Jun 28 2021. views 205
Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for $2.9 million, popular Nyan Cat GIF sold for $531,000, a Homer Pepe art sold for $320,000 and more ridiculously; audio of a fart sold for $90 – what makes NFTs so great that people are willing to throw insane amounts of money at it? NFTs, short for non-fungible tokens, are digital blockchain tied to a digital ledger that can be bought, sold and traded online using cryptocurrency. NFTs are a type of digital asset that represents real-world objects like art and music in a virtual space and is designed to show that someone has full ownership of that unique virtual item. NFTs have been around for years but the last few years have been a gamechanger, with the NFT industry enjoying a major boost and hype with the global NFT market recording over $2 Billion in sales in the first quarter of 2021.
Today, many are calling NFT the ‘next-big-thing for the art industry and local entrepreneurs Lekhya Ratnayake and Dilanjan Seneviratne are staying ahead of the curve with the launch of Asia’s first NFT Art Gallery ‘Kerrwh’. The merging of two polar opposite personalities forms the foundation of Kerrwh; as a photographer, songwriter and producer Dilanjan teams up with tech-savvy, business-oriented, real estate executive Lekhya to curate Asia’s first and only NFT gallery.
“We’ve always been behind on getting aboard of things with the rest of the world but with NFT, we are so early to it and that in itself is a great success to us – being ahead of more developed regional players like Singapore. It’s also fantastic because the NFT industry is still being shaped and this positioning allows us, in our own ambitious way, to be involved in how the industry is going to be created and carried forward” comments Lekhya.
While NFT art exhibitions and auctions are popular in Asia, Kerrwh would be the first NFT art gallery for the region to curate, display and sell digital art on its platform catering to both artists and buyers. Tapping into the creative aspect of the future of art with NFT, Dilanjan explains what Kerrwh and NFT would mean to local artists and the value of their art. “Kerrwh is entirely focused on achieving global sales which will allow artists to be compensated for their work from buyers around the world who are not only more appreciative of digital art but are also able to dispense larger amounts of money for that art. This means an artist who might sell his work for Rs. 50,000 in the physical market is likely to find a multiplied offer for the same art on an NFT platform.”
Artists across the globe are taking advantage of this investment. In March 2021, graphic designer Beeple sold an NFT for a record $69 million at an auction and not soon after, a digital avatar known as a CryptoPunk was sold at Sotheby’s for over $11.7 million. The music industry is also keeping a keen eye on NFTs potential money-making evolution and musicians who’ve seen their profits erode due to digital downloads are now opting to sell their music as NFTs. Kings of Leon generated more than $2 million from the sales of their NFT album and The Weeknd sold an unreleased song and visual art for the same value through an NFT auction.
For Kerrwh, it starts with a simple maiden collection titled ‘NeonAF’ listed on the biggest NFT exchange platform OpenSea. NeonAF is a collection of 9 digital prints with a cyberpunk take on futuristic humanoids in the form of astronauts, lasers, and portals. Depicting a dystopian take on the future, it reinterprets the standard low-life and high-tech formula of the dystopic genre in an optimistic visualisation. The most striking pieces from the NeonAF collection are ‘Chill AF Man’, ‘Elon Dusk’ and ‘Zpiral’ which has an initial starting bid of $387 just days since it was minted onto the platform.
Kerrwh gallery manager, Mealiza Juliane shares that this maiden collection would be an entry point to a series of planned collections from gifted local artists and that Kerrwh will mint each of its collections to the Ethereum network - the compatible cryptocurrency for NFTs.
Given all its hype and its incredible profit yielding potential - is it fair to say then that NFT is the future of all mediums of art? It’s true that NFTs are becoming more mainstream by the day and the creative industry that is constantly evolving into a digital medium is a ripe marketplace for NFTs and blockchain to disrupt the industry and benefit the creators. Yet, the unexplored and unregulated territory of NFT and the volatility of the cryptocurrency market raises a lot of questions, and many critics believe that NFTs are a bubble waiting to burst.
“The volatility of the market is understandable because people are still trying to figure out what has value in NFT and what doesn’t. Right now, the hype is what is contributing to the high values of NFT, but it is not the core utility value of it. The market may fluctuate in the short term but if you look at it over the last 10 years, cryptocurrency has grown continuously and there has been no instance where the value of cryptocurrency has gone lower than the previous years,” answers Lekhya. “This is the most promising technological breakthrough of our lifetime where NFT’s are the democracy of art and cryptocurrency is the currency of the people; it’s banking for the unbanked.”
While it may well be the democracy of art; the double-edged sword of selling art as an NFT has also caused concern in areas of ownership and art theft. This is one of the main issues with NFTs – anyone can claim digital art as their own by simply attaching a token to it; even if they didn’t create it. The fact that there is no requirement that people must attach their real names or identities for transactions on NFT platforms makes it that much easier for work to be stolen and used for profit.
Dilanjan acknowledges the issues that have presented with NFT art and is hopeful that technological developments will resolve them soon. He also shares that Kerrwh being a curated art gallery, the curation process is what helps ensure that problems of art theft and ownership disputes will not arise. “Because we personally curate the collections we display on our gallery, I think it gives us control in ensuring that the art we display is the intellectual property of the artists themselves. We are also very public - and that is one of the best things about NFTs; the transparency – so where there is a legitimate dispute, we are open to investigate and resolve it.”
Despite its few grey areas, NFTs are, by majority agreement, the next chapter in the creative world; more specifically for the digital artists who are finding little to no market demand in the physical art mediums. And with platforms like Kerrwh who are carving a virtual name for Sri Lanka as Asia’s first NFT gallery – opportunities for artists to succeed are endless.
What is Cryptocurrency?
A type of digital or virtual money that exists only in electronic form that can be used to buy goods and services. It's secured by cryptography making it impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. There are different types of cryptocurrency – Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, BitTorrent etc.
What is an NFT?
A non-fungible token stored in a digital ledger called ‘blockchain’ that certifies that the digital asset which is in the form of an NFT is unique and therefore cannot be interchanged. NFT’s can be art, music, videos, audios and even a limited edition game accessory!