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His work, The first 5,000 days (made up of daily images collected over 13 years from 2007 and glued together) was auctioned by Christie’s in an online sale for $ 69 million. This sale alone places Beeple in the top three living artists by value, just behind David Hockney and Jeff Koons.

The wave of comments that followed focused on a number of questions: the rapid emergence of this new process and its viability (or even its desirability) as a new vehicle for selling art; the aesthetic and cultural questions raised by the sudden rise of Beeple (although it already has a large fan base of around 2.5 million followers on social networks); and the likelihood that DTVs will continue to generate such incredible prices.

In this regard, it should be noted that the purchaser of the work, the cryptocurrency investor Vignesh Sundaresan, or “MetaKovan”, paid for it with 38,000 Ethereum; and equally remarkable that Beeple quickly converted this into its cash equivalent value. This led to another debate over what more he would have earned had he held on to the rapidly growing cryptocurrency. Or, well lost, given the volatility of the currency.

The concept and value of “scarcity”

After generating plenty of light, warmth, and countless items from technologists, artists and collectors – many have complained about the sudden encroachment of digital objects in the rarefied world of art sales – we now have the feeling that the air has escaped from the NFT Market. Headlines that ran out of steam with the most expensive NFTs ever sold (including the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, which sold for $ 2.9 million) are now reveling in NFT’s sales slump .

It certainly looks like the general decline in cryptocurrency trading, which is partly in response to Chinese regulation of the “mining” process that generates new tokens, is hitting the NFT market as well. True, the peak in demand for DTVs occurred around May 9 when they hit $ 176 million over 7 days; that figure has now fallen to $ 8.7 million as of June 15.

Besides the fall of cryptocurrencies, the saturation of the NFT market has occurred as more and more people have stepped into NFT support and new projects such as CryptoPunks’ ‘MeeBits’ have been launched.

To skeptics, this was a vindication of the fleeting NFT craze and proof of its symbiotic relationship with cryptocurrency fortunes. For example, UK Hackspace Foundation director Jonty Wareing posted a series of tweets on March 17 where he traced the references to a typical Beeple artwork on Nifty Gateway.

The NFT token pointed to a JSON metadata file hosted on Cloudinary through the Nifty Gateway servers. If for some reason the host went bankrupt then the token would be worthless because it didn’t refer to anything. Not only were some NFT buyers already reporting that their files were no longer hosted, Wareing predicted that “Chances are every NFT sold so far will be broken within a decade. ‘

Aside from skepticism about the longevity of the technology itself, others saw the business model as primarily a matter of using cryptocurrency profits to fuel another asset bubble; indeed, many of the bidders in the Christie’s auction are believed to be millennials who had benefited from the rapid rise in crypto values ​​and were able to capitalize on their early entry into this market.

Is it worth the energy?

The most scathing criticism of NFTs has focused on the impact of the “proof-of-work” aspect of the Ethereum blockchain that hosts the transactions of most artistic NFTs. The whole process has been condemned as a waste by several artists who otherwise support digital art, including Memo Akten, whose essay “The unreasonable ecological cost of #CryptoArt‘fired a salvo against the NFTs in December 2020.

He produced a website to estimate the carbon footprint of CryptoArt NFTs as a result of blockchain-based transactions relating to NFT, so it is only the calculations that keep track of sales and activity. Akten estimated on this basis that an artist’s multi-edition NFTs are equivalent to 260 megawatts per hour, or boil a kettle 3.5 million times. The perception that this activity is particularly damaging to the environment has prompted some artists to avoid DFTs altogether.

Perhaps, then, the collapse in cryptocurrencies and NFT sales means that the panic is over and those who have felt most threatened by the emergence of this new approach to authenticating objects and coins. transactions will quietly be delighted to see their values ​​collapse.

However, there shouldn’t be a Luddite reaction to the concept of blockchain. On the contrary, there should be more transparency in terms of promoting NFTs and less hyperbolic claims for this technology. It’s remarkable how much of a sudden enthusiasm for all things ‘crypto’ resembles that created for the internet over 20 years ago.

Again, although it suddenly became apparent to the general public, it was the result of a slow evolution dating back to the 1960s. In the case of the web, this is the promise of hypertext advanced by Ted Nelson, who led to the pragmatic implementation of his ideas by Tim Berners Lee; then the rich media encouraged by Web 2.0; and now the promise of a new kind of digital ecosystem backed by blockchain.

Internet inventor sells source code for www

At the end of June 2021, Tim Berners-Lee sold an NFT of his original 1991 source code, which was used to create the World Wide Web for $ 5.4million (£ 3.9million). The auction, which was run by Sotheby’s, included several items in addition to the code itself, including a physical poster and a letter from Berners-Lee outlining his thoughts on the process of inventing this new technology.

In the 31 years since Berners-Lee’s own invention became a vehicle for commerce, commentary, and art of all kinds, other digital technologies have increased, declined and reappeared. The Gartner Group Hype Cycles have been published annually since 1995, and this first contains several entries that look familiar over a quarter of a century later:

Based on this cyclical development, NFTs may end up emerging in a very different way from the speculative role they currently occupy. Rather than being static tokens for collectors, they will have a dynamic role in virtual worlds that gradually develop in several different but interconnected ways.

One of the most interesting is the Omniverse offered by the industry leader in graphics cards Nvidia. NFTs could represent a fundamental change if taken into account with other advancements in related fields such as AI, augmented reality and metadata.

Inaugurating a new immersive world

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang is very excited about a collaborative environment called Omniverse, where engineers can work on designs in a virtual environment.

In these metaverse, you will spend time with your friends. You will communicate, for example. We could be, in the future, in a metaverse right now. It will be a metaverse of communication. […] There will be AR versions, where the art you have is digital art.

You own it through NFT. You will display this beautiful, one-of-a-kind, fully digital art. You will have our glasses or your phone. You can see he’s setting there brightly lit and owned by you. We’ll see this overlay, a metaverse overlay if you will, in our physical world.

In Huang’s overall vision, NFTs will become part of a larger digital ecosystem and provide authentic digital objects to populate these online worlds. This ties in seamlessly with representations of real-world buildings, or digital twins, which replicate their functionality and an underlying sense of organization that makes the Omniverse similar in appearance and relationship to the physical world. or the usefulness of the “real world”, in terms of its Affordances and digital tools for professionals.

In this regard, the use of NFTs to anchor otherwise ephemeral digital works in the simulated universe provides an interesting paradox: to authenticate a work that only exists in a specific simulation of reality.

Lots of distance to go

The promise of computer-generated art, as articulated by the Computer Arts Society when it was founded in 1969, was a vision to democratize the arts and increase their reach through computation. Six decades later, as the world increasingly exists online, NFT could provide a channel for that vision to come true.


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