The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed us to imagine the future while living it. This is the case with blockchain technology, virtual reality and non-fungible tokens (NFT). The convergence of reality and the future has provided opportunities to continue to disrupt specific industries, including the cultural and creative sector.
NFTs are unique digital assets in the form of photographs, music, sports memorabilia, collectibles, virtual fields and digital art. This form of ownership is underpinned by a decentralized digital ledger of recorded transactions that takes place on a corporate network known as blockchain technology.
A buyer will receive a verified digital token indicating the authenticity of the work. The Ethereum blockchain protocol remains popular due to its sophisticated capabilities, but other protocols are being used to mint NFTs, including Polygon, which offers lower transaction costs and considers its effect on the environment by being carbon neutral. .
There are different marketplaces where artists can sell, auction and trade their NFT. These include Momint, Magic Eden, Rarible, SuperRare and The Tree, the most popular being OpenSea.
Founded by Dan Jordan and Trevor Stuurman, South African marketplace The Tree offers artists curated entry into NFTs.
Jordan said it is a “digital storytelling platform for African storytellers to use the power of blockchain technology to tell and transform their stories into a digital future with a digital legacy behind them.”
The market also plans to create mixed reality cooking experiences for various audiences.
Stuurman that while sales measure an artist’s success, this experience has also “been about opening up new space and creating new avenues for the consumption and creation of art.”
NFTs have exploded globally, with the market value rising to over $3 billion. Fusionby digital artist Pak, sold at auction for $91.8 million in December last year, beating the digital artwork Daily: The first 5,000 days by Mike Winkelmann, which was sold for $69.3 million in March 2021.
International companies also offer NFT experiences. Visa Inc has set up an NFT creation program that helps artists promote their NFTs. Instagram is creating a gallery experience for NFT owners to display their artwork on their profiles, and jewelry company Tiffany’s has created a limited edition of 250 “NFTiffs” for sale.
How are NFTs performing in South Africa?
The recent Finder online survey estimates that NFT adoption may soon reach 17.8% as individuals and organizations participate in immersive technologies such as Web3.
Jordan said: “There is no barrier to entry for Africa to technologically compete with the rest of the world because now all I need is a mobile phone and an internet connection relatively strong, and I can participate in this NFT conversation with world famous digital artists.
The first NFT sold in South Africa was by Norman O’Flynn and retailed for $35,000 in April last year. Other artists such as Fhatuwani Mukheli, Jan-Hendrik Viljoen, Phumulani Ntuli and JP Meyer have also dabbled in NFTs with varying success.
Through the innovative Out of Africa NFT Collection, created by the Invictus NFT Lab, top artists submitted 118 NFT representations of physical artworks to bridge the gap between physical and digital artworks using OpenSea as a marketplace NFT.
While artists could sell their physical works of art, the innovation stems from the NFT collection built on Ethereum to verify the creation and ownership of digital works of art. The ability for the buyer to purchase both the physical and digital artwork shows the importance of connecting the two worlds.
Printmaker and contemporary artist Lerato Lodi said, “The Out of Africa collecting opportunity has opened up my field of possibilities as an artist. Being featured in the collection among other established artists gave me the confidence to know I was engaging in something unique and interesting.
Photographer and artist Musa N Nxumalo said, “It’s almost like another world and I feel like over time, as it grows and has more meaning for the regular guy, we could think it. [purchasing the NFT]. The collection was artist-centric and what I liked about the process is that the buyer will also get the physical art, which is a plus for me, because that’s what the collection is about. artist created physically.
Although NFTs are auctioned, Nxumalo said, “As its prices go up, we’ve signed a thing where artists will get royalties when the NFT is resold, which, if you think about it, in the world of art. normal art and the secondary market, once I sell my work and if it goes to the secondary market, whatever is sold to the artist doesn’t count, which is a problem for artists from a financial sustainability perspective.
The process of selling art by connecting artists with the public, instead of going through an art gallery, has its advantages. In the case of NFTs, profits come through the creation of “smart contracts” with instructions that each time the NFT is sold, a percentage of the sale in the form of royalties goes to the artist who created the work .
The NFT market in South Africa is in its infancy and opportunities for selling NFT are limited.
Lodi said that although she was unable to sell her NFT artwork, The meeting, the experience showed him the potential of NFTs. Mukheli shared similar sentiments, “It’s a new and exciting platform, and the earlier you start, the better the financial side. It’s being able to have my work on a platform that’s the future and having it accessible to anyone who understands the NFT space.
But some caveats exist. Given the lack of interoperability between different blockchain protocols and NFT markets, the convergence of reality and the future has led to the creation of physical and legal contracts as a backup if smart contract instructions are not respected.
Furthermore, the current volatility in the NFT space has created opportunistic opportunities for market manipulation, hence the need for a progressive regulatory framework for the enforcement of smart contracts, the establishment of norms and standards, the respect for the intellectual property rights of artists and the reduction of the risk of fraud.
Lockdown regulations and social distancing have forced artists to become more intentional in curating their works by using social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest for audience development and potential business. A lot of potential could be realized by ensuring that the copyright of artists is protected and that ways to profit from art are done in a unique way that perhaps would never have been considered there. five to ten years old.
As the NFT market matures, it is essential to understand that NFT is not art but rather a possible way to democratize the artistic experience for artists and their audiences. Art reflects the times and the maturity of NFTs will depend on the adoption of immersive technologies and enhanced social commentary.
Digital art as a form of disruptive innovation and the way it is packaged will fundamentally change the way we view and experience the arts sector.
This article was produced as part of a partnership between the Courier and Custodian and the Goethe-Institut, focused on sustainability and the arts.