NFT stands for Non Fungible Token, digital units that can be exchanged exactly like cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. In short, the NFT is an electronic certificate of digital authenticity with an encrypted code and the artist’s signature. The latter attest to the uniqueness and ownership of something that exists only on the web but can still be resold as it is always distinguishable from any other “reproduction”.
If until a month ago the NFT exchange seemed to be the prerogative of the extravagant world of crypto art, recently a 3D NFT of the kitten protagonist of the video game Nyan Cat was auctioned for 590 thousand dollars. But it was above all the 2D one by Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, that attracted the attention of the whole world.
Beeple’s collage fetched $ 69,346,250 in a Christie’s digital auction, a figure never reached even for physical works by JMW Turner, Georges Seurat or Francisco Goya. The American illustrator thus positioned himself in third place in the quotations of living artists, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
The 2D or 3D images are certainly not new, the novelty lies, if anything, in the market forms that support it. The purchase of an NFT is recorded on the blockchain to which it belongs, which guarantees its authorship and traceability, otherwise difficult to establish with certainty: tokenization, in fact, allows you to trace its roaming both since it was produced.
The fact that NFTs are affirming themselves right now is perfectly consequent to the technological acceleration of exchanges (including commercial ones) and their consequent dematerialization. For the first time in history in this century, trade is practiced through the daily transactions of e-commerce, a practice strongly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic that has enveloped the entire planet.
These are purchases that take place in the absence of the physical object requested and in the absence of any certificate of value (money) that physically passes from hand to hand: the use of the pos (in China today covering 85% of purchases) has in turn paved the way for all of this.
To define the progressive digitization of our lives, the philosopher Luciano Floridi has coined the fascinating neologism “onlife” in this regard, which perfectly summarizes the connection in which any of our playful or productive activities now take place. It is above all the digital natives (Gen Z) and the just previous generation (Millennial) to be the protagonists: they are the ones who feed this “fast trading” without any kind of hesitation.
It is a question of a different public and often unrelated to the mechanisms of the traditional art system. And yet it should be noted that it’s hard to believe that the record-breaking purchases that brought NFTs to the fore were their doing. Who bought last March 11 Everydays: the first 5000 days Beeple is the elusive Metakowan founder of Metapurse, the largest NFT fund in the world.
Has finance smelled the deal? Is it a bubble with still undefined boundaries? Maybe. But certainly there is that it would be naive to classify these events as a new diabolical machination: also because the “traditional” art “market” like any other is not (never was) exempt from speculative maneuvers. After all, “sniffing the deal” is what the world of finance has always done and in every moment: it is the very essence of its existence.
One sector that is entering the NFT is for example that of fashion. The road to NFTs for luxury brands is still paved with question marks, but the focus on the blockchain world is evident. They already filter the first rumors and the “crossroads” are too obvious to be random.
Christie’s, the auction house where Beeple’s NFT was sold, belongs to Groupe Artémis, a holding company that boasts a portfolio of investments in sectors ranging from fashion, to food, to publishing, up to and including tourism and technology. In fashion, through its subsidiary Kering, the Pinout family controls brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, St. Laurent …
Nft could therefore be the next evolution of the designer skins already made available by many fashion houses (Gucci such as Balenciaga, but also Versace, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Nike, Adidas …) to “dress” the avatars adopted by gamers in their favorite video games (billions of individuals on the planet, 17 million in Italy).
Some examples already exist. Australian Neuno is working in this direction to reassure buyers on the authenticity of NFTs purchased even simply with credit cards, without necessarily owning cryptocurrency. The Dutch The Fabricant recently organized a 3D fashion design competition in collaboration with Adidas: the first 20 proposals were then auctioned as NFT.
In this regard, it should be considered that while in Europe, Japan and the United States the development of digital trade takes place in markets with almost zero growth, in China and other emerging countries, it is the latter that is driving consumption.
We are at the beginning, but the road has been drawn.