In 2019, artist Maurizio Cattlelan created a stir in the artworld when his art piece Comedian – a banana duct-taped to the wall – was sold for $120,000 and was subsequently eaten by performance artist David Datuna. The international press that the stunt gathered played into the hands of both the artist and investor, and Cattlelan milked up the irony as the artworld slow-clapped in disbelief – or envy.
Probably envy. Over time especially, as the investor’s proof of authenticity is now probably worth seven or eight figures.
The value was not in the art, but the idea or story. Effectively the receipt being more valuable than the purchase. Influencers can do this. Fame – even in your field of creativity gives credibility to all your work, as long as you present it in the right way. A message Cattlelan was sending out to the stubbornly elitist artworld.
In March this year, artist Mike Winkelmann – also known as Beeple – sold a JPEG of his Everydays Project artwork for over $69 million. Every day, for 5000 days, beginning in 2007, Winkelmann created a piece of art. These pieces were digitised to form a one-off collage. Art auction house Christies sold the artwork. The first time they had ever sold a nonphysical art piece.
Winkelmann’s work is what is known as a non-fungible token or NFT. These have become increasingly popular in recent months. Jack Dorsey, owner of Twitter, sold the first ever tweet on the platform for $2.9 million, recording artist Grimes has sold a string of NFTs raising $6 million.
The digital art for sale is a one off, but it doesn’t mean they cannot be enjoyed on the internet by others. It simply means that there is an owner of a unique copy of that artwork. NFTs are certificates of authenticity and listed as part of a crypto storage facility called Blockchain.
I’ve always been interested in created one-off projects. My own art doesn’t specialise in any specific areas. I write fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction and urban fiction. I paint with acrylic and watercolour, I draw in pencil and pen, I quill, collage and mould. I use clay, paper, resin – even chocolate. Every project, even if connected by theme – such as The Soul Prophecies series – is unique in its own way. The appeal of creating special edition works has attracted me to the idea of creating NFTs of my books.
This week, I sold a special edition NFT eBook of my latest book Quantum Messenger for $100. The special edition had its own ISBN, a new cover – from a painting I made myself, a special foreword and the book included the link and lyrics to the song Who Am I? written by my main character Apollo, which is added at the point when the scenes in the book are in sync with the viewpoint of Apollo at that point.
I plan to make Apollo himself available as an NFT later this year.
Independent publisher services platform BooksGoSocial have set up an NFT Book Shop. These NFT are collectors’ special-editions – usually minted as 1 of 100 (though I chose to sell mine as a one-off unique copy). This idea will open up avenues for revenue for all authors – as authors can offer eBook collections that include things that can’t be sold on Amazon and other such platforms. Some include videos of authors reading passages from their books, or special messages for the buyers.
What’s more, the author gets a cut from any re-sale of the NFT. So, as an author or book becomes more popular, the value of the NFT potentially rises too.
In a world where we are overwhelmed by a gluttony of access to art, design, technology, music, books and video, we often fail to see value in anything other than being entertained for a few moments or hours. To own something, to know that this art belongs to you, allows you to enjoy it from a different perspective. It allows you to appreciate the art and help nurture it, knowing its value to you goes beyond the entertainment and allows for sentiment and the personal experience of investing your soul into that work of art. Something you, and only you can experience.
As an artist, it’s what we strive for, to know what our soul creates now has value and meaning for someone else. A subconscious means of communication between the creator and consumer.
NFTs may be the future of art, cementing that connection and communication.