From Bachchan To College Students, Creators Bet Their Talent On NFTs
What's common between superstar Amitabh Bachchan and a couple of 20-year-old artists. No, it's not just that they love the movies. It's not even that they hope to make a living from their craft. It is that artists, young and old, now believe that NFTs or non-fungible tokens will help them monetise their talent better.
NFTs became a rage earlier this year after a digital artist who goes by the name of Beeple sold his art for an eye-popping $69 million. They have continued to gain currency since.
The fundamental purpose of an NFT is to present proof of ownership by floating the creative work on a blockchain ledger. Also called tokenisation, the process creates a transaction log, making the NFT easy to transfer or resell. Ethereum is currently the most popular blockchain for minting NFTs due to its smart-contracting capabilities.
Over the past few months, NFTs have caught the attention of creators, be it in the art world or in the film and sports communities.
Bachchan, for instance, will auction NFTs which include artworks themed around him and his life in November. He will also auction NFTs of him reciting poems by his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan on Beyondlife.club.
Easier To Get Discovered
It's not just storied artists like Bachchan who are taking to NFTs.
20-year-old Virti Jain and 21-year-old Ninad Lokhandkar stumbled upon the idea of an NFT in early February 2021. The Mumbai-based duo wasn't perfectly fluent with a blockchain's working mechanism, but several successful NFT sales by young artists encouraged them to give it a shot. The internet served as a fair playground for them to compete with better known artists.
After some research, the duo decided to take the first step and signed up with an Indian crypto exchange.
The first three creations that got sold barely fetched them a couple of dollars. However, it slowly picked up, and the duo finally managed to sell a piece called 'Nandi - The Giving Deity' for $225. While these figures may seem small compared to Beeple's $69 million, it doesn't hurt to have a little extra money to spend.
"We're college students, so this isn't full-time for us," they told BloombergQuint. "But it gives us an excellent opportunity to try new things, explore, and gradually find our place in the industry."
Previously, art galleries, exhibitions, or social media shout-outs were often the only way to get noticed, the duo said. However, third-party marketplaces are radically changing this and making it easier for collectors to discover us, they added.
At the same time, a lot of folks who aren't usually into art are slowly taking an interest. It's a two-way street as both the buyer as well as the seller are leveraging new channels of meeting.Virti Jain & Ninad Lokhandkar, Creators
Karan Kalra, a spotlight artist, didn't manage to sell all of his creations either. But his 'Organized Chaos: Delhi' went under the hammer for $2,010 (about Rs 1.48 lakh).
Karan is now a believer and said that NFTs can serve as a sustainable solution for artists.
Even if there's a massive correction soon, I'm confident the core concept shall survive and only grow. Blockchains are uniquely placed and offer far more flexibility and control to creators. It's a unique opportunity without a ceiling and a great start starting point for everyone.Karan Kalra, Creator
Creating Value Out Of Thin Air
NFTs are also helping push the definition of art a little further. From fine art and digital art to music, sound and sports, anything can potentially become a valuable NFT.
Amrit Pal Singh, a 31-year-old 3D illustrator and art director from New Delhi, sold two art pieces for $24,000 (about Rs 18 lakh) in February. The two pieces contained a toy face modeled on electronic music duo Daft Punk. He's sold many more toy faces as an NFT on Foundation, a marketplace where auctions are held, and the payment is primarily made in Ether, the Ethereum blockchain's currency.
"It's essential to have something unique in your work so that it commands inherent value. Therefore, I focused on collectables such as an entire 'Toy Faces' collection containing 26 avatars," he said.
NFTs offer a rare intersection of collectables and art, further sky-rocketing their value. And, it's also essential to create your own brand to gain direct recognition. Collectors should want to collect from you as much as possible.Amrit Pal Singh, 3D Illustrator
How Big? How Sustainable?
There is little information on how large the NFT segment has become in India.
According to WazirX, whose platform is most commonly used for NFTs at present, it has more than 300 creators listed with over 3,200 minted NFTs. The creator-collector ratio is 1.49, which means there are more people selling NFTs than buying at present.
It doesn't take much to create an NFT. The cost is just $1 on the platform, as against Ethereum's charges that went up to almost $60 in mid-September. WazirX is expected to launch a secondary market soon, where reselling will be possible and artists will be able to get a cut out of every sale.
For now, the market is thin.
"There's just a handful of creators available on marketplaces such as WazirX. That's because they haven't established a secondary market for reselling yet," said Singh. The WazirX platform, he said, is not based on the Ethereum blockchain and this becomes a limiting factor for creators wanting to reach a global audience.
The NFT space is also still driven by 'flippers'. Flipping is the process of actively trading NFTs to make a quick buck by utilising intraday or buy today, sell tomorrow (BTST) strategies.
Moreover, the absence of regulation around cryptocurrencies, more broadly, remains a challenge.
"The law is highly unclear. We're not sure if Bitcoin can be accepted as a legal mode of payment within the country, and if somebody purchases an NFT from overseas, it's considered an export, technically," said Indrajit Chatterjee, curator of Mumbai-based auction house and gallery, Prinseps. "Furthermore, cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile, making it hard to gauge a piece's value in real-time."
Chatterjee said that until the regulatory hurdles are cleared, the auction house will accept payments in fiat currency and then mint the piece as NFT. He explained that NFTs simply utilise a blockchain's smart-contracting system, and transactions can be settled in traditional currencies.
Irrespective of whether NFTs prove to a bubble or a lasting change, Chatterjee suggests creators focus on what they do best—create. Beeple has been making art for two decades, and that’s what fetched him a record-breaking bid, he said. "NFTs are just a new medium of distribution.”
Let the technologists do what they do best. A creator should focus on their art because the NFT boom may be short-lived, but creativity is always permanent ... The next frontier is tokenisation, and it'll establish a sense of ownership unlike anything has ever before.Indrajit Chatterjee, Curator, Prinseps