The art world is in the midst of a silent revolution. Building a global eco-system that centres on archival processes and aspires to include a diverse audience is the need of the hour. And on that path, Non-fungible Tokens or NFTs are the much-needed support base.
These unique digital assets that can be used as individual identifiers for physical assets on a blockchain are going to become the standard protocol for establishing provenance for any collectible, not just art.
This is the most transparent and honest way to establish ownership in the art worl - be it for new works or for those with prior histories through curated exhibitions. In the art world today, an invoice defines ownership, never mind how much you paid for a piece. But with digital art slowly making its presence, NFTs are the way forward.
Talking about digital art, many believe that it is something that cannot be displayed. But then recent art fairs and biennales have shown how screens can be used as part of the show to exhibit digital art. For example, the Artissima Art Fair - Italy's most important contemporary art show - entered the digital space last year. Digital museums are also being set up now.
This is the public appreciation aspect. Talking about appreciating digital art from an individual point of view - let's say at home of a private collector - it can be done on screens, too. With TVs becoming slimmer by the day and homes being equipped by state-of-the-art technology, displaying your recently NFT-certified digital art on screen in your living room - just like a hanging canvas - is no longer a scene out of a sci-fi film.
The blockchain technology provides our current and future collectors with a transparent, tamper-proof and trustworthy method of buying, selling, and securing their existing collection. And each time the works are resold in an effort to protect the artist’s future legacy, one can rest assured that the works are authentic. This will do a great service to the art market, as it effectively cuts down on the production of fakes.
True, there are skeptics. But only when a new technology comes in does the entire eco-system around it begin to develop. For example, when photography entered the art domain, there were many naysayers. The constant complaint was: "It can be duplicated".
But photography today has become a booming market. It happens with all art forms. At present, post-war, and abstract and Impressionist works have overpowered Expressionist art. The same may hold true for conceptual art and digital art later. As the world changes and more and more screens embed our lives, the need for digital art - and hence, NFTs - will grow.
Let me conclude by saying, NFT has two benefits - the first and foremost is the need to establish provenance and remove fakes from the market; and the second is that through NFTs, art becomes a little bit more accessible to people, and to newer audiences.
(The writer is Founder, Terrain.art, a blockchain-powered online platform that focuses on art from South Asia)