From oddly-dressed apes to clip-art yachts, NFTs have been all the rage for the last year. But will this new trend last, or is it just that—a trend that will ultimately fade, leaving those who’ve poured money into digital works of art wishing they’d bought a painting or sculpture instead?
It was almost exactly a year ago that Beeple auctioned off his piece Everydays: the First 5000 Days, a collage of 5,000 digital images he created over the course of as many days (he started in 2007); that’s some consistency right there. The piece sold at Christie’s for a whopping $69 million, making Beeple the third-most expensive living artist behind American sculptor Jeff Koons and British painter David Hockney. It also marked the first time a purely digital work of art was auctioned off by a major auction house, and helped legitimize NFTs as an art form.
Winkelmann said, “I had not sold my art directly because there was really no market and way for people like me to do that. I was making money as a freelance graphic designer and was getting better jobs as I gained more notoriety.” He’d only become aware of NFTs about five moths prior, and knew nothing about cryptocurrency or the blockchain. “I got lucky with the fact that I was working on this project well before the blockchain even existed, and in retrospect it fit very well with this new technology,” he said.
Ironically, though, as the art world takes steps towards becoming more digital, Winkelmann has moved in other direction, recently opening his first physical gallery in New York. “I wanted to do something…to show people that digital art is just another medium that has the same messages and craft and emotion attached to it that any painting or sculpture has,” he said
The exhibit, called Uncertain Future, displays prints of works the artist made digitally and aims to encourage dialogue about the role big tech companies play in our lives and the power they have in modern society (for example, Winkelmann said, “By kicking Trump off Twitter, Jack Dorsey unilaterally made a decision that affected the global power structure.”).