The worlds of art and cryptocurrencies have found common ground in works of art that incorporate indecipherable tokens or NFTs. But critics of this burgeoning market have questioned its longevity and validity: Why, they ask, spend millions of dollars on art that can’t be shown in real life?
To answer this question, some players in the digital art field are developing the hardware to turn previously intangible artworks into something that collectors and galleries can hang on their walls.
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Certainly, digital art can be displayed on a regular monitor or television, or loaded into a digital frame. But proponents of custom frames say the new medium deserves a new type of screen, both for aesthetic reasons – it could have a higher resolution, for example – and to provide a more personalized user experience.
It’s about taking the artwork and presenting it to the world in an interesting way, Mike Winkelmann, a digital artist who recently sold NFT for $69 million, told Bipple Real.
Digital artworks are now mainly viewed online. Platforms such as Flawnt and Showtime allow owners of NFTs to curate and showcase their collections in online galleries and on social media. The nature of digital art means that anyone can post copies online almost anywhere – including on websites and social media platforms like Instagram.
According to Zoe Scaman, founder of cultural strategy and entertainment studio Bodacious Ltd, new ways of presenting digital art in the real world can help make it visible to more people outside the internet bubble and increase mass acceptance of the form.
Sometimes you have to fall back on the old world or the familiar to help people navigate the new world, she said. For the NFT, this means giving others a look at our collections, just as we do with traditional art collections, either by having them in house, lending them to galleries, or managing them in some way, she said.
Bipple, which sold $69 million worth of digital art this month, is partnering with Infinite Objects to send buyers of its NFT art a physical version of their purchase. Digital picture frames are shipped in a gift box.
Galleries have already begun to adapt to the presentation of digital works: NFT’s Chain Reaction exhibition, on view this week at ABV Gallery in Atlanta, showcases art in a room equipped with screens, Skaman said.
Beeple is sending buyers of its NFT art objects specially created by Infinite Objects Inc, a New York-based startup that makes video prints. The QR codes linked to each work’s unique NFT are signed by the artist and embedded in the back of the frames, which are shipped in elegant gift boxes.
The framework is designed to have no interface. The digital animation images loaded on each frame cannot be replaced with others, and the animation cannot be stopped, rewound or paused; the customer must put it back in the box or discharge the battery to turn it off. Each frame looks less like a tablet or a TV and more like a statue or a still image, says Roxy Fata, COO of Infinite Objects.
Another startup, Qonos Inc, is taking the opposite approach with its own digital art frames, which cost $999 for the 17.3-inch model and $1499 for the 24-inch version.
The company’s founder, cryptocurrency entrepreneur Mo Levin, said Qonos almost wants to be the Spotify of NFT art. Levine says people who buy a digital canvas to showcase their own art can also access their work from the extensive library and download playlists created for different moods.
Qonos canvases allow digital art enthusiasts to upload and display their own NFT acquisitions.
Because that’s one of the big problems with NFT art, he said. There’s a lot of bad and good art out there, and it’s hard to sort through all the noise to find what you like.
The artworks in the Qonos library are displayed on the screen with the titles of the attributions. According to Levine, the startup is developing a system to pay royalties to digital artists when their work is placed on someone else’s Qonos frame.
The first batch of Qonos, consisting of 2,000 frames, was sold in less than 24 hours this month, he said.
Meanwhile, Beeple is working on the next version of the NFT framework. He refused to say what he would eventually look like, except that he might not look like an executive at all. Instead, he hoped to make something more sculptural that would resemble a physical embodiment of the art itself.
I want to make an object that, as soon as you enter the room, if you’ve never seen it before, makes you say: Okay, what’s going on?
Irreplaceable tokens, or NFTs, have exploded onto the digital art scene over the past year. Proponents say it’s a way to make digital assets scarcer and therefore more valuable. The WSJ explains how they work and why skeptics doubt their sustainability. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ
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