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NFT Art: How Digital Art Is Being Used As Cryptocurrency By Celebs Like Grimes & Azealia Banks

Photo: Getty, Wikimedia Commons and FeatureFlash Photo Agency on Shutterstock
Grimes, Hashmask and Azealia Banks

Last year, a 10-second video artwork was bought for $67,000 by Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile. A week ago, he sold that same piece for $6.6 million.

What he purchased is a trending new digital asset known as a non-fungible token (NFT). During the pandemic, NFTs have skyrocketed in popularity with investors and collectors rushing to buy the items that only exist online.

NFTs can range from digital artwork, such as the one purchased by Rodriguez-Fraile, to sports cards to the audio sex tape recorded and sold by Azealia Banks and boyfriend Ryder Ripps, a conceptual artist, for 10 .00 ETH, or $17,240.40.

Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, has been around for years but now, and works via the same principle. NFTs are the new big thing and many say that they represent the future of digital ownership.

What is NFT cryptocurrency and what makes it non-fungible versus fungible?

An NFT is a special type of cryptocurrency. It represents a unique aspect of buying and selling in that it is not mutually interchangeable.

Many may be wondering the same thing. If it’s online, can’t someone just save the video or screenshot an image without paying anything? No, and here is why.

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All NFTs are authenticated by blockchain technology, which serves as a digital signature to certify who owns the NFT and that it is in fact the original item. This allows the NFT to be certified as one of a kind and removes the possibility of fake NFTs selling for more than they are worth.

“You can go in the Louvre and take a picture of the Mona Lisa and you can have it there, but it doesn’t have any value because it doesn’t have the provenance or the history of the work,” said Rodriguez-Fraile.

“The reality here is that this is very, very valuable because of who is behind it,” he added.

As mentioned a little above, NFTs are unique in that they cannot be exchanged, which is what “non-fungible” means. Each one is one of a kind, as opposed to assets that are “fungible,” like money or stocks.

What is NFT digital art?

NFT art pieces are created by artists and sold to collectors. They are like paintings or sculptures, except they exist exclusively within the digital realm.

The musician, Grimes, is one of the many artists that recently made a pretty penny through NFT art. After putting a series of 10 pieces created in collaboration with her brother, Mac Boucher, up for auction, some being one of a kind and others with thousands of copies, she has made more than $6 million.

Of the art she sold from their "War Nymph" collection, the highest-selling piece consisted of a cross, a sword, and flying cherubs overlaid with an original song by Grimes herself. The total price? $389,000 for the piece, titled "Death of the Old."

Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, is a creator of NFT digital art. He has partnered with Nifty Gateway in the past and has sold $3.5 million worth of art. Grimes has partnered with them as well, in addition to WayNymph in order to promote her album.

Christie’s, an auction house, recently launched their first sale of digital art where they sold a collage of 5,000 pictures by Beeple. It’s an art piece that only exists as an NFT. So far, the highest bid sits at $3 million with the sale due to close on March 11.

“We are in a very unknown territory. In the first 10 minutes of bidding, we had more than a hundred bids from 21 bidders and we were at a million dollars,” said Noah Davis, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.

What are Hashmasks?

Another form of digital, Hashmasks, described by their originators, Zurich-based Suum Cuique Labs, as "a living digital art collectible created by over 70 artists globally."

When you buy a Hashmask, you are given a Name Changing Token (NCT), which allows the owner to name one of 16,000+ NFTs.

Each NFT is a portrait consisting of six features: a character, a mask, an eye color, a skin tone, an item and a background. Many Hashmasks also included embedded hidden messages.

One of the co-creators of the projectors, known only as "John Doe," told CoinDesk that such "[puzzles] and messages spread across Hashmasks creates community interaction and adds rarity."

Photo: Created by "Suum Cuique Labs GmbH", Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Is NFT the future and is it sustainable?

The NFT world has seen an explosion in popularity. With the pandemic causing so many things to close down, it makes sense that NFTs blew up when they did.

Could the market for NFTs be inflating into a bubble? Are the large amounts of money going into NFTs a temporary phenomenon?

Following the sale of her own audiotape, Banks shared her opinion of the medium in her Instagram stories.

"I really do feel like this crypto s—t is a scam," Banks wrote. "Sure it was fun to learn for a cute minute but there's a lot of virtue signaling and elitism in the space despite its cause being to 'democratize wealth.' "

"Lots of talk of decentralization but in actuality it's supercentralization. The public ledger 'seems' like a good idea but when you think about it …. literally any and everyone can have access to your finances and financial habits......," she added.

Investors and experts alike say that there is a risk of huge losses when the hype dies down.

This “hype” requires research and deep understanding to know which pieces are worth investing in and will hold their value even years down the line.

The future is bright and the NFT boom is just getting started. Only time will tell what's in store for NFTs and digital assets.

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.