Despite the rising popularity of NFTs, crypto art has yet to reach mainstream audiences in a way comparable to physical art. Any number of reasons could be to blame, but it’s likely a mix of fear (related market volatility and equivocating DeFi with NFTs), a lack of web3 savvy, and the fact that owning a digital file does not carry the same aura or presence as a physical good.
For art appreciators who aren’t avid collectors, locking up art on a website one must visit to view that art probably does not feel like owning the art at all.
It is reasonable to imagine a person with shelves full of art books and a calendar full of gallery and museum visits who also has no interest in the market activity of buying and selling art. But this art lover would still enjoy owning a number of pieces they love. This profile of an art lover might sit squarely in the “right-click + save” camp of crypto art doubters, even if they deeply enjoy digital art.
Unlockable NFTs through MakersPlace’s newest release open a real path to reaching these audiences while also giving artists the opportunity to differentiate themselves and stand out in the crowded market.
Below are ten ideas you can use to add to collectors’ experiences when shopping for your work.
Let’s start with the most obvious offer: prints. The following are the most common formats.
- Fine art giclee
- Canvas giclee
- Acrylic face mount
- HD aluminum
One thing to consider is placing a QR code on the print itself, either at the bottom corner or on the back.
If you want to go above and beyond (and have priced your work accordingly), you could create an Infinite Objects print. These are especially great for animated pieces.
The Physical Original
Moving on to the next most obvious offer, we have the physical corollary of the digital artwork. This may be:
- A painting — as in the case of Damien Hirst’s Currency collection
- A sculpture — as in Matt Gondek’s Fight Club
- A photo negative — as in Stephen Wayda’s recent drops that come with the original negative
The Physical Followup
It’s not necessary to create the work IRL before digitizing. We’ve also seen it happen that the physical piece is either intentionally followed up by a post-factum physical or that the digital piece inspires the creation of a physical piece.
In the Metaversical Series, Spanish artist Antonio García Villarán is a skilled enough painter that he was able to create exact replicas of his digital art on canvas, which is — to me — far more impressive than Hirst’s Currency.
After digital artist and designer Musketon posted an image he’d made of a fictional toy called Crypto Bro, he was approached by Whiteflag Toys, an independent toymaker in France, to create a line of real-life Crypto Bro toys.
Beyond the print, painting, or sculpture, motion artists and filmmakers have an opportunity to go one step beyond using augmented reality.
Artists Violet Jones, Henrik Uldalen, Santiago Pani, and Daniel Martin collaborated on the project Peyote Ugly, which involved heavily animated digitized versions of their paintings, which were sold as NFTs. NFT holders then received the correlating physical painting as well as the ability to use their phones to experience the animated version in augmented reality.
The next best thing to getting an original sculpture is getting a 3D file with your NFT, one that you could use to create your own physical version of the object on your screen.
Art world legend Frank Stella just released his first NFTs: carefully sculpted 3D “forms and shapes that would be difficult if not impossible to conceive of with analog tools alone.” In addition to the 3D artwork, owners of Stella’s genesis NFTs received a file that allowed them to 3D print the sculpture.
Designer Dr. James Novak printed the world’s first full-size bicycle frame as a single piece way back in the more innocent days of 2014, and he’s since released the design as an NFT. According to the 3D Printing Media Network,
“…unlike current 3D printing platforms (e.g., Thingiverse), blockchain technology can track who owns the design at any point and allow designers to reach a broader community of artists and collectors.”— Dr. James Novak
T-shirts, jackets, sweaters, lunchboxes, posters, you name it. Whatever kind of brand you’re trying to build for yourself can be reinforced with well-designed and thought-out clothing and accessories.
Romanian digital artist Diana Coatu uses her abstract pieces as a jumping-off point to create textiles for dresses and other clothing items.
Above and beyond just clothing would be blockchain-authenticated clothing. Azuki’s partnership with Ambush, allowed Azuki to stitch a chip stitched into a hoodie to create an NFT linked to the physical item that verifies ownership and authenticates its value.
Special Access & Bonus Content
Unlockable NFTs don’t have to redeem in the real world. You could also create any imaginable kind of digital content exclusively for your collectors. These could be behind-the-scenes videos, new artwork, music, or a private metaverse.
Similarly, you could set up a private Discord server, give pre-sale access to upcoming drops, or hold exclusive IRL events. If you’re not the IRL event type, you could collaborate with another artist (like a musician or dancer) whose work is more conducive to a live audience and give collectors access through the work they’ve purchased from you.
If you don’t have a finished physical piece, you might have preparatory sketches and initial visual research. Collectors and art lovers might take an interest in your sketches for the insight such materials give into the creative process or to get background on early ideations of something they love.
Such pieces have become priceless to art historians with regard to classical painting and beyond. In the case of digital art, even if your output is solely digital, delivering a physical component that shows ideation with physical tools could go a long way in humanizing your artistic process.
Monographs, small art books, chapbooks, poetry, short stories — all of it is possible and largely untested.
If you do a large-scale series, a simple art book for anyone owning a piece from the series would be a big differentiator. Artists might pair up with writers for essays, poetry, or short stories to complement the artwork. Comic artists have a logical inroad here. And motion designers and filmmakers might use the above-mentioned AR strategy to a more ambitious effect with an entirely digitally augmented book.
Artist Sutu — in collaboration with Code on Canvas and 45 artists and sound designers from around the world — recently released Prosthetic Reality, an Augmented Reality Art book paired with the EyeJack app, which brings to life each artwork with animation and sound.
Unlockables also provide a clear pathway for crypto-curious poets and writers, who might pair original artwork or excerpts sold as an NFT with the physical book or downloadable e-reader files.
Scents & Perfumes
Olfactory art, multi-sensory work, and independent perfumers haven’t had any presence in web3 for obvious reasons, but we’re hopeful this will soon change. Though far less well-known even in the traditional art world, infusing an installation or exhibit with smell or even creating standalone olfactory exhibits has been a growing trend over the last two decades.
The Institute for Art and Olfaction is one organization championing such works as well as offering workshops and other educational opportunities.
Unlockable NFTs provide a new opportunity for scent artists to get their work into the world and an interesting pathway to collaboration for visual artists working in web3 who’d like to make their work more visceral and multi-sensory.
Maybe you’ve got your hands in lots of pots with a handful of brand partnerships or collaborations. Maybe you’ve got such a massive backlog of sketches and paintings that you suspect your significant other of plotting to put them in the oven to make room for guests. Maybe you dabble in something bananas that you’d love to shoehorn into your artistic practice.
If such a thing were true, you might find a venue for such an abundance by creating mystery boxes for collectors, a cornucopian collection that will land you a certain special type of fame and recognition: the unboxing video.
These are just a few ideas that crypto artists could pursue in building a stand-out body of work and career. We know we’ve missed plenty of low-hanging fruit. If there are ideas that you have that we’ve missed, let us know!