NFT’s Change How Digital Artists Profit From Their Work and Cause Damage to the Environment

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By Aadhi Sathishkumar

When art auctions are mentioned, most people immediately think about packed auction halls, with dozens bidding on valuable art pieces, hoping to walk away with new, and very expensive works of art. However, with the advent of cryptocurrency, modern day art auctions look very different. Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are pieces of digital art that are rapidly taking over the expensive art scene, with some even selling for millions in cryptocurrency.

“It takes a digital version of a file and then it adds a blockchain,” Courtney Flamm, digital art teacher at FHN said. “[Blockchain] essentially makes a digital file of something unique and the original copy.”

Before NFTs, recognition and profiting from art was much harder for digital artists, especially when compared to their more traditional counterparts. Digital art on the internet is often spread without any recognition to the original creator, making art lose its authenticity and monetary value. By using blockchain technology, which is a digital record of transactions unique to a certain virtual entity, NFTs give value to digital art in a way previously impossible to do so.

“I think it’s technology catching up kind of with our times. Especially with my perspective of being from the art world,” Flamm said. “I think that digital artists and artists that create artwork virtually have been really undervalued in the art world, so I think this is just the art market creating new wealth and taking advantage of giving these digital artists the compensation and recognition that they deserve.”

Despite giving digital artists a new source of income and recognition, NFTs have been seen as a controversial development in art. NFTs are sold mainly through Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that uses many different computers all competing to complete the blockchain of the NFT. A single transaction through Ethereum, according to present data, is more than 70 kilowatt-hours. To put that into context, a house uses about 30 kwh.

“Their entire value is based off computer work, and in order to run them you have to use fossil fuels,” Kiki Legg, an art student at FHN said. “Art shouldn’t be valued based on something that actively destroys the environment. I wish we could have better ways to spread awareness of digital art.”

Additionally, the technology required to draw and sell NFTs is not accessible to all digital artists. This imbalance in access serves to make marketing art easy for some, but much harder for others.

“Inequity in the access means it is leaving some minority groups behind in accessing the next best thing, at least in the art world,” Flamm said. “It is great digital artists are getting recognition, but some artists are still left in the dust. People who don’t have access to that technology are missing out on a way to make money in the art world.”