April 2021

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2021

The emergence of Non-Fungible Tokens [NFTs] is an interesting evolution of the blockchain digital asset environment. NFTs are being sold for increasingly large amounts to attribute value to unique digital assets, notably in the art space. Christies held a recent auction for Everydays: The First 5,000 Daysa set of 5,000 images by artist Beeple [aka Mike Winkelmann] for an incredible US$69m, which was a strong signal to the art community that NFTs had arrived with a bang.

NFTs are a form of electronic identifier, that helps attribute and allocate ownership of a digital collectible. Notably, often the digital asset can quite freely be viewed online and replicated. As a further example, recently Jack Dorsey auctioned his first tweet [“just setting up my twttr”] for US$2.9m, sold via Ether, and in good form Mr Dorsey donated the proceeds to charity. It’s reasonable to question the value of NFTs, such as this first tweet from the CEO of Twitter. Although in the digital age, this could perhaps be compared to a hard copy signature from William Shakespeare.

Artists in all formats are now exploring and testing their value in the digital asset space, with recording artists Kings of Leon selling their upcoming album in NFT format, while Aussie band Flume recently sold an NFT of 90 seconds of music paired with a video clip in March for a staggering $66k in Ether. Notably the video paired with Flume’s music is freely available on YouTube, but owned via an NFT by the new owner @nobody.

In an amusing NFT stunt, that the artist himself probably would have appreciated, an original Banksy was burned and destroyed on a livestream video, with the art-destroying-performance sold as an NFT for $380k. This was the same print, “Morons”, that Banksy famously shredded live at auction in 2018, with a caption on the print “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this”. So this NFT sale perhaps represents a circular, cynical statement on the impermanence of art. Clearly if real art is being destroyed with the video digital asset file being sold for more value as an NFT than the original physical form [the original Banksy screenprint was bought for $95k] we are in confusing times in the digital art world.

The NFT phenomenon can be viewed broadly as a digital form of collection or ownership. In the same way that art sales can at times reach baffling heights, NFTs are offering a platform for buyers with a wallet full of Ether or Bitcoin to display their wealth through digital ownership, regardless of real-world value. Perhaps to the buyers and collectors of NFTs, that’s sort of the point. NFT buyers are probably not expecting the digital asset to increase in value but are rather seeking to signal affluence in the digital age, or to confer value of their wealth via BTC or ETH.

In any case, the emergence of NFTs, especially in the digital art space, is an interesting asset class that is evolving and gaining in prominence.

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