Hype about NFTs: “The crypto scene is attracting a new kind of artist”


Technology Review: You are a well-known designer and graphic artist. How did you end up in the world of NFTs?

Andreas Wannerstedt: Three of the biggest NFT platforms, SuperRare, Nifty Gateway and Makersplace reached out to me in Fall 2020 and asked if I would be interested in publishing art on their platforms. I had noticed that some of the artists I followed on Instagram were talking about selling crypto art during this time – so I was curious and decided to try it out. After onboarding, I joined Makersplace for the first time in late October with my first “drop” – and since then I’ve focused on NFTs.

Were you surprised how it all turned out and how lucrative it is now?

To be honest, when I heard about it, I was a bit skeptical at first. But after some research, I started to see the possibilities and got the feeling that this could actually be the future of digital art. In December, the artist Beeple had a huge hit on Nifty Gateway [Anmerkung der Redaktion: Ein einziges Kunstwerk seiner Kunstwerke wurde mittlerweile für 69 Millionen US-Dollar über das Auktionshaus Christie’s versteigert.]. He paved the way. That’s when I realized the true potential of the NFT movement.

What kind of artists are in the scene? Are you more classically trained people like painters or, above all, digital artists?

Especially digital artists, I would say. The crypto scene is attracting a new type of artist, but also a new type of collector, which I find quite refreshing. There are also different types of artists who become part of the scene. Many musicians, bands, fashion designers and so on are currently looking for collaborations with digital artists to get a piece of the hype.

Was digital art difficult to sell before the NFTs emerged?

It was pretty much impossible to sell digital art before the rise of the NFTs. Without the technology with which one could prove the ownership of the work, it would not have attracted collectors and the masses. I previously licensed my art for commercial use and I still do, but that is no comparison to selling art.

Can you explain what exactly it is that you are selling? The video loops with music, which seem to be the real art, can be viewed online free of charge.

I am selling ownership of my art. A unique file with my digital signature that cannot be copied or deleted. (Sure, you can copy the actual video file, just like you can take a photo of a picture in a gallery, but it won’t have a digital signature.)

What I really like about NFTs is that everyone can see them, but only one person can really own them. This is where the technique is similar to traditional art: you can go to many museums and view beautiful art for free, but if you wanted to own a work, you’d have to buy it. Then you also have the right to sell. This, too, is one of the main motivations for collectors.

Many of the “drops” are put straight back on Nifty Gateway, some of them just a few hundred dollars more expensive. Isn’t that some kind of “Bigger Fools” game, in which the buyer simply hopes to sell again for an even larger sum as quickly as possible?

We have seen insane sales in secondary markets over the past few months. I think it’s all a matter of patience. People interested in NFTs for easy money are unlikely to be very successful with them. You might make a few hundred dollars on a few instant sales, but the real winners will be the collectors who drive in the long run.

Where do you think the sometimes insane money comes from? Is there a direct connection with other crypto hypes?

I definitely believe that a lot of those who got into cryptocurrencies early on are also interested in the NFT market. I think that goes hand in hand because art “lives” in the blockchain. But of course: Since NFTs have become a real trend now, I think that many investors with a sound business acumen from many different areas find the market exciting and recognize the potential that comes with this technology.

One of your works, „The Open Hand“, sold over 80 times for $ 1,500 each through Nifty Gateway. Others went away even more expensive. Can you speak of a gold rush?

Well, compared to the non-digital art market, this really isn’t as cool as it looks, but I do think that it will calm down a bit once the hype subsides. Many artists who have just discovered NTFs are meanwhile suffering from FOMO, so they are afraid of missing out. but I don’t think any artist who gets into digital art for a quick buck to take the NFT market with them will be very successful. Many of the artists who sell the most now have made their work available “for free” on other digital platforms such as Instagram for a number of years.

NFTs also allow artists to make money from works that are resold – unlike the regular art market. Will this also make it attractive for established artists? And how does it work?

Yes, as an artist you get some kind of royalty on secondary sales, often 10 percent, at least on some of the NFT platforms. This will definitely attract a lot of digital creatives who want to get away from commercial work and instead concentrate on artistic projects and still want to make a living from it.

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Can every artist join and market themselves successfully on platforms like Nifty Gateway or are there gatekeepers like galleries, just in digital form?

There are currently many different NFT platforms, some of which are not curated, but the big ones like Nifty Gateway and SuperRare are. You have to apply and be accepted before it is even possible to post works of art there.

I was lucky enough to be part of it, but I know that due to the hype it can now take several months to get admitted to the big platforms. In any case, it’s definitely possible to create and sell NFTs outside of them, but it’s harder to reach a large audience and stand out from the crowd.