Artworks in museums from classics like The Mona Lisa to more contemporary works by artists such as Andy Warhol are authenticated through a process of tracking down documentation of sales (on paper), radiocarbon dating/chemical analysis, expert art analysis, and a number of other “subjective” methods.
By using blockchain technology such as NFTs to authenticate artworks, owners can substantially raise their expectation that the artwork is authentic, and originated from the artist. Moreover, the transfer of original documentation (the original multimedia documentation, ledger of sales and or transfers, and artist statements about the work) is done at the point of sale (or transfer of the artwork from one owner to the next) seamlessly without the need for a file folder and fireproof physical storage of those documents.
Beyond creating a simple way of transferring all of the needed documentation for a fine artwork, NFTs can, if the artist chooses, create some equity in the sale of artworks they create by enabling a royalty (like what is received by movie stars and music artists). This optional royalty has the potential for enabling a more equitable future within the fine art market, while providing a tool for galleries, owners and museums.
The artists were instructed how to set up a cryptocurrency wallet with ETH before creating an artist profile on OpenSea and “minting” an NFT by uploading the documentation of their work. The NFT could then be priced in ETH and put up for sale. If the piece is ever resold, a royalty goes back to the wallet that originally minted the NFT—in perpetuity.
Anyone can create a profile to start collecting NFT artworks. All you need is a MetaMask wallet and ETH, the cryptocurrency used to pay for all transactions on Ethereum. When you purchase the NFT, the artwork gets transferred to your wallet. You can sell it later on the secondary market, and contribute to a new way of supporting artists and creative economies.
NFT stands for non-fungible token. Physical money and cryptocurrencies are “fungible,” meaning they can be traded or exchanged for one another. NFTs are different. Each has a digital signature that makes it impossible for NFTs to be exchanged for or equal to one another (hence, non-fungible).
Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or Dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from a regular ETH coin.
The most common use of blockchain is as a ledger for transactions. Blockchains store data in blocks that are then chained together. As new data comes in it is entered into a fresh block. Once the block is filled with data it is chained onto the previous block, which makes the data chained together in chronological order.
Blockchain is used in a decentralized way so that no single person or group has control—rather, all users collectively retain control. Decentralized blockchains are immutable, which means that the data entered is irreversible. This means that transactions are permanently recorded and viewable to anyone.
The environmental impact is due to the currencies behind NFTs rather than digital artworks themselves. Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other cryptocurrencies are secured by a mechanism called proof of work (PoW), which is an energy-intensive mining process. The intensity of the process increases the security in the system. Ethereum’s developers are shifting to a less carbon-intensive form of security, called proof-of-stake, via a blueprint called Ethereum 2.0.
The artists and curators of this show support moving toward more clean and sustainable forms of NFTs, but utilized ETH to create maximum accessibility to the works at this time.
Art in America, “Should You Worry about the Environmental Impact of your NFTs?” https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/nft-carbon-environmental-impact-1234589742/