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Digital art maturing rapidly thanks to NFT: ‘Beeple will still be known in 100 years’ | NOW

A digital artwork by Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) was auctioned this month for 69 million dollars (about 58 million euros). It seems absurd at first sight, such an enormous amount for a work that only exists virtually and that can be downloaded by anyone. But it means more than just a mega amount. Because technology allows ownership and value to be assigned to works, the digital art world is maturing in one fell swoop.

Beeple’s work, entitled The First 5000 Days, was auctioned by Christie’s. Beeple made a digital work every day for more than thirteen years, which in The First 5000 Days are bundled. Remarkable, because it was the first time that the auction house had a digital work under the hammer. This sent a signal to the outside world. Director of the Amsterdam NXT Museum for new media art, Merel van Helsdingen, calls it a helping hand from the traditional art world to digital art. “It is a stamp of approval, the art world shows that it now also takes this form of art seriously. ”

By digital art we mean works that have been created using digital technology. It goes beyond pictures, this form of art can also move and contain audio.

Although (digital) art has been traded online for some time, the way in which this is done now is new. That goes with so-called non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a non-replaceable token. The NFTs are unique pieces of code on the internet, to which a digital work is linked. The technology behind this is comparable to that of bitcoin. For example, NFTs are stored around the world and everyone can see how they are traded and who owns them.

According to Van Helsdingen, this makes the art trade completely transparent. “When you used to go to an auction house, you took an advisor with you. That expert provided background on certain works and artists and made an estimate of the value. Now you can simply read who the owner is, when a work was sold, by whom. it was bought and for how much money. ”

Invest in the hope that the value increases

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Rik Oostenbroek has been working as a digital artist for years, often also for major brands from abroad. Recently, he sold two of his own works as NFT for $ 14,000 and $ 18,700 to a 32-year-old Austrian. “That’s someone who just put down over $ 32,000 to buy the rights to two jpg files from me,” he says. “The buyer believes I’m going to be big in the NFT world, so it seemed smart to invest now before it gets more valuable.”

In that respect it resembles the traditional art world, according to Oostenbroek. “A collector or dealer looks at the potential of an artist and on that basis they buy works. The great thing about NFTs is for artists that they receive a certain percentage of the sale amount every time. Those are a kind of royalties that you never lose.”

Harmful to the environment

People can offer NFTs on various online platforms. “It is a model with which artists in developing countries or without training can also sell their art”, says Van Helsdingen. “On the other hand, there is a reason that there are art schools and institutions that guarantee the quality of art.”

In addition, NFTs are very polluting, due to the blockchain technology used. “This is really something that needs to be solved for the long term. Auctions consume a lot of energy and therefore a huge amount of CO2 is released.”

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In addition, thanks to the free nature with which people can now sell NFTs, there is a proliferation of online work. Not everything is equally good, but in the end quality will emerge automatically, thinks Oostenbroek. “The people who make unique things, retain a little exclusivity and make informed choices are left.”

The First 5000 Days van Beeple.

Only the best art remains

Someone like Beeple was needed to put digital art on the map. “He made a picture every day for 13.5 years and put it online”, says Oostenbroek. “After a while he started to stand out, not only because of his bizarre style, but also because he responded to current events. As a result, he gained more and more followers and was already an established name before he started on NFTs.”

“I am convinced that people will still know Beeple in a hundred years’ time”, says Oostenbroek. “Then the 69 million work might be worth $ 4 billion.”

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