About the Author: Wayne Chang is the General Manager at Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online art gallery. As General Manager, he is responsible for leading the Saatchi Art business both overseeing product development and overall brand strategy. As a visual artist and former web developer, Chang’s expertise lies in building products at the intersection of art and technology.
How are you getting your information about NFTs? If you’ve scrolled through Twitter lately you’ve probably seen dozens of different viewpoints about this new blockchain-based approach to creating art. So which ones are correct?
As the general manager of one of the world’s largest online art galleries, I work with artists every day who want to get their artwork out into the world, reach new collectors, and advance their careers. They see the possibilities that NFTs offer them—more control over their career and artistic vision, verifiable ownership and provenance of their work, a larger collector base—and want to get involved.
But because of the massive amount of information and opinions out there about NFTs, artists are confused. Are NFTs worthwhile? Are they a waste of time? Because they aren’t sure what to believe about NFTs, they hesitate to join the space, limiting their possibilities for new audiences and new revenue streams.
Since I’ve worked in the space and guided artists through the process of creating their first NFTs, here are some of the misconceptions that I’ve commonly observed, and the real facts behind this exciting new technology for artists.
The State of NFTs
NFTs have been all over the news, and artists are paying attention—especially when headlines announce NFT sales like CryptoPunk #5822 selling for $23.7 Million, Bored Ape #1837 selling for $1.5 million, and Beeple’s “Human One” selling for $28.9 million. But beyond the high price tags, blockchain technology is creating significant benefits for artists and collectors that we haven’t seen before. NFTs don’t just provide better methods for verifying proof of ownership and provenance. They also offer artists new ways to connect with buyers, a way to reap royalties on secondary sales, and a more democratized art world, lowering barriers of entry for those who might not have had access to make art and sell it directly to collectors before.
The Top Misconceptions
NFTs are shifting the entire paradigm of what it means to exchange assets in the art world. Unfortunately, the space is complex and there’s a lot of bad information and confusion. Let me debunk a few of the top misconceptions that are keeping artists from fully embracing the new opportunities NFTs can offer.
Misconception 1: NFTs are Bad for the Environment
One of the biggest misconceptions is around the negative environmental impact of NFTs due to the high energy usage of blockchain technology. Some of those misconceptions stem from fear, uncertainty, and doubt around a new technology. Many daily activities we take for granted—online streaming, flying, etc.—consume huge amounts of energy, and yet we rarely worry ourselves about their carbon footprint.
Yes—the blockchain has a sizable energy cost. But the crypto industry is seeking ways to attain more efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. Many blockchains, including Etherium, are moving from proof of stake (POS) verification to proof of work (POW), which will cut energy costs by upwards of 99%. Crypto organizations are also committing to more sustainable energy usage, as evidenced by the Crypto Climate Accord.
In the meantime, there are many POS blockchains out there right now, including Polygon and Tezos, that are much more environmentally friendly than Etherium is currently. As an artist, there’s no reason not to try your hand at some of these other blockchains.
Misconception 2: NFTs = I Don’t Need Galleries
Because artists can mint NFTs on their own and sell them through a number of platforms, many artists believe that they don’t have to work with galleries or curators anymore to further their career. However, artists entering the NFT space need curators and galleries more than ever. Curators want to help develop an artist’s career, and one who’s familiar with the NFT space, its trends, and its buyers, can be an incredible resource for an artist just starting out. Galleries also have the ability to handle the marketing and promotion that an artist may not have the expertise or time to do, and can also help artists tell their story to a wider audience.
Misconception 3: NFTs Are Just a Fad
There are a lot of people, especially on social media, who haven’t necessarily engaged in the NFT space, yet have already dismissed it as a passing fad. Many times, these folks are naysaying because of the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). NFTs are not a fad, but a new technology in its early days of adoption that has already revolutionized how we experience, interact with, and create art. NFTs have shifted the paradigm of how artists exhibit, display, and distribute their art, how artists get paid, and the roles of curators, galleries, and auction houses. Blockchain technology has already brought incredible advances to other industries and sectors, altering the way we conduct financial transactions, exchange assets, and track data and ownership—and now the art world gets to benefit from this technology as well.
Misconception 4: NFTs are Only for Digital Artists
Because NFTs are digital assets and associated with blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, many artists dismiss them as just being for those working in digital mediums like video, graphic design, 3D art, or animation. However, many artists who work in physical mediums are having equal success with NFTs. In these cases—whether the artist is a painter or a sculptor—there is a physical work and the digital ownership of it is tracked on the blockchain as an NFT. In fact, the aforementioned “Human One” work by Beeple is a “hybrid digital and physical artwork.” While NFTs are still in their nascent stages, they should be thought of as a way for every type of artist to reach a new audience.
Leaving Misconceptions Behind
Artists looking to debunk the misconceptions around NFTs should turn to trusted sources in the space, like established platforms and galleries that work with artists every day to create NFTs. Knowing the truth behind the misconceptions will help artists gain the confidence they need to begin creating NFTs of their art and to take full advantage of the benefits they can provide.