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ARTISTREE

Insider Insights: What’s Next for NFT Art?

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Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have taken the art world by storm over the past year. Thanks to technology, any assets, whether it’s a video clip, an image or even a physical item, can be represented digitally as NFTs on a blockchain, which is a decentralised, distributed digital ledger of transactions. NFTs then serve as unique digital certificates of authenticity and ownership to be traded on a blockchain.

 

The fact that we can now easily collect “original” copies of digital artworks is one of the important factors behind the rise of digital art. There’s no doubt that NFT art has found its place in the market, but how will it continue to reshape the art world? What are the latest developments in the NFT art space? And what implications do they bring for art lovers? We ask two industry experts to share their insights.

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Unchaining the Art World

“For the past 25 years, the global art industry had been generally growing towards massive consolidation, which squeezed out artists at the margins,” says Joanne Ooi, cultural commentator and curator who co-created Art Unchained, an exhibition and symposium on the impact of technology on the art industry hosted at ArtisTree in 2020. “Now we finally have a technology to reverse that trend, as it allows artists who can’t find galleries to exhibit their works to put their vision online.” In other words, NFTs have unshackled the art world.

Currently, one of the biggest challenges for artists to enter the NFT art scene is their unfamiliarity with the technology. But Jehan Chu, co-founder and managing partner of blockchain investment and advisory firm Kenetic Capital, thinks this is quickly changing as more resources are being made available to help artists understand the process. In Hong Kong, for example, we’ve had events like Art Unchained and the Digital Art Fair, “which not only allowed the public to easily experience digital and NFT art, but also offered inspiration for artists to try it out,” says Chu.

Ooi concurs, adding that unfamiliarity will no longer be a challenge in three to five years, when NFTs become so common that they will just be part of our daily lives. “Of course, we’re still at an early stage where traditional platforms are still a critical part of the commercialisation process – it’ll probably take another 18 months for these platforms to be sidestepped,” she says. “But this is exciting for art fans, as it means the traditional two-dimensional art industry will finally open up when everybody can easily start collecting art through NFTs.”

The Emergence of Quality NFT Artworks

If you want to start collecting NFT art but feel overwhelmed by the large amount of works out there, you aren’t alone. “We see a giant number of low-quality entrants onto the scene currently,” says Ooi. “As with any new technologies, just like social media, the early adopters are able to monopolise the space regardless of their quality.”

 

However, Ooi is hopeful that “quality and genuine arbiters of taste” will soon return. “They are emerging already,” she says, “and curators will have an important role to play in helping us to distinguish great NFT artworks from the mediocre ones. There will be AI curators, but they can never replace humans – there will always be moments of transcendent magic, which are inexplicable within the context of human aesthetics, which stem from choices, not math and algorithm.”

The Convergence of the Fine Art and NFT Art Communities

When thinking about what makes good art, Chu believes that the intention and ability of an artist to communicate and execute an idea – whether it’s through pixels or paint – remain the most important factors.

 

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s fine art or NFT art,” says Chu, who is also a former art dealer and currently an advisor to digital artists such as Mike Winkelmann “Beeple”. “But I find the main difference between the two art scenes lies in the communities around them. It seems the fine art community isn’t ready for the new medium, and some even struggle to recognise NFT artworks as ‘art’.”

 

However, Chu believes that this is also why it’s so exciting to introduce the new medium to the art world. “It could bring new energy, new interpretations and new ways of expression,” he says, “because NFTs exist not only in an aesthetic or conceptual framework, but also in a technological and economic framework. It’s an entirely new way of thinking about art and community. The fine art and NFT art communities are still separate, but they are colliding, and will eventually converge.”

 

Hong Kong as Asia’s Centre for Digital Culture

The record-breaking sales of NFT artworks testify to the boom of the global NFT art scene, and Hong Kong’s art community is ready to take the lead and push it even further. “Considering the smaller size of Hong Kong’s art industry, I think it’s safe to say that we are in step with, if not ahead of, the rest of the world when it comes to the adoption of NFTs in the art space,” says Chu. “One of the trends that I expect to see more growth in is digital fashion – NFT wearables such as digital sneakers and dresses that you can buy for your avatar in metaverses, or virtual worlds. Brands are already creating NFT fashion, and I believe this kind of digital designs will be very popular here, where internal space is such a premium.”

 

“Hong Kong has a very vibrant consumer culture and the people – artists and the general public – are very comfortable with digital tools,” Chu adds. “So, my prediction is that it will ultimately become one of the centres for NFTs and digital culture in Asia, alongside Korea and China.”

 

 

Explore the 50th Anniversary Art NFT Collection specially commissioned by Swire Properties in our commemorative theme “Original Always”. Click here to find out more. 

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