Whatever happened to NFTs and crypto art?

Multi-million dollar NFT Art

You may remember that in March 2021, Christies sold a digital collage NFT by the artist Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) for nearly $70m (£58m). The picture itself was called ‘Everydays – the first 5000 days’. It was a collage of smaller pictures taken from Winklemann’s prolific output of digital art over the years. To be fair Winkelmann has worked very hard at digital art and has built a huge online following of over 2 million people with his pictures and illustrations.

Beeple’s ‘Everydays - the first 5000 days’.
Beeple’s record breaking NFT picture. Courtesy Beeple, Christie’s and Twitter.

In the crypto-art world all hell let loose and we were told that crypto-art or the NFT (non fungible token) was the future of art. Many believed the sensational headlines. There is a good account here from the Verge written during the early days of the NFT boom. Between January and March 2022 about $19 billion was spent on NFTs.

Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Madonna, Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Hart were drawn into the craze and spent fortunes. For example in January 2021 Justin Bieber paid $1.29m for a “Bored Ape” NFT, a digital picture of a ‘bored’ ape similar to the picture below.

‘Bored Monkey’ type NFT – Copyright OpenSea

It is a fact that art is only worth what collectors and connoisseurs think it is worth. A Vermeer painting is valuable because virtually no one could paint with such verve, vision and skill all those centuries ago and people respect that. Alas unlike a Vermeer, Justin Bieber’s NFT purchase has apparently declined in value by over 80%. A lot of other people have been burned too, because many very expensive and supposedly valuable NFTs are now deemed almost worthless. So much so that the tax advisors of wealthy people, who bought expensive NFTs, are now advising their clients to write them off as tax losses.

As I said earlier this all reflects the primeval forces which value art in the first place. The admiration people have for good art. Skill, originality, insight, awe, beauty, something worth saying, something that impresses, something that has a heart, something that speaks to the heart, something that highlights the best of us. For example the feelings I have for Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’, Van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini Marriage’ and Basquiat’s ‘Skull’. Do we really get that from the often small cartoon-like pictures being sold on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea?

At this point one is tempted to call in comedians for their wisdom. No not the comedians making the NFTs. Nor some of the hapless ‘investors’. But rather we seek a humorous point of view. One thinks of fools and money being parted or the old adage ‘There’s one born every minute’.

I must admit that I too tried to join the NFT gold rush. I decided to create (mint) some NFTs of my own. First I opened an account at http://www.opensea.io, which is the biggest online crypto art marketplace. Their web site told me that I needed a ‘crypto wallet’ so I opened a MetaMax virtual cryptocurrency wallet.

MetaMax cryptocurrency wallet
My MetaMax cryptocurrency wallet

After opening my MetaMax wallet I then needed some Ethereum, or ‘Eth’ as it is known. This is where things began to worry me. Apparently to get some Eth currency I needed to pay ‘gas fees’ which depending on the time of day can be as much as £120. Ouch. I began to think that whether or not artists make a penny out of NFTs, someone else is obviously making a lot. So I read up about this and the online experts told me that gas fees were high and had always been for Eth. They grumble about it constantly. So one needs to pay money to actually…get some money. It is like a cashpoint machine that charges £50 to get £10 in cash. I only wanted about £15 worth of Eth to ‘mint’ my first NFT. Apparently the gas fees are a one off. Eventually someone told me online that if I was patient there were times when gas fees were much much lower, usually when the USA is asleep. I waited for a couple of weeks and eventually gas fees dropped as low as £12 one evening for a short time, so I eventually opened my Eth wallet. Then another £15 to get some Ethereum. I was in business! I thought.

Ethereum cryptocurrency.
The Ethereum symbol

So now I had my Eth. I could mint an NFT! I must admit I did not put a lot of effort into this – I simply minted a drypoint etching of a pine cone which I had made at Hull Art College. And that was it – my NFT was on OpenSea and on sale. I was part of the NFT revolution.

GrahamArt NFT on www.opensea.io
My NFT of a pine cone

Here is my NFT. Enjoy. So far no one has offered £58 million for it. In fact no one has bought it at all. Not even Justin Bieber or Madonna. But it was quite fun to make it.

Incidentally for all those people who have lost money on NFTs, well I sympathise with you I really do. Remember cryptocurrency and NFTs are only worth what a bunch of people on the Internet think they are worth. I’ll stick with my old fashioned pension investments for now.

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