NFTs are a hot commodity these days. Celebrities like Lebron James, Lindsay Lohan, Steve Aoki and Grimes are cashing in on the new fad. CELEBsat down with art veteran Avery Andon of Artlife Gallery to discuss NFTs and their role in revolutionizing the art world. Andon shares his thoughts on the intricacies of NFTs, as well as what the future holds for digital art.
What are NFTs? And who is Avery Andon?
NFTs—or non-fungible tokens—are cryptographic blockchain assets. Want a simpler translation? Basically, ‘nonfungible’ translates to unique, irreplaceable, or one-of-a-kind, sort of like a trading card. NFTs are exclusive digital assets. Andon puts it simply as his definition is “the tokenization of digital content.”
Avery Andon is a celebrity art dealer and CEO of Artlife Gallery, which offers exclusive curated works from international and emerging artists. He has also managed his brother—Alec Monopoly—for quite some time. Seeing how new and intriguing NFTs are to artists and viewers alike, Andon was quick to jump on the train. CELEB chats with Andon about his latest NFT endeavors.
“One thing I always say is, not all NFTs are created equal” says Andon. “Not every NFT is a good investment. Just because the big celebrities attach to it, doesn’t mean it’s going to go up in value. I think that that’s really important for people to get a grasp of; there are people that are buying these things, speculatively. And ultimately, I do think there will be a correction. I think in the long term when people come up with innovative, exciting ways to integrate the technology, there will be a demand for it.”
What do Non-Fungible Tokens Look Like?
Representing both tangible and intangible artifacts (a tweet, a meme, virtual real estate), NFTs can’t be exchanged with one other. Other NFT examples include tickets, licenses and certificates, songs, recordings, in-game assets, and more. They’re indivisible (can’t be broken down like satoshis of a Bitcoin). They’re also indestructible. Unlike buying songs from Itunes, for example, ownership of NFTs are immutable. That means collectors and buyers actually own their NFTs, not the company that sold them. Additionally, they’re verifiable. Items can be traced back to the original creator, which helps a great deal when it comes to matters of authenticity.
When asked about the features that an NFT entails, Andon says “it varies. People have highly detailed, intricate graphic design images of a variety of kinds of memes, internet art. CryptoPunks are very rudimentary eight-bit graphic design. But again, it just comes down to the scarcity; some are harder to find than others. So it really is just the true commoditization of art.”
Artgrails, Andon’s luxury NFT auction house, partnered with Jacob & Co.’s to auction of their first luxury watch NFT titled ‘the Epic SF24.’ The watch is extremely tech-forward, with perks like a flap system with 10 different cryptocurrencies and a moving tourbillon (which the original watch doesn’t have). The watch was available for sale on April 4. Another project managed by Artgrails was an NFT collaboration made by urban artist Ozuna and Alec Monopoly. The NFT collection is called “Uncle Richie Ozuna” and it features one of Alec Monopoly’s classic characters with a teddy bear from Ozuna’s brand.
How NFTs Came to Be
As the world reaches even further digital heights, humanity ardently keeps up. NFTs are a household name in the crypto world, and creators/celebrities are fighting tooth-and-nail for their bit. One of the main reasons for this is their effects in drastically changing the collectible and gaming sector. Immutable ownership wasn’t really a thing back then for collectors and gamers, but NFTs are creating that reality now.
“You know, in my eyes, this is the result of years of video games kind of making people comfortable spending money on digital items that they don’t physically have,” shares Andon. “If you look at video games, like Madden 2016, Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty, you can spend money in those games on digital items. Obviously, you don’t really get Joe Montana on your team or, you know, the newest assault rifles on Call of Duty but with the $9 you can buy that in the video game and add it to your playability. I think that NFTs are really a continuation, the growth from that mentality.”
Additionally, crypto enthusiast Mark Cuban says that NFTs have the ability to create new revenue streams for small businesses and creators. This highlights a critical factor in the rise of cryptocurrency in the art world, which has been digital for a while now. Anytime society evolves with a technological advancement, people all around are forced to follow suit. This is because not only are the arts affected, but also the economic value, and hence, the way of living.
What This Means For Digital Art Creators
How often does the term ‘starving artist’ ring true? The trial-and-error lifestyle of the over-caffeinated, underpaid artist. On this topic, Anders touches up on how these next few years of NFTs and crypto in general rising will be a gamechanger for digital artists, who have more often than not, been undervalued. If you happen to be a digital creator, now it’s your time to shine.
“Unlike the traditional art world, the NFT world has basically given rise to an entirely new generation of digital artists that are honestly finally receiving the credit they deserve and the financial success they deserve” says Andon. “For years, graphic designers were thought kind of an expandable, expandable, you know, asset that you could just pay a couple 100 bucks and find a graphic designer. Now, I say in 2021, graphic designers and 3D illustrators are the rock stars of the creative market. They’re taking big percentages, even from celebrities for turning down projects.”
One of Andon’s experiences with NFTs arose as a learning curve for the digital art wave. His company Artgrails had an exclusive debut of Nicky Diamonds NFT—a Diamond Supply Co. and Nike Tiffany SB Dunks collab. There was a controversy surrounding the digital shoes, where people negligently thought they were paying for physical shoes. Even though Andon made it clear that this was a digital platform, and that shoe sizes weren’t listed, people accidently made the purchase expecting to get real shoes. He still chose the high road however, and issued a full refund for people that didn’t read the fine print.
NFT x Sustainability
Fame and glory often comes with a price to pay, and for NFTs, that price is the impact on our environment. Minting, bidding, cancelling, and transferring of sales are proven to negatively affect the environment. According to a New York Times, the creation of an average NFT has an environmental footprint of over 200 kg of planet-warming carbon. This is comparable to driving 500 miles in a typical American gasoline-powered car. With the accessibility and forward-thinking that comes with blockchain technology, there can also be equal damage to the environment. Andon speaks on this issue as he recalls meeting with the mayor of Miami.
“I just met with Mayor Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami,” says Andon. “And he’s pursuing an initiative to bring clean energy NFT and Bitcoin mining and minting and developing to Miami and America, which I think is a great idea. Because one of the one of the things that receives negative attention recently is that NFT are bad for the environment. And first of all, there’s energy, which is true in some cases and not in others. It depends how it’s mixed with the processes, and where but certainly, if we could move that on forth to the US, and do it in a way that’s completely clean and renewable, that would be a very positive thing.”
The way in which art is perceived is drastically changing, and people are rolling with the tides. Digital art itself has taken on new shapes and forms, and from the looks of it, the possibilities are endless. Thanks to crypto, NFTs are a valuable asset because they present a unique type of property ownership.
If you’re confused as to why people feed value into purchasing NFTs when they can simply find images of their desired piece online, you’re not alone. Andon, however, breaks it down in digestable sizes.
“When people freak out and say ‘Oh my god, someone just spent $70 million on a digital JPEG that I could copy on my phone,’ they’re missing the point. NFTs were born out of the crypto world of blockchain. Through blockchains like Bitcoin or Ethereum that value is derived from scarcity and demand. NFTs that are extremely rare are selling for these high figure demands.”
The hype train is here but it’s here to stay. This is only the beginning of NFTs and their journey to revolutionize digital art, properties and more.