If you’ve been online over the past few months (which, duh, you’re here now) you might’ve heard the growing conversation around NFTs. The current topic of choice everywhere from Clubhouse to Instagram, artists across the globe are adopting the blockchain-backed method of distributing their art in a way that not only guarantees authenticity for the purchaser, but also provides a way for the original creator to continue to profit from sales on the aftermarket. Even better, NFT’s are for digital assets, which means capturing a moment doesn’t have to be static like a traditional painting. While everyone’s racing to monetize, some artists are going deeper, and providing reimagined takes on their classic themes in ways never before possible.
If more explanation is required, don’t worry. We’re about to go deep. NFT’s stand for Non-Fungible Tokens, which literally means that they are unique and can’t be traded for something of equal value—which is admittedly confusing when discussing something you’d expect to hold value, but bear with me. The tokens can be any digital file—from .gifs to full HD movie files—and they are locked into the blockchain, which is public and can guarantee authenticity and ownership should anyone need that sort of thing. According to Wikipedia, which can crowdsource an explanation better than I can provide, an NFT is “a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable.“ In other words, NFT’s are assets that provide ownership, as well as proof that it’s real, and really yours, should you want to sell it. To take things a step further, NFT’s can be built with a royalty, which will kick back a set percentage of any future sale back to the original creator. This way the artist always gets paid for their work, even if someone else makes a killing on it later.
NFT’s are stored in wallets, very similar to crypto. In fact, if you’re holding coins already, many wallets, like Metamask, one of the most common and user friendly available today, are equipped to hold your NFT’s as well. Your wallet essentially becomes your protected gallery, and while some NFT’s offer real-world compliments, most exist purely as digital files.
NFT’s are already presenting themselves in dozens of ways and we’re still in the infancy of this technology. If you consider the potential of these as digital provenance, the sky is literally the limit, as there are ways to ingest past transaction records onto the blockchain and absorb ‘fiat artwork’, if you will. That said, one of the most interesting of these applications is the new value being derived from what could in the past be considered throw away content. Take an NBA highlight for example. While in the past these would rerun in coverage, and a select few could gain serious attention, most faded into the ether. Now, those moments can be owned through the NBA’s Top Shot program, and collected even, so that the most die hards could not only own content from their favorite team or player, but a piece of history—and it’s arguably better than a traditional collector’s card. Things start to get really crazy though when you think about what happens when one of those clips goes viral, and the demand goes up. If you’re paying any attention to the resurgence in demand on the collectibles market, especially for things like sports cards, it’s easy to see there is real money to be made here.
Take Out from Siff’s House
While I’ve been watching this space closely and have made a select few investments, I’ve been a bit weary of diving too far into the space just yet. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, some people believe that NFT’s are the ground-level infrastructure for a potential Ready Player One-style future. While I’m not sure I buy into that view just yet, I’m an art buff nonetheless, and the idea of owning something unique while supporting my favorite creators’ passions is enough for me. I haven’t dabbled in Top Shot yet, but I’ve collected a few pieces from one of my favorite creators, Joey Colombo. Other than that there have been few projects I’d actually consider spending money on just yet.
That changed, however, when another fav, Gregory Siff, jumped into the space. You guys have seen us cover Gregory in the past, maybe in our last Art Issue, maybe in my interview with him last 4/20, or maybe from the Quarantine Cop List where I talked about his involvement in Topps Project 2020 (they’re doing Project 70 this year, by the way, and it’s fire!), so I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m jumping at his latest project, Gregory’s Drive Thru. Releasing 4 new pieces with a classic feel, the collection is an experiment for the artist into the new method of distribution. While I’m sure he’s got some fun surprises up his sleeve, the artist and his team at 4AM Gallery have been relatively hush hush about their plans thus far. In the only released statement on the new body of work, Siff reminisced on his childhood:
“When I was little my mom and dad would take me to dinner at Mr. Chow in Manhattan. I would always point to a drawing of a hamburger they had in the window. I thought it was there in case you didn’t want Chinese food, you could order the Burger. My mom said to me, “No, Gregory, that’s not the menu. That’s FINE ART, Andy Warhol drew that. He’s a famous artist” From that moment on the Burger would become my definition of fine art. In the symbology of faces and objects that appear in my work, the Burger is an indicator that we are in the world of fine art. For my first ever NFT’s, I wanted to highlight this strong connection with family and creation.”
He continued, “My vision is that my first NFT Art would be a great way to introduce this fantastic universe to some first time NFT Art collectors, and be in the collection of some serious CryptoArt collectors as well. Because I have such a passion for making things by hand that is essence I wanted to translate into the digital realm. This first set of all hand-painted NFT’s were made with a young urgency from watercolor, graphite and acrylic ink on paper. The Soda bottle is also an homage to POP art and the omnipresent brand label that shows up in every country of the World. The Fly Fries have a smiling marshmallow face on the box which is a call out to my first journey into becoming an artist where I drew faces on marshmallows for the Deitch Projects Art Parade, and my experiment of leaving these marshmallows hidden at all the museums I would visit. The Burger is the star of the collection but you can’t have the Happiness Dealer Meal [the menu being the rarest piece in the offering] without all of them.”
Ranging from 1-2 ETH, Gregory’s NFT’s drop this Friday April 9th on OpenSea.