$69 Million. That is the all-time record for the sale of artwork by a living artist, and the third highest sum by anyone. – In this case, anyone is Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple. Auctioned by the storied House of Christie’s on March 11th, beyond the number is the art itself. An NFT or non-fungible token. NFT’s are built on the revolutionary technology that undergirds Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. Simply put it attaches a dispersed and permanent transactional record of ownership for a created work. Portion.io CEO Jason Rosenstein spoke with me about the future of the art market and how NFT’s protect artists and provide assurance to collectors.
Portion was one of the first companies in the NFT space, utilizing a unique innovation called the smart contract. Basically, a smart contract attached to a piece of unhackable code is partnered with a piece of art; whether physical or digital. This contract assures the owners, collector, and investor that the art is unique and original. In Rosenstein’s words “assures the authenticity and provenance of the work.”
While it’s easy to get lost in the technical aspects, for tried and true art collectors and investors, Portion.io proprietary technology and companies like it are replacing traditional in-person auction houses. By bringing artists together with collectors, they are seeking to revolutionize the way art is bought and sold.
One of those digital artists is Gary Kaleda who has been involved in creating digital art since the mid 90’s. He described his work thusly “at the most basic level, it expresses the synergy of humanity’s collective relationship to technology.” His arts’ definitional orientation lends itself directly to NFTs.
“NFTs are not only changing the way we create, buy and sell art, but the way we experience it as well. Will NFTs be displayed on monitors, or printed and framed, or turned into 1000 throw pillows, or simply traded without really being looked at? Probably all of these things and more. It’s an amazing time to be an artist because it’s all changing right now.”
Gary is a pioneer in the digital painting world. He sees immense potential in digital art truly having arrived on the world stage with the advent of NTFs. “They are everywhere right now; some good, some bad, and some really bad. It’s like everyone is throwing anything and everything at the wall to see if it sticks or sells. Thankfully, there is a bit of democracy to the process in that popular work will get attention, but great work can easily get lost in a sea of random options. There are also curated NFT sites, but these have the potential to operate like the gallery system with a select few promoting a select few, but then that may change. The world of NFT art is in the process of discovering and defining itself right now and it’s evolving insanely fast.”
His own NFT-based work is specifically designed for this new marketplace as he creates and expands two series. “One series is a selection of abstract digital paintings designed to feel very different from a lot of the character-driven, game-inspired illustrations and gifs currently flooding the NFT space. Paintings like Meditation and Beacon of Benevolence 4 capture more of a quiet, powerful spirituality. I wanted to create something you could really live with and look at on a daily basis. At the same time, some of the character-driven work was so fun and imaginative, I was inspired to create my BRUSHeeZ 3 Series.
These are a collection of characters based on digital brushes from image editing software where the actual characteristics of the brush are kind of brought to life.” All of Gary’s digital paintings, including his NFTs are available, and have a QR code that reveals information about them when scanned. The Brusheez are currently available on Mintable (https://mintable.app/u/gary.kaleda).
The NFT platform for Meditation, Beacon of Benevolence 4 and others will be announced on his website soon https://garykaleda. com/nft For those skeptical or confused by the lingo of this emerging field, NFTs provide an additional way for artists and creators to create and allow collectors and investors to diversify one’s collection and hedge value.
That alone means it’s worthy of consideration. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, commoditized art that can be authenticated becomes ever more essential. Blockchain technology has opened that door and the pandemic moved the time horizon up nearly a decade. An industry in its infancy is always an investment opportunity for those willing to see the potential.