dive into the heart of the online art market with collectors and creators

Known only by the general public for a few months, NFTs are spreading on the internet and attracting more and more collectors. Last March, the auction house created Christie’s headlines during a unique sale: Every day: the first 5,000 days, Beeple’s work was sold as an NFT for $ 69.3 million. So what makes these digital works successful? Is it a fashion phenomenon or the art of the future?

Artwork by artist Beeple, sold for $ 69.3 million at Christie's.  (AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAN AUCTION HOUSE / DISTRIBUTION)

First of all, what is behind the “NFT” barbarism? The name “non-fungible token” in French, it denotes a certificate that allows to be the exclusive owner of a digital work. This can be a painting, a 3D drawing, a photograph, an avatar or even a tweet! The possibilities are enormous.

If NFTs are experiencing dazzling success in the United States, they are not yet creating the same enthusiasm in France. Several auctions were held in France during 2021, but without causing any real audience movements. But for Mathilde Le Roy, founder of the online art gallery KAZoART, which organized an NFT sale in April last year, a new craze has arisen over digital art since the pandemic. “For several months, physical art was no longer available. Art enthusiasts therefore had no choice but to find new ways to gather.“, she explains, “but I think this runaway will eventually normalize and fall a little”.

Purchase of the German music group Scooter's NFT sold in connection with their new album

Yet NFTs are the subject of debate. What is the point of buying a work online for thousands of euros when we can find it in high definition for free on the internet? For Nikola Niksic, founder of the NFT France website, the answer is simple: “Let’s take it Mona Lisa : there are lots of examples and copies of the original work, and some of them sometimes look like it down to the smallest detail. You can show one of these paintings in your living room, but everyone knows it is not Mona Lisa which you own since the real one is in the Louvre. It’s the same for NFTs. “

What NFTs are lacking today is still their availability. To buy it, you need to be introduced to the blockchain world – technology for storing and transmitting information securely and without control – and your own cryptocurrency. “It’s not easy to buy NFTs”, explains Lucas Podevin, founder of the NFT Cryptagency Agency: “You must have a wallet (an online wallet editorial note), inject ethereum (a cryptocurrency like bitcoin) and connect to an NFT sales site such as Open Sea”, he details. Access is therefore too complex for some collectors who are accustomed to art galleries and who are not necessarily familiar with new technologies. Metakovan, the group of buyers of Beeple’s work at Christie’s, actually consisted of two millionaire traders of cryptocurrency. So not really traditional collectors. While they probably like the artist’s work, they have also made a long-term investment in making this purchase.

But are all NFT buyers primarily investors? “At first, NFTs were more interesting to investors, but now some people are really gathering them for fun. And I’m one of them.”, explains Nikola Niksic, founder of the website NFT France. This student at the Sorbonne was seduced by the NFT world in late 2020 when an artist nerve informed him that he was devoting himself to digital art. He bought his first NFT, a Cryptotoon, a few weeks later and currently owns over 50 of them. “There are NFTs that I buy because I think they will increase in value quickly, but I also buy them because I appreciate the artist’s work. The majority of buyers are both collectors and investors, I think. I”.

For this enthusiast, NFTs also make it possible to reach a new audience, younger and above all a little nerd: “The front door comes a lot from video games. Players can buy accessories and become sole owners. Soon they will be able to make money while playing and reuse them in the blockchain to collect or invest in the art”. USand New target groups are rising due to the sharp rise in NFT prices. “On Twitter, you see people investing $ 1,000 one day and the next day they made $ 40,000!”notes Lucas Podevin.

NFTs interest more and more collectors, but therefore also more and more artists, even those accustomed to more classical artistic techniques. Artist Morgan Paslier participated in the sale organized by KAZoART. He makes paintings from collages, but also uses editing and drawing software. If he appreciates the possibility of selling works only in digital format, he still encounters difficulties in finding buyers: “In France, NFTs work with traditional collectors for already acclaimed artists who have a rating”he remarks. “But I’m not going to stop there, it’s even give me new ideas for creations.”

Artwork in NFT format by the French artist Morgan Paslier,

However, Léo Simon, co-founder of Cryptagency, testifies to the opposite. The NFTs allowed him to better sell his works. “In design, a lot of people have turned to NFTs. It’s a real help for artists who were struggling to make money on what they could do,” he said. he tells us.They encourage artists to test new techniques. I think in a few years, the greatest artists we want will be the ones doing NFT because it opens up a lot more possibilities than traditional art. “

Some artists actually manage to sell their works, but by customizing their art. A work by Banksy, Idiots (white), acquired at auction for $ 95,000, for example, was destroyed after the sale to be “reincarnated” in the NFT. The American graffiti artist, AlecMonopoly, followed by 1.2 million people on Instagram, has also started selling his graffiti for the first time thanks to NFTs. This certificate of ownership makes works available for sale that were not previously available.

NFTs can be consumed and displayed in different ways. But at the moment, it is especially on social networks that they occupy an important place. Collectors do not hesitate to post a profile picture of the works they have acquired and of which they are most proud: “The rule is not to put NFTs that do not belong to us on our profile”adds Léo Simon from Cryptagency. “Today, having a CryptoPunk on a cover image is proof of wealth, it’s like showing off with a Lamborghini.”

Outside the networks, several brands are already developing ways to display NFTs at home using digital displays. “Managers would use blockchain technology. Only the owners of the works could then distribute them.” imagines Nikola Niksic, enthusiastically.

Twitter profile of Anonymous Fucking Nobody, whose picture is a cryptopunk.  (SCREENSHOT)

Several collectors, such as Nikola Niksic or Lucas Podevin, see a real future in NFT that is considered the art of the future. “For this technology to reach the general public, the barriers need to be removed. I’m sure everything will be simplified quickly: soon we’ll be able to buy NFTs with a simple credit card,” Nikola comments. “I have no doubt that NFTs will last over time, it is not a fashion effect because there are two major benefits: already now the commission fees can be renewed indefinitely. Every time the work is resold, the artist receives a commission. “In 5-10 years, there will be platforms like Instagram where we can show NFTs. These works will be means of communication: If Gucci offers NFTs to an influencer, those who follow him will want to buy Gucci.”.

NFTs are only at the beginning of their development. For those who would be scared, Lucas Podevin will be reassuring: “NFTs and cryptocurrency seem complicated today, but was not the Internet also 30 years ago? But in 2021, few people will not be surfing the web!”

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