Art and the Blockchain: Everything You Need to Know About NFTs - BRYCE-Art | Discover Unparalleled Creativity

Art and the Blockchain: Everything You Need to Know About NFTs

[Note: This article is NOT a paid sponsorship. It is simply one artist trying to understand the strange new world of art and the blockchain.]

When visitors arrived at Art Basel Miami 2018, they found something altogether new: artwork with ownership stored on a blockchain. Youtube.

The following year, Miami Art Week (the art world Saturnalia built around Art Basel Miami) was filled with this technology.

Many collectors and artists remain sceptical, while others have become euphorically optimistic about blockchain’s potential.

Since the arrival of this technology, things have only heated up. Non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) have become the biggest topic in the art world in recent years. With information secured on the blockchain, some see blockchain as a technology that can help artists gain greater control over their careers.

Nevertheless, the recent collapse of the NFT market seems worth mentioning. Artists and collectors must understand how it works and what advocates say it can do for artists. However, we must be aware of the potential dangers in this new field.

Non-Fungible Tokens: The Basics

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL
Blockchain concept illustration in 3d, connected blocks in blockchain, Shubham Dhage, 2021.

A blockchain is a publicly accessible ledger. Thus, it has been used for so-called cryptocurrencies that can track tokens exchanged between users. The process is done through a decentralized system, enabling users in the network to create and encode the information independently without the control of a middleman.

Each new block contains information about transactions, including an address (called a hash) and an address for the block behind it, which are then added to the chain using cryptography.

To change a block means changing its hash. So if you want to change information on a blockchain fraudulently, you would have to break the cryptography for the block in question and every single block created. You must do this before someone makes a single new block, making such a task even more difficult.

For cryptocurrencies, these blocks represent money exchanging hands. But you can also make these tokens non-fungible — i.e. unique. They can be linked to an asset, like a digital artwork, a song, a tweet, or basically anything. This feature has piqued the interest of many in the art world as a new way to manage and track the buying and selling of art.

Artists and galleries have experimented with the blockchain in two major ways. The first is by accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as payment for artwork. A famous example is when Dadiani Fine Art accepted cryptocurrencies for artworks by Andy Warhol in 2018. The other is by using NFTs to replace Certificates of Authenticity for works.

Can NFTs Help With Provenance?

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL
Untitled, Artur Matosyan, 2019.

This use of NFTs to track provenance has been especially attractive to members of the art world.

After all, provenance and authenticity have always been big problems for collectors.

NFTs can potentially solve this, even without becoming the main way that people buy and sell art. For instance, as a work of art changes hands, it can be recorded with an exchange of the NFT in the public ledger of a blockchain.

This could be a secure way to keep provenance clear, which is the heart of art investment. If you can’t prove the painting you have is a genuine article, then the possibility of forgery or misattribution eliminates your ability to make any financial gain.

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL
Sample CoA, Bryce Watanasoponwong, 2022.

In the past (and by and large today), provenance has been secured with a Certificate of Authenticity, a signed document that travels with the artwork to prove it’s the original. All kinds of mediums have relied on this method: from painting to fine art photography to sculpture and beyond. I supply a Certificate of Authenticity for every limited edition print of my work, registered with a hologram number provided by ILFORD Imaging.

Of course, none of this is relevant to the art lover who simply wants to enjoy a beautiful work. Overall, if the art looks great, who cares if it is the original? However, if you want to eventually make money by reselling it (or at least keep this possibility open), you need proof of provenance.

This has led some companies and auction houses to use blockchain as their primary way of tracking provenance, given its security.

The Problems With NFTs

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL
NTF SCAM!! inscription on cubes against the background of dollars and microcircuits, Andrey Metelev, 2022.

While this seems a smart, techy solution to an age-old problem, there are issues.

An NFT is only as good as the agreement you have with the artist that a certain token is related to an artwork's ownership. When you buy an NFT, you do not buy anything other than a digital Certificate of Authenticity.

The widespread use of NFTs for selling digital art shows this clearly. Anyone can save and duplicate the actual digital art image, so what are you buying with an NFT, other than the mere idea of ownership?

Also, we’ve seen that many of the highest valued art NFTs have simply been scams, with the owner repeatedly selling the same token to themselves at increasing higher prices to create the illusion of demand.

Fine Art Ledger

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL
Courtesy of The Fine Art Ledger, 2022.

Fine Art Ledger (FAL) is a system looking to use the strengths of the blockchain while avoiding some of the pitfalls.

This platform, accessible through its mobile interface, allows you to view the Certificate of Authenticity details for a registered artwork. It’s a fine art title registry that digitally records and verifies the ownership of both digital and physical pieces. The agreement with the artist is built-in, unlike some NFTs.

I’ve decided to give it a try. Now, all of my limited edition artworks are registered with FAL.

Final Thought

In the end, it seems that while the NFT marketplace as a whole should be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism, the power of this technology shouldn’t be discounted. Companies like FAL seem to be figuring out how to use the blockchain well.

All of this is just my thinking right now. We are all still trying to figure out how to keep fine art engaged with relevant technologies that can make all of our lives easier. As long as we strive to stay informed, I think we’ll be okay.

If you are interested in the topics of provenance, the blockchain, or fine art’s place in this new field of technology — feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights!

non-fungible tokens NFT Art Blockchain Fine Art Ledger FAL

About Me

Photographer and visual storyteller based in Bangkok

BRYCE Watanasoponwong is a Thai-Australian photographer and visual storyteller. He is interested in producing a narrative series that evoke emotion and make a personal impact. Becoming more involved in how is photography is... read on
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Disclaimer, or, Use At Your Own Risk All information and data on this blog post is only intended for an information purpose. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, suitability, validity or any information. It is essential to do your analysis before making any investment based on your own personal circumstances. Any action you take upon the information on this blog post is strictly at your own risk. I shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided in accordance with no warranties and does not confer any rights.

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