Is the new boom in digital art sales a genuine opportunity or a trap? | MIT Technology Review
Artists are jumping into a market that will pay thousands for their work. But they’re running into scams, environmental concerns, and crypto hype.
Anna Podedworna first heard about NFTs a month or so ago, when a fellow artist sent her an Instagram message trying to convince her to get on board. She found it really off-putting, like a pitch for a pyramid scheme. He had the best of intentions, she thought: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are basically just a way of selling and buying anything digital, including art, that’s supported by cryptocurrency. Despite Podedworna’s initial reaction, she started researching whether they might provide some alternative income.
She’s still on the fence, but NFTs have become an unavoidable subject for anyone earning a living as a creative person online. Some promise that NFTs are part of a digital revolution that will democratize fame and give creators control. Others point to the environmental impact of crypto and worry about unrealistic expectations set by, say, the news that digital artist Beeple had sold a JPG of his collected works for $69 million in a Christie’s auction.
Newcomers must untangle practical, logistical, and ethical conundrums if they want to enter the fray before the current wave of interest passes. And there’s a question lingering in the background: Is the NFT craze benefiting digital artists, or are artists helping to make wealthy cryptocurrency holders even richer?