What are NFT’s and how are Irish artists using them?

By James Godson

I sat down with Irish artist Zuphioh to hopefully discover what NFT’s are, and why they’re so popular.

NFT’s, or Non-Fungible Tokens, appear to have taken the art and crypto-currency world by storm. Their use, however, as shown by their vague name, isn’t very clear to the layman, but what we do know is that there’s huge opportunity within them, careers to be created and, of course, money to be made.

An NFT, in effect, is a means by which an artist can sell an ‘original’ of their digital artwork to someone who can certify themselves as the sole owner of the piece; similar to how an art collector may own an original Picasso

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – unique collectible crypto assets- by
Marco Verch Professional Photographer on Flickr Creative Commons Licenses

The major difference being that, by buying an NFT of art through crypto-currency, a collector can own the original of a digital piece of art, certified through the blockchain. When buying a piece traditionally, you usually receive the physical artwork, along with a certificate of authenticity. An NFT is essentially this certificate, and is always tied to the artwork.

The Blockchain

The blockchain, described as simply as possible, is a decentralised ledger, which is distributed amongst all users, that serves to record the provenance of a digital asset, the provenance part relating to the earliest known history of a given asset. 

Due to how robust the security of the blockchain is, the signature of an NFT sold through crypto-currencies is safe and unique, meaning that if somebody decided to screenshot an NFT and create their own, it would appear in the blockchain after the original sale of the item, and, therefore, not be credited as the original piece.

 Irish artist Zuphioh believes that the advent of NFT’s “empowers artists”.

Zuphioh is an illustrator and painter based in Dublin, he is currently in his final year of college, and is aiming to write his thesis on NFTs, outlining their benefits for artists and how they could be used in everyday scenarios. 

“I know artists from all around the world that are creating NFTs now that are legitimately able to make a living from it. I’ve connected and made friends with people all around the world who thanks to this new way of selling work, have managed to leave their jobs for good and commit themselves to creating! I have friends from Mexico, Brazil, Malaysia and many more places who are thriving in this space” 

“Reylars.Dam is a Mexican artist who I’m collaborating with in February, he’s had pieces sell for more than a Banksy

Adam has also sold artwork from his “Zebra” art collection as NFT’s, and he has seen a noticeable increasing demand for artwork from young Irish artists like himself. 

“In my own experience I went from selling nothing in January and February; once I started with NFT’s, I was making enough to actually pursue art as my career”.

“For me, what is crazy is that I’m going from not being able to buy art supplies to now being able to create on an iPad; It’s definitely benefitted me. It’s not only monetary though, it’s also made me more confident in my work, it’s pushing me to grow my audience and create more”.

Cutting out the middle man

The unique selling point of NFT’s from an artist’s perspective is that it removes the need to sell work through galleries or auction houses.

“I sold my work myself through ‘Maker’s Place’, they take a cut like any fine art establishment, but the likes of Christie’s and Sotheby’s charge a hammer price of 25%-30%, whereas here you’re looking at 10%-15%. There’s nothing stopping an artist selling directly to a buyer and paying no commission either.”

“Without someone in the middle, someone’s making a sale and another is buying someone else’s work, it means artists are supporting each other without someone else making the majority of the sales”.

“The art world is all about ‘sell, sell, sell”, whereas now it’s sell and support someone’s work”. 

The Downsides

At the moment, NFT’s are the new kid on the block for crypto-bros, that is, speculative investors in crypto-currencies. As a result, the market for NFT’s is flooded with opportunists who’s sole intention is making money from selling collectible NFTs, as the demand is so high.

“At the moment there are people using it to sell bulls***, at the moment art, which back in March/April was a huge deal, has unfortunately become shadowed by the huge wave of these collectible projects, where people are paying insane money for the small chance to hit it big, which in my head is literally glorified gambling, but covered up with some cutesy monkey or lion or whatever, they’re everywhere; I think Gartner’s Hype Cycle is playing its part. 

Gartner’s Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies aims to map the popularity of forward tech as it becomes widely available, and has been used to map the interest in the likes of 3D Printing and Virtual Reality. 

It starts with an initial explosion of interest, a peak, and a rapid decline in interest. Generally, there is a slight increase in engagement before the technology reaches a “Plataeu of Productivity”, wherein it becomes a normalised part of a given industry.

iCredit: Gartner

With any luck, NFT’s will continue to serve its purpose for current and future artists like Zuphioh, and hopefully be rid of its opportunists. 

Leave a Reply