NFTs and smart-contracts has allowed digital art to become an asset. What else can they do?
Non-Fungible Tokens have allowed for the creation of art as a digital asset. It is not the art, but the token that certifies it as the one unique piece that was created by the artist. And as such, the one that should have any value at all and not any JPEG file that imitates the original. This has become a powerful tool for art, yes. But in reality it is not only for art. The principle behind NFTs is the creation of scarcity in the realm of the Internet. And the attachment of a smart-contract to it which allows for commissions every time that asset gets sold on secondary markets. These are pretty business-oriented use cases. So, brands and businesses can find a use for the NFTs. A good question could if the technology permits the production of actual art. One that is new and unique to the world that has been ushered in by blockchain.
There have been instances of art that change as it gets transferred in secondary markets. This is called dynamic NFTs, and today we have several examples. Pak, one of the most recognizable names in NFT, created merge. and decided to infuse it with the technological capacities of NFTs and smart contracts. He created a project called mass and had an open sale of mass for 48 hours. The whole point is to get more mass. So if you hold mass and buy another mass, your two tokens will fuse together. And what’s more, it is impossible to break them up again. The project started with 266,434 owners, and as people sell, there is always bound to be less and less owners.
It is also possible to change the physical art algorithmically by interacting with the wallet. Using generative art and smart-contracts, an NFT can be modified as it enters new wallets. That way, the NFT will reflect its history of transactions. And so, we have a more customized NFT art experience. That’s the case of OG:Crystals, that starts out as a seed in your wallet and after five days it evolves into a coral reef-like structure as it feeds from input such as the amount of NFT art in the wallet, amount of ETH, transaction ID or block number, or the wallet ID.
Smart-contracts, as we can see, are not only helpful in a business sense. They are able to contribute to the creative process of an artist. Learning to code might become new type of technique just as aquarelle or oil painting.
You even have cases where the smart-contract empowers both the art itself and the investment component of it. Pass the baton is an NFT project that looks to give to charitable organizations that work in social justice. It started out with four teams each with 1968 algorithmically generated batons. With smart-contracts, they are able to give to the charities they support through secondary market sales commissions. Another aspect of the smart contract is that as certain donation milestones are met, the batons will acquire more rare traits. On one side, smart contracts are able to modify and contribute to the artwork itself. And on the other, they further enhance the scarcity aspect of the NFT.
So if actually modifying the NFT as it gets transferred can be part of the art, then smart contracts as a technique will have to be taken into account. Dynamic NFTs could become a new avenue that artists can explore. Especially as it is a technique that is unique to the Web3 and the blockchain. This was not available in Web 2.0, let alone analogic or old-school art. Combined with the possibilities that generative art presents, it could really become the new avenue that artists use to express their vision.
Just like Banksy did to a piece of his work that self-shredded after it was sold in an auction, smart-contracts allow modification of the artwork in a much more convenient way. Plus, it’s really good news that the value of the art is not destroyed or diminished. Even better if it can be enhanced as it gets transferred, or a certain event happens that triggers the smart-contract into executing a function.
You could say that smart-contracts have infused visual arts with a performative element. The art is incomplete the moment that it comes into our possession, and it is in a journey to become more complete. You could even say that as holders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that the art gets passed along. The transaction history of the NFT can become part of the artistic output.
This is a reason why it is crucial for all players of the arts’ world to start considering Web3, blockchain, NFTs and smart-contracts as elements of huge potential for their financial empowerment and creative capabilities. Somnium Prucha Gallery decided to bet decisively on the future of art. When you take this leap at this stage of Web3 development, everything is exploratory. And isn’t that what a big part of art is? An exploration?