The NFT-Hype – Is it art?

A question that comes up again and again in the course of art history, especially when it comes to new forms of expression.

Non-fungible-tokens, or NFTs in short, are unique cryptographic tokens that are encrypted with the artist’s signature and can be authenticated, certified and identified using the blockchain. They are absolutely forgery-proof. NFTs are CryptoCollectibles, beside CryptoArt there are e.g. CryptoMotors, CryptoVoxels or CryptoKitties.

In purely formal terms, NFTs fulfill all the characteristics of an artwork: artist name, title, year, medium, dimensions (pixels).

Regarding the art historical analysis, new technologies are no longer a passive tool in artistic practice. Art made by the computer has been around since the 1960s. CryptoArt is a sub-area of digital art. Digital art in itself is difficult to categorize, mostly these works combine different elements (such as a physical installation with an interactive sound and software component). Forms of expression that a digital artwork can take are installations, films, videos or animations, internet art, software art, virtual reality art, augmented reality art, artificial intelligence art or robotic. The digital topics such as activism, hactivism, telerobotics, data visualization, public interactives, social media or the web are even more complex. Digital art is subordinate to media art. Media art, on the other hand, is contemporary art.

The question of whether art or non-art thus primarily concerns the iconography of the NFTs, those scientific method of art history that deals with the interpretation of motifs in the works. Artists who produce NFTs and offer them on various art platforms like Nifty GatewaySuperRare or Foundation are inspired by the game world. Among the motifs you can find anime characters, crypto punk worlds or tech idols like Elon Musk. Others are more conceptually, like the artist PAK, who explores the limits of a digital file as a unique item and offers identical image files with different titles and for different prices.

When judging art, art collectors, gallery owners, curators and art critics play an important role. Knowledge, experience and the exchange of opinions determine, among the vita, the market value of an artist.

But how does the connoisseur judge art that breaks completely new ground and eludes comparability? If we look back at the modern age, many masterpieces were recognized as such much later due to their novelty. Works towards the end of the 19th century were insulted as “Impressionist”, Marcel Duchamps’ “Fontaine” was initially ridiculed and abstract art was also subject to various attacks. All of these developments were extremely important and groundbreaking for future art.

NFTs are a new type of art. Their unusual aesthetics as well as the new themes is giving traditionalists headaches. Approaching new viewing habits takes time. The generation that grew up with the Iphone, on the other hand, is noticeably open to this innovative form of art.

And interestingly enough, they form an entirely new collector base. Many of the well-known NFT collectors such as Whale Shark did not have much art experience before. The new art community is extremely large and future-oriented.

In short: yes, some of the Niftys are art, but some aren’t. Time will tell how important and relevant these artists are. Their value is currently determined by demand. And the demand is tremendous!