An NFT is an abbreviation of Non-Fungible Token that encrypts an image. The NFT term in its abbreviation signifies that the image protected by it is non replaceable and unique. An NFT can be any digital image,including videos, or music, but a lot of the current excitement is around using the technical means to encrypt images to sell digital art and in most cases it is about digital images or short movies, GIFs etc.
At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from, say, an ETH coin. It is worth noting that other blockchains can implement their own versions of NFTs.
Christopher Torres, NYAN-CAT, 2011
The most famous NFT so far became the Dogecoin, which isn’t an NFT. But the GIF below of a dogecoin above is one such NFT and it became one of the most famous ones.
NFTs are designed to give the collectors something that can’t be copied: ownership of the work (though the artist can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork). To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original.
Recently, Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, has sold the most expensive work of digital art in history.
It's part of an explosion in the market for NFTs, or non-fungible tokens — digital tokens that prove ownership of things like the images sold by Beeple, that can't even be touched and yet they are sold to collectors as unique original artworks.
“I honestly, like, I never thought I could sell my work,” says Beeple in an interview at his home in South Carolina in October 2020. Two months later, in December 2020, he reached a price of $3.5 million, selling digital art encrypted by an NFT.
Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple, Collage, 2021
In March 2021, Christie's, a 225-year-old and somewhat very traditional auction house that previously only sold mostly physical art, auctioned an entirely digital piece by Beeple. It sold for $69,346,250.
"If everybody wants it, well, then it has value," is the comment of Beeple for this sale, that shocked the entire art world.
The speculation in this market became so crazy, that when a $95,000 Banksy physical artwork was recently burned and turned into an NFT, the NFT was sold for nearly $400,000. A cat meme recently sold for $600,000. To understand who's paying these prices, it's important to understand NFTs.
Unlike Bitcoin, which are all identical by design, NFTs are unique. To some degree, what NFTs offer for sale is the idea of scarcity. It's possible to buy a token that represents art in the physical world, but NFTs can also protect and encrypt digital assets like an image or a tweet.
"So in May 1, 2007, I started doing a sketch a day, every single day, start to finish, and uploading it online,"Winkelmann said. "And after a year of that, I learned a lot about drawing. Like, I got much better at drawing. I was still very, very bad, as you can see from the Christie's piece. But I learned a lot."
Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple, Everyday Crap, 2021
Who is in fact Beeple?
Beeple AKA Mike Winkelmann is a digital artist who has risen to fame from his “Everydays” project, where he creates a new piece of art every single day. Beeple has been making and posting one piece of art a day for over 13 years, as he began in 2007, which means his body of work contains more than 5000 images.
His project, Everydays, was billed at the auction house as “a unique work in the history of digital art.” The official title of the work is: “Everydays — The First 5000 Days.” As his fame grew online, Beeple has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and pop stars like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple, Everydays, Miami, 2021