As artists strive to reach audiences in a digital age, perhaps it’s no surprise some are expanding their artwork into NFTs, Non-Fungible Tokens. These are one-of-a-kind “cryptographic tokens” that can be used to represent real-world items like artwork, clothing and real estate.
However, the transition into this new art technology can be a challenge, explained an employee at Richmond’s Lipont Gallery.
For the past year, Neng Xu, chief technology officer at YouKnowArts, who also works with Lipont Gallery, is working towards helping artists enter the trending market.
Xu said Lipont Gallery saw the potential of NFTs when they started to gain popularity almost a decade ago, however, trading NFTs requires a lot of “technical skills” and the digital market and value system are different than a traditional art market.
“We noticed there are lots of new rules and a new way to promote or organize the artwork and we wanted to help artists that we’re working with to give them a better chance and connect them to this new digital world,” said Xu.
“In the future, everyone will eventually enter the Metaverse and we want to prepare for that.”
Xu told the Richmond News he has been working and studying the NFT trading systems with the gallery for the past year.
Given that NFTs have only been around since 2014, there are still some “unfair things going on under the table,” according to Xu.
“The market is not really well-organized or well-regulated and what we are trying to do is build a more standard and new platform that is friendly for real artists,” said Xu.
NFTs, explained Xu, can be placed in the market as a single artwork, photograph or real-estate to be sold in the digital world, or they can be created in “a series.”
Using the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT series as an example, Xu explains that an NFT series is when an icon, in this case, a digital image of an ape, is used as a base to create different variations of the same icon. For example, an ape dressed like a devil or an ape dressed like an angel.
“Artists can choose to sell 50 icons in a series or even 1,000 and this is all up to them regarding how much they think the artwork is worth,” said Xu.
Meanwhile, Maria Argueta, curator at Lipont Gallery, explained that the NFT market has become a “competitor” to the traditional global art market.
“This is incredibly impressive considering that the traditional art market has been established for several hundreds of years,” said Argueta.
“Now you have this technology that’s almost rivalling our already very established institutions.”
Both Xu and Argueta feel a sense of “rebellion and experimentation” in the younger generation of artists who are using this new digital NFT market to go against “traditional art experts.”
Argueta compared this to the late 1800s when modernist painters rebelled against the traditional academy of arts.
“There is the exact same parallel happening with digital art and the NFT market, it makes sense, in a way, that people now are trying to question the current establishment.”
Lipont Gallery is also working to create a virtual gallery system using VR (virtual reality) equipment.
Every physical art exhibition, said Argueta, will have a co-existing virtual exhibition where people around the world can join and communicate with each other in the space.
“It will be like what Facebook or Metaverse is doing. We will have our own system for it,” said Argueta, adding that the virtual exhibition would remain “online forever.”
While the system and programming for the virtual gallery are still in the works, Argueta said digital artwork is definitely growing and technology is “kind of the direction everything seems to be going.”