for $91 million).

What struck me at the Hockney Gallery were not his paintings, although I find them beautiful. What surprised me most was the fact that he started experimenting with a new art form at the age of 67 by learning Photoshop with his sister Margaret. Where most artists of that age stuck to what they knew best, Hockney’s curiosity led him to try something new. In 2008, at the age of 71, Hockney got his first iPhone. By the following year, he had achieved more than A digital plate Using his thumb, he is now a prolific digital artist. The exhibition I attended in Nice”find paradiseAn invisible series of flower paintings on the iPad.

David Hockney’s “Finding Heaven” paintings on the iPad. (Photo: Abe Carlson)

Walking around the gallery I was struck by the following realization: The gallery made no mention of NFTs.

I’m so used to equating NFTs with digital art that I was almost shocked not to see NFTs mentioned. A missed opportunity for Hockney? Perhaps, although it is doubtful that the artist would need additional income from selling these images as non-fungible tokens. In fact, Hockney has openly criticized NFTs, calling them “ridiculous little things”.

I’m really glad Hockney hasn’t moved into this field, and I’m grateful for his strong perspective. It serves as an important reminder: NFTs and digital art are not synonymous. In fact, it’s time to start separating NFTs from digital art.

While digital art can certainly be converted to NFTs, NFTs are ultimately a much broader category than those that are limited to art, and I think linking the two too closely is detrimental to both.

Digital art is simply the latest development of humans using tools at their disposal to make art. From painting on cave walls, to using pen, paper and paint, to experimenting with technology to create new forms of art (a very cliched description of the evolution of art over time, apologetics), humans will always use the tools in front of them to make art. This is because the process Create It is, after all, an essential part of what it means to be human.

While NFT groups feature digital art, I would argue that the focus of many NFT groups is not on the art itself, but on the potential for commercialization of the art.

Artistic collection vs. art trade

Photo: shutterstock

NFT collectors look at stats such as floor price and owner-to-size ratio to gather insights into trading and potential resale value. Of course, the artist’s credibility and past success also go a long way. To be clear, none of these things are wrong and it’s not just about the digital art world. But the point I make is that many NFTs, as we think of them in common language, are as much art as they are financial.

The fact that I have more than one investment banker friend who spends their weekends trading JPEGs is a case in point. For them, this is a middle finger of a financial system that requires them to conform to a certain (rather square) mode of operation. If they can make as much money flipping the NFTs as they can work ‘for the man’, who can blame them?

From artist sponsors to auction houses, the mingling of the worlds of money and art is nothing new, and in many ways is a necessary relationship. But the arrival of the NFTs also brought a huge amount of rug-pulls and hoaxes that plagued the space, causing it to have to fight for its credibility. No wonder some digital artists may deliberately shy away from space for fear of tarnishing their reputation.

More than just JPEGs

It is not necessary to convert digital art to NFT, and doing so may actually detract from the art itself (I’ll get exceptions to this eventually). Meanwhile, there are a bunch of great alternative use cases for NFTs that will undoubtedly change a lot of the way we work. Here are a few of them:

the tickets:

The ticket industry as we know it today has been plagued by a myriad of challenges from forgery and fraud to the lack of exchange protocols. Issuance of event tickets such as NFTs allows easy distribution and instant verification. There is also the possibility of Ongoing royalties from sales in secondary markets Which can go directly to stakeholders, artists and event organizers. This widget on NFT . tickets By BanklessDAO breaks down the concept well for the curious.


Prior to webcasting, most artists made money selling physical music sales (97% of revenue back in 2001). With the expansion of reach and discoverability of artists, broadcasting has also destroyed the scarcity of music. NFTs bring back some of this through digital scarcity. The kings of Leon was The first group to release an album as an NFT (when you see yourself) and made 2 million dollars in sales.

Real estate:

NFTs have many use cases in real estate. For one, it can represent the tangible property that is being purchased. While much of this will depend on basic legal requirements being met in an evolving industry, the technology is already set to make this a reality and out of reason. By purchasing an apartment with an NFT asset property, you will have instant access to the entire history of the apartment, from previous buyers and investments to legal disputes and payments. You can also buy and sell real estate faster than is currently the case because NFT transfers happen instantly.

