No, no print or copy was sold, but a ‘non-fungible token’ (NFT). A digital coin such as a Bitcoin or – more accurately – an Ethereum crypto coin.
These coins represent the artwork and are credited to the Ethereum blockchain, which keeps track of when and to whom the NFT is sold. The buyer of Nyancat thus officially owns a unique file, which no one else in the world owns.
You cannot hang an NFT artwork on the wall. But it is yours.
Art that you cannot touch
“It definitely took me a while before the penny dropped, I found the concept of owning art without being able to touch it or hang it on the wall difficult to understand,” admits the Dutch NFT artist Ramon Bruin.
Still, the concept fascinated him. “Digital art has always been seen as an image, a picture that anyone could copy by taking a screenshot of it.” But according to Bruin, an NFT is more like a real painting: “You can have a photo of the Sunflowers printed on canvas, but then you don’t have Van Gogh yet.”
Bruin creates optical illusions, photographing his drawings from such a perspective that it seems as if they have depth. Because the photo is “essential”, according to Bruin, it was easy for others to copy his work with a screenshot.
“For me it is a wonderful new step that I can now have my artworks recorded in the blockchain. I now add digital elements to the composition of the photo, so I have many more options.”
A million-dollar market
According to market analyst Cryptoart.io, the crypto art market is now worth about $ 120 million. Especially in recent months, the value of NFTtokens hard on.
Sites such as Nifty Gateway organize art auctions, in which a series of works of art are sold at once. “It often sells out within seconds,” says Bruin. “And they are also bought by ‘classic’ art collectors, such as the head of auction house Sotheby’s.”
Bruin notices that his work is also receiving attention, but that people still find it difficult to understand NFT art. “Few people know what Ethereum is at all, and even fewer own it.”
But although he finds it difficult to sell his art, Bruin mainly sees ‘special perspectives’. “It gave me the opportunity to be the very first artist to have a 3D drawing on the blockchain and that’s a title I’ll never lose.”
Fear of ecological damage
There has also been criticism of crypto art. Because it uses blockchain technology, a lot of computing power is used from computers to arrive at an NFT token.
This has consequences for the environment. A popular tweet that has been circulating in recent weeks estimates that the transactions around a specific NFT token equate to 1.5 thousand hours of flight or the total energy use of a European citizen in 77 years.
The data comes from the website cryptoart.wtf, which calculates how much energy it consumes from arbitrary cryptoart. That is because calculations have to be made with every transaction in order to record something like this in the blockchain.
Brown isn’t too concerned about that. “Mining takes a lot of energy,” he says, “but so do ‘normal’ currencies. Moreover, Ethereum 2.0 will be launched in November, with no more mining needs.” According to him, it is more environmentally friendly.