An overview for artists who want to be on the blockchain through the new form of art called “rare digital art.”
By Joe Chiappetta
It’s a pretty interesting time to be alive. Especially as an artist, I have seen rapid opportunities opening up for creative people. This has been largely due to advances in cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, and high speed mobile internet. With new technology often comes new terminology, methodology, and of course, opportunity. Such is the case with a wide classification of artwork known as crypto-art, which can be very loosely defined as artwork having something to do with cryptocurrency.
Of course, the broad category of crypto-art includes physical artworks where the subject matter has to do with cryptocurrency, such as a tangible painting on canvas featuring a Bitcoin logo. In fact, such artworks are probably the first types of modern crypto-art. Yet this article has more to do with a newer phase of crypto-art: specifically digital art that is literally powered by blockchain technology.
Indeed, cryptocurrency and the mobile web have opened up the art world in unforeseen ways. This crypto-art article for beginners is focused solely on existing opportunities in rare digital art rather than resources that may soon be available. To be even more specific, in this primer I’m talking about current ways for digital artists to increase their exposure and potentially earn more income from their digital artwork through new developments in cryptocurrency. Therefore, every artist with high-speed internet, a computer, and a pioneering spirit should take note.
The Rise of Rare Digital Art
Rare digital art is also known by the term crypto-collectibles, digital collectibles, and even the most consumer unfriendly technical term, nonfungible tokens (NFTs). That latter term refers to the non-interchangeable nature of the cryptocurrency tied uniquely to each specific piece of artwork. I personally prefer the term rare digital art. It seems more user-friendly. Yet this field is still so new (started in 2015), that no one really knows which term will stand out above the rest.
At its core, the rare digital art industry is comprised of limited edition digital artworks that are each attached to a unique cryptographic token–also known as a cryptocurrency. A record of who owns this token and its attached art is readily available on a specific blockchain. Cryptocurrency runs on a “chain” of typically unalterable data, grouped in sequential “blocks.” That’s where the term blockchain comes from.
Often for those first hearing about the concept of rare digital art, an important question comes up. It is an issue that must be addressed. “Why would an art collector want to spend money to own digital art when anyone can just copy the artwork file for free from the Internet to their own computer?”
This is a simple and fair question. The answer is simple too. Indeed, some will directly copy the image file from the Internet. Yet certain collectors want much more. It has to due with art authenticity, resale potential, and curation. Such collectors will want to own the digital art that was personally issued directly by the artist in verifiably limited quantities. Blockchain has made this possible, and collectors are already doing exactly that. Moreover, many of these collectors choose to show off their collections to the public. Again, blockchain has made ownership of digital goods a new reality.
As a quick reference, here is a bulleted list that answers this common question:
Why Own Rare Digital Art When I Can Copy It for Free?
1. Prestige of Ownership
3. Resale Value
6. Curation Statement
9. Safe Crypto Use-Case
Another concept to understand in this field is that many different blockchains have been created; yet not all blockchains are created equal. In fact there are well over 3,600 separate blockchains, yet many of them will amount to nothing significant. CoinMarketCap, a site that lists key metrics on most cryptocurrencies, currently shows that there are at least 3,684 different cryptocurrencies.
Gratefully an art-minded person can just focus on the main blockchains that are in the widest use today to release and sell art directly using this technology. Currently there are only a handful of blockchains that have significant art trading volume. The blockchain that is currently in the widest usage to issue and trade rare digital art upon is the Ethereum blockchain. In 2017, rare digital art became possible to be issued using Ethereum. Coming on the scene in 2018, MakersPlace became the first rare digital art market that offered art collectors the option to pay using Ethereum or a traditional credit card.
While tech savvy artists and collectors have the freedom to figure out how to use blockchain to directly release and sell rare digital art without the help of a third party, the process is quite compilated. Yet MakersPlace has made the process so user-friendly, newcomers don’t really need to know anything about blockchain to participate. With a credit card and a MakersPlace account, non-technical people can collect rare digital art and own it on the blockchain without even knowing that blockchains exist.
Since blockchain data can’t be easily altered, and the data is verifiable by anyone, digital scarcity is now a real option for any piece of digital artwork. This means that digital art can now be issued in limited editions and collected for its level of rarity on the blockchain!
While I believe that this is a time of opportunity for artists because of cryptocurrency developments, I must also add a disclaimer. Cryptocurrency is fairly new technology (since the release of Bitcoin in 2009), somewhat unregulated (or inconsistently regulated), subject to certain tax laws, and often volatile in its US Dollar equivalent highs and lows. In other words, if you do get into this field and start earning a lot, definitely consult a tax professional and know that there’s a lot of price fluctuation in the cryptocurrency market. Moreover, if you’re a risk taker, a tech enthusiast, willing to learn the tax implications, and not faint of heart, pay close attention to developments in this space: as rare digital art is slowly making its mark on the mainstream art market.
With all of this new technological development, for visual artists, there is a bit of a learning curve to know how to access the full benefits of these new systems–or even where to start first. Yet MakersPlace has made it quite accessible to everyone. Plus artists are naturally learners, risk takers, and observant people themselves. In time those who want to be part of this new crypto-art movement will learn the digital tricks of the trade as lifelong learners and art pioneers of tomorrow.
I hope this introductory article on how artists have migrated their business onto the blockchain for increased growth has stirred your curiosity. In all my many decades as an artist I have never seen so much rapid development and economic potential for the creative mind. There is no way to tell how rapidly these markets will grow, or what future roadblocks they may encounter. Therefore, over time, perhaps look into this bold new community of rare digital art. Test the crypto-waters, so to speak. As for me, I will be looking forward to these and probably many more art innovations as crypto-markets mature and increase in adoption. Hopefully, I will see you around the crypto-art universe too!