Will NFTs Replace Traditional Fine Art?
Seeing the way NFTs have exploded in popularity despite their brief history, a question in the minds of many involved in the art market and the art community has been: will NFTs replace traditional fine art?
In this article, we examine this question to explore how NFTs have benefited artists, the changes NFTs have brought for collectors, and how NFTs are changing art galleries.
Are NFTs A New Form Of Art?
NFTs are not a new form of art or artistic medium. Digital art, which is the art form most commonly represented by non-fungible tokens has pre-existed NFTs for decades.
NFTs are used to establish ownership and create scarcity, assigning value to the asset being represented.
Each NFT holds unique data stored on a digital ledger that establishes a transparent proof of ownership on the blockchain network; enabling anyone at any time to trace who owns a particular digital asset.
To learn more about NFTs, see our article - What Exactly Are NFTs - Fungible Vs. Non-Fungible Tokens
How NFTs Have Benefited Artists
NFTs come with many benefits and rewards for artists, the biggest of which is probably the fact that they’ve opened up the art market for digital artists to finally have a true value assigned to their artwork.
NFTs changed both digital art and the fine art world and because of being an open technology, it’s easily accessible for artists regardless of their background, location or following; giving them access to a global audience in a more streamlined manner than just the internet alone.
Anyone can mint an NFT, putting their art out into the art world to begin reaching a global audience, gaining attention and building a community of followers and collectors.
In contrast, the gates to the traditional art market aren’t opened to every artist and there are several barriers to entry including the requirement for vetting by art market experts in order to even be considered for gallery representation.
It’s a very small percentage of the total amount of active artists that become established and gain global recognition, whereas the hype of NFTs in recent years has suddenly catapulted some previously unknown artists to the forefront of the art world.
It’s worth bearing in mind though, that the industry-standard practice of vetting artists is there for a reason, and a huge part of that reason is to determine the potential of any particular artist rising in value and being worthy of investment.
So while this ability to bypass the traditional hierarchies of the art market can be an attractive prospect for artists, if you’re an investor, collector or art gallery looking for inventory, you should be cautious when it comes to purchasing artwork from unknown and unvetted artists.
Another aspect of NFTs for artists is that royalty payments can be hard-wired into the smart contract behind the NFT, entitling the artist to a percentage of every future resale of their NFT. In most cases, traditional artists don’t receive any royalties after the first sale of their art.
The Changes NFTs Have Brought For Collectors
Following on from the previous point, NFTs have assigned value to digital artworks and given them a well-deserved seat at the table of the art market.
One of the biggest changes that NFTs have brought about is the introduction of a new generation of collectors that are finding the art market more accessible than it was before. NFTs have also introduced the existing generations of traditional art collectors to the idea of digital asset collection.
As well as this new generation of collectors being opened up to the prospect of traditional art collecting that they may not have previously considered, we’re also seeing a growing number of the existing generations building hybrid collections of traditional and digital art.
Even if the majority of the newer generations are most likely to lean more towards digital art collections because of the digitally dominated world they’ve grown up in, there will always be a market for traditional art which has always proven to be a stable asset class.
NFTs have also opened up another avenue for the variety of collectors in the world to fulfil their desire for collecting; a vast assortment of digital assets that can now be bought, sold and traded in the same way as traditional physical assets.
This makes perfect sense when considering the way technology has become integrated into our everyday lives, being surrounded by more and more digital items such as games, music, books, movies and photographs.
Rather than replacing traditional art for collectors, NFTs have widened the scope of options of types of art to collect. Collectors can now own digital artworks that can hold value and even potentially increase over time in the same manner as traditional fine art.
NFTs have also made the art market more accessible, giving new collectors an opportunity to participate, whether through digital art collection, traditional art, or both.
How NFTs Are Changing Art Galleries
The NFT boom has caused many galleries to re-evaluate their mode of operation and consider whether or not to get involved in this very new branch of the art market. Some have erred on the side of caution, but there are many well established and prestigious galleries getting involved in the NFT space.
With physical art galleries embracing NFTs and displaying them alongside traditional artworks, we’re seeing an interesting fusion of these two facets of the art market and also how considerably the market has grown now that digital art is considered to have value.
Blockchain technology gives both physical and virtual galleries a reliable and secure way to authenticate artworks and check their provenance; it also makes ownership of artworks irrefutable.
This same technology can just as easily be used to mint traditional artworks as NFTs, not as a means of replacing the physical piece, but to create a secure digital document that contains the relevant data about the artwork such as its provenance and record of ownership, instructions on the care and display of the artwork and so on.
Despite NFTs giving rise to a global market for digital artworks and changing the landscape, the underlying method of how we consume and enjoy art hasn’t changed.
Ultimately as humans, we enjoy the experience of art in a physical sense. Whether the artwork itself is physical or digital, we mostly consume and enjoy art by displaying it and art galleries are still the perfect environment for the display of art, regardless of its physicality.
Most NFT art collectors and enthusiasts choose to display their digital art collections, whether physically or virtually, and this is just one aspect that shows our leaning towards the physicality of artwork being how we appreciate it most.
As well as a new audience visiting traditional galleries to view the displayed NFTs, the introduction of the metaverse has opened up an entire world of digital potential with virtual galleries being opened by existing physical galleries as well as by others.
NFTs of traditional fine art pieces can also be displayed in the metaverse, thus feeding even more into the virtual art galleries that are steadily becoming a prominent feature of the art world.
As more galleries get on board we can be sure to see this lead to a hybrid inventory in most galleries and for them to make the best of both worlds, physical and virtual.
Will NFTs Replace Traditional Fine Art?
The short answer is no, but there’s no doubt that NFTs have drastically changed the art world.
We can expect NFTs to stay and for them to become a prominent feature of the art market with many of their benefits and features being used in harmony with traditional fine art.
Throughout the entirety of recorded human history, art has been used as a means of expression and documentation, providing both cultural value and meaning to human lives and a central aspect of community and connection.
Digital art has existed for a very long time but it could never truly hold value simply because of how reproducible it was and the impossibility of establishing true ownership. NFTs and blockchain technology have provided the means to establish ownership of digital artworks and as a result, assigned value to them, with the ability to prove uniqueness and rarity as well as ownership.
Almost any traditional artwork can be digitised and represented by a non-fungible token, but this will only enhance the existing physical piece and will never replace the human inclination for creating physical objects.
What we can expect to see is the NFT world and the traditional fine art world move closer together and grow together forming a new landscape for the art market made up of the best of both worlds, resulting in a physical/virtual continuum.
Something we've seen NFTs do extremely well is merging the private and public benefits of traditional fine art, as well as adding extra benefits.
We’ve looked just briefly at how NFTs can be used alongside traditional art to great effect for the benefit of artists, collectors and galleries; this harmonious fusion clearly demonstrates that NFTs will never replace traditional fine art, but they will continuously improve and enhance the market.
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