The NFT Market has seen a lot of success recently and this piece acknowledges that but also asks a deeper question: is this success short lived like a one night stand?
Art piece by Ziggy Ray & Michael Jordan
In this article I want to discuss the NFT Art Market as well as why the Astronaut has become the mascot for this movement.
I started making art as a child and never stopped. But it was only when my father’s friend, who collects Andy Warhols, bought one of my pieces that I thought maybe I should do exhibitions. Most galleries ignored me but some provided a reason for why they didn’t want to include me. They liked my style, but didn’t like the medium. “How do you prove authenticity with digital art?” Fortunately one gallery was prepared to take me on and I did my first exhibition at Young Blood Gallery in Cape Town in 2016. I would go on to do an exhibition every single year until Covid hit. I printed my work onto huge pieces of perspex, metal and wood for display but logistically this was a nightmare. The pieces didn’t fit in my car, they were too big to carry alone and I was constantly worried that they were going to get damaged. Also the printing company wasn’t that reliable and some exhibitions didn’t get all their intended pieces. In 2017, I started looking at using the blockchain to prove authenticity and offered a digital certificate with each of my pieces. Unfortunately the company Ascribe.io that provided this service closed down. The Covid pandemic hit and I didn’t want to break my yearly tradition of having an exhibition and so I turned to SuperRare. I didn’t expect my pieces to sell, I just wanted to display them. In the real world, I had only sold 4 pieces over a period of 4 years. On SuperRare I have sold close to 100 NFTS with the average price of the NFT being greater than that of the physical pieces, in less than a year. My story is a derivative of what’s happening in the art market, NFTs have been a huge success for upcoming artists.
Why has the NFT Art been a success?
Selling art the traditional way is not an easy thing to do. There is not only the complexity around payment and delivery but collectors have limited space to store and display art. I had many potential buyers tell me that they love my art and would happily purchase it if only they knew where to put it. NFTs don’t have the storage issue. NFTs don’t have the delivery issue. NFTs don’t have the payment issue. NFTs can’t get damaged. NFTs can’t get stolen. NFTs can’t be copied. Also, my physical pieces were only really available to South Africans living in Cape Town, but now my NFTs have a global audience. So why have NFTs been successful? From an economic perspective: less friction costs and exposure to a larger group of collectors.
Will the success be short lived?
I find it quite ironic that some of the biggest NFT critics are from the crypto community. My one friend who trades bitcoin daily told me that “It’s just a jpeg.” I reminded him that many people used to tell us that bitcoin was just a number in a database. I mean you could even go further and say a legal contract is just a piece of paper. Or an example closer to the topic, the Mona Lisa is just a canvas. The information that an object represents can make it transcend the medium it is inscribed upon, the critics of NFTs don’t seem to understand that. But wait, I seem to be in favour of NFTs, so why am I then questioning whether their success is short lived? Well before I can answer this, we need to talk about Astronauts.
Any millennial child who was in a class when the teacher asked: “So what do you wanna be when you grow up.” would have heard at least half their peers reply with: “I wanna be an Astronaut”. At that age we didn’t know the job involved years of intense training only to be stuck in claustrophobic container that dangerously accelerated at a rate that makes you want to throw up. Oh and then when you leave the atmosphere, that vomit floats all around you. No we didn’t know that. For my generation the astronaut was the ultimate symbol of adventure. It incorporated the latest technology with the grand mystery of the universe, it literally transcended Earth. NFTs incorporate the technology of blockchain along with the mysteries of art. It is being pioneered by the millennial generation and so it’s no wonder why Astronauts have become the mascots of NFTs.
But here is the problem.
The market is getting flooded with Astronaut NFTs and when supply increases, prices tend (according to economics) to drop. I say tend, a word tinged with uncertainty because blockchain has been punching holes in financial theory since its inception and we really don’t know what the future holds.
Extending the Astronaut Metaphor.
A large portion of my generation wanted to become Astronauts, just like a large portion of NFT artists want to reach the heights of artists like mbsjq. Unfortunately only a select few get to break through the atmosphere and only a select few will see their NFTs sell for astronomical prices.
If the NFT market continues to pump, more artists will flood the space and drive prices down. When prices are low, artists will leave the space. The market will bounce around and then find its equilibrium. It will mature and become stable. The raw passion and excitement from the one night stand will be replaced with a long lasting relationship that is secure but boring. Part of the future of art will be with NFTs, but not every artist will be able to find a seat on this spaceship.