NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) have risen with the popularity of cryptocurrency. It is an amazing technology - the way of adding a smart contract to the piece of digital media, whether it is an artwork, still, photo, music, video, experiences, etc. It is all registered on the blockchain and you have an authenticity stamp to everything.
In the past, digital artists didn’t have anything like that. We have always had to tailor our artwork to fit traditional physical mediums, but that doesn’t always work; it makes sense to show your artwork digitally.
A few physical galleries show NFTs on screens. However, the real beauty of it is that it all lives digitally; no one can steal as everything is trackable and lives on the blockchain.
The NFT concept has been growing for a few years with artists who adopted it early, paving the way for everyone else. I joined in last year, just before it blew up. Now, there are a huge variety of collectables, experiences and artwork within the community.
Above: Some of Billelis' digital pieces.
It’s difficult to compare the NFT space to a traditional physical art gallery. There are elements in common, but it transcends and goes beyond the understanding of traditional spaces. A few physical galleries show NFTs on screens. However, the real beauty of it is that it all lives digitally; no one can steal it as everything is trackable and lives on the blockchain. Every move, sale, bid and transfer are public, which makes it authentic.
I’ve been doing digital art for over a decade now. I tried a traditional gallery space; I was a part of the gallery that worked with Banksy, Damien Hirst, and Shepard Fairey; but was never respected as an artist because I was digital. I was still selling prints but it was like faking the medium to fit the physical world. Most of my money came from commissions. In a traditional art world, people get to create the artwork they want, which is something I wasn’t able to do until getting in with NFT.
I was still selling prints but it was like faking the medium to fit the physical world.
There’s a lot of people who are combining the physical aspect: after buying an NFT, you get access to things like prints, unique physicals, or even statues. I am planning to do gallery shows in the US and the concept is to give free access to all owners of my NFTs. I am also currently in the process of creating a limited-edition book for my biggest collectors. So, there are a lot of perks that are being combined but it is important to remember that not everything needs to have a physical attribute to it. The power of the digital medium is the experience, everything we do is digital and I look at my NFT collection more than I do at my physical collection. It is certainly a paradigm shift.
Above: Billelis' Artifex Project, displayed in Times Square.
There are some challenges. It’s tough trying to distinguish who are the real collectors, who are in it just to flip a profit. In a traditional art world, flippers exist and they are controlled and they exist to help increase the value of an artist. With everything new, especially where money is involved, it will naturally attract people who are just looking to profit.
In a traditional art world, flippers exist and they are controlled and they exist to help increase the value of an artist.
Regardless, it feels like a turning of the tide; changing people’s perception of what is art in this day and age. NFT has allowed me to fund projects I have always dreamt of doing but I didn’t have the cash to do so. In the future, I, and I think many artists, will keep working on NFTs, alongside levelling up our physical offerings. I want to be part of a creative ecosystem.
My dream is that in a few years it doesn’t even matter what medium we use, it is just art.