Another use case in real estate is tokenizing real estate for joint investment by fractional ownership. In our current system, joint ownership of a property requires a huge amount of paperwork, time and legal fees. Real estate hashing and selling tokens allow investors to easily get in and out of an investment, and rules can be codified through smart contracts to limit the number of weeks investors can access in a year. In this way, co-ownership is actually tangible, compared to investing in real estate through the likes of REITs. (To dig deeper into the interaction between NFTs and real estate, this is Good place to start.)


Not an arena (pun intended) that I know a lot about, but nonetheless an arena set up for a massive acceleration of NFT adoption. Not only will tickets be a use case (see above), but sports clubs are increasingly turning to digital collectibles as a way to increase fan engagement and earn additional revenue. for example NBA Top ShotOfficially licensed NBA digital collectibles. Owning an NFT can also be used as a gateway to IRL community events, by providing owners with opportunities to attend meetups with players. (For more see over here.)


From fashion to cars and luxury goods, brands across the spectrum are experimenting with NFT collections. This may look like NFT issuance combined with the purchase of a physical asset. RTFKT Studios pioneered this in 2021 when they released NFTs along with physical sneakers – the campaign was born $31.MIL OF EARNINGS IN 7 MINUTES. Dolce & Gabbana combined the physical and the virtual in a collection in 2021 and Earned $5.65 Million.

For fashion brands in particular, NFTs can also be used as QR codes for supply chains. The entire supply chain of an item of clothing can be recorded on the blockchain, and scanable QR codes are issued where NFTs allow consumers to verify the provenance of the items of clothing they wish to purchase. This increased transparency could revolutionize not only fashion brands, but Supply chains in general.

I won’t even get into the metaverse and games, but my point is that NFTs offer a wide range of applications beyond digital art, and my expectation is that we will soon begin to associate NFTs with some form of technology (they are “irreplaceable tokens”, after all) rather than art in the first place.

A place for NFT . art

Photo: shutterstock

To make this circle complete and because I can’t Not Playing devil’s advocate, I still think digital art can be a great use case for NFTs… in some cases.

One of these is generative art. generative art It is a subset of digital art that uses algorithmic codes to create output, in a kind of unique collaboration between “machine and artist”. Programming these codes requires skill and intent. Some groups or platforms require that a certain function be included in the code to take care of the result for a certain aesthetic… In other words, the process itself is an art.

Generative art is an ideal use case for NFTs. Because the attributes of the artwork are randomly generated during the minting process, the person who mints the artwork is brought into the process of creating the art itself – this can create a unique emotional bond with the artwork.

One of the earliest examples of generative NFT art was Chaos Machine, a project born in 2018 in Mawza’a Gallery. The device burns banknotes, and each time the music is played while the token is minted and the QR code is printed to the user.

Successful modern generative NFT collections often include a definite amount of reproducible artifacts, strong communities, and a roadmap for the future. Generative collections that revolutionized the NFT digital arts space KryptoponicsAnd the AutoglyphAnd the PikeAnd the Chromie wobbleAnd the Euler win In the space of generative music art (Euler was initially embraced Network Which I work with by chance, but I promise you I’m not biased).

Love them or hate them, the influence of these giants on the NFT space is undeniable, and it is undeniable that NFT has provided them with a unique path to grow the revenue stream for their arts as well as the ability to foster supportive communities.

Which brings me to the second reason NFTs can be a great use case for digital art: community. Many of the notable NFT groups mentioned above have resulted in interesting social experiments in the form of creating new communities. While it can be argued that this is art for end vs art for art for art’s sake, there is something undeniably powerful about bringing people together around a common thread (pun intended again).

And note here: regular artists who don’t primarily work in the digital space can still release NFTs, even if this is just a gateway to an online community. Animators, filmmakers, writers, musicians, etc. can release NFT collections that guarantee their fans access to a certain amount of events each year, meet-and-greets, and the like. Digital Arts NFTs can play a huge role in strengthening the community by introducing access tokens, thus organizing the community in a way that goes beyond what is currently possible via social media and fan sites.

Stronger when separated

While I ultimately believe that NFTs should be separated from digital art, this is primarily because there are myriad use cases in which the technology can be used, and also because of some of the negative associations that space has unfortunately collected. Digital art will always remain as one of these use cases, as it should be.

One thing is for sure, David Hockney will be fine either way. In the unlikely event that he changes his mind about NFTs, I have no doubts that more than one NFT studio would be most happy to help turn the iPad’s Flower Paintings series into an NFT art collection. But this might just be taking a step too far…

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