Gucci Ghost by Trevor Andrew
I can recall various times within the last couple of months where I've witnessed the buzz over this new “NFT” phenomenon. You have to get on this, Connie. You should upload your pieces. Why aren’t you on it yet??!!? Are just a few of the things I hear from my older brother over the phone every other week. NFTs are virtual marketplaces focused on art that have been growing exponentially have left countless artists itching to become a part of.
Personally, I had pushed off the idea of joining in for a little bit. It felt so unfamiliar and so not the traditional way of approaching selling artworks. Truthfully, this new platform was an intimidating thing to me as I had no idea what I would be getting myself and my art involved with. But as a college student that majors in art, I felt like it was my responsibility to put myself out there and learn about the latest thing that has come about the industry. So, I took it upon myself to do a bit of research.
NFTs stand for “non-fungible tokens,” and have stemmed from the concept of cryptocurrency. It is a platform that gives an artist the chance at digitizing any form of art that they are passionate about—whether it’d be an illustration, a short film, a song, a video game, etc—and upload it for interested buyers to purchase. As a result, whoever purchases the art will be left with something that is one of a kind and unique in its own way. When buying an NFT piece, that person obtains a record of ownership of that item in contrast to something like a Bitcoin which can be traded in or replaced for the same exact thing.
It’s INSANE the amount of fame and financial compensation that these artists are receiving just by selling their NFTs in these online markets. Thats what makes me wonder---what is it that is making buyers so willing to spend thousands on these digitalized pieces? For instance, this one guy who I read about spent a total of 170,000 dollars on a digitized drawing of a kitty so that he could use it to play a game called “Crypto Kitties.” What has particularly become fascinating to me is how quickly an artist will be discovered and brought into the public eye through this new platform. Ever since, I have been looking for my own way to insert myself and become relevant within this new world. I too, wish to draw individuals in and make them love my pieces so deeply that they will do anything to be able to say that they belong to them.
However, this is also when I turn a bit skeptical given my knowledge of prehistoric art and the artist that I have looked up to and respected for so many years. Why are these random digitized images of kitties being sold online for more than was purchased for some of the most beautiful prehistoric Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh paintings? That to me, is kind of ridiculous. An image called “Gucci Ghost” recently got sold in an NFT marketplace for $69 million dollars, which is $15 million more than what Monet's "Nympheas" sold for in 2014. I mean, people really are becoming used to a whole new form of art collecting and so far from what it was in the past.
Even then, I understand that this is simply part of our modern world approach to art. A similar circumstance that I can think of is Rap music. When I first met my boyfriend Tony, I did not understand the concept of Rap and therefore didn’t bother to give it a chance. For me it was "Oldies" all the way—real instruments and people singing from the heart about genuine feelings and emotions. Why would I want to listen to some man mumbling over electronically produced beats?
Rap is a form of art that continues to be criticized for being too loud, a lot of times being disrespectful and objectifying, talking a lot about sex and using a lot of profanity. And it’s true, it isn’t the sweet lullabies that once used to be—those cute love songs sung by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald or Nat King Cole. But hanging with Tony all the time, I really had no choice but to give myself the time to sit there and take the melody and lyrics of his favorite songs in. When I did, i suddenly realized that embedded within those lyrics was a lot more than what I had assumed and I was now looking at the genre of Rap and Hip hop through a totally different lens. Now, I see rap as a way of communicating struggle, injustice that life entails, and maybe even some insecurity at times. I've realized overtime that all it is is just a different form of self expression. Its actually really funny when I catch myself bopping to Rap music nowadays and finding myself connecting to the lyrics equally as much as some of my favorite 60s and 70s tunes.
In the same way, when we choose to welcome this new contemporary concept of NFT and look at it through a different lens that strays away from traditional art normalities, we will see that what may seem like silly digitized pieces are yes--drastically different to what it once was. But does that mean that they are a worse approach to creating art? Does that mean that no one will connect with them and desperately long to own them? The answer to me seems to be pointing towards a no. Those digitalized pieces to someone else might have just as much passion put into it as Dali did when painting The Persistence of Memory. Every artist is authentic in its own way, all we have to do is approach new concepts with open mindedness!