Saturday Night Live recently did a skit about non-fungible tokens, proving that the current craze in digital art and collectibles has truly entered pop culture.
The skit started with a sunny shot of a prestigious building in an American campus. It was then cut to a classroom where the US secretary of treasury Janet Yellen finishes addressing a classroom of bored economics students and then opens the floor to questions. One hand shoots up, a student dressed as Batman’s sidekick Robin. A beat drops, sounding like Eminem’s ‘Without Me.’
“Now what the hell’s an NFT?!” raps Robin, portrayed by SNL cast member Pete Davidson. And then three minutes of NFT-related gags ensue. “Everyone’s doin’ it like Gronkowski” Davidson raps, talking about the $1.6 million dollar sale of digital trading cards minted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tight end.
At some point a pseudo-Morpheus jumps on the beat and then starts describing some hilarious and thoroughly believable NFTs.
What is an NFT?
There have been many decent digital distribution models across the arts for a while now. Streaming giants like Netflix and some of its competitors now cover the film industry, while Spotify and Apple Music are fighting for everybody’s money in the music industry. And now Kindle occupies the unchallenged space of digital literature. But how has visual art navigated the digital market?
It hasn’t before, until the advent of NFTs. Art’s value comes from its non-fungibility. Everybody can trade a copy of a music album for another copy of that music album. Therefore, music albums are fungible. But Mona Lisa can’t be traded for another copy. If this happens, then someone will be getting ripped off for sure.
Now enters the NFT, thanks to the Ethereum blockchain, which allows for the drafting of smart contracts, now anyone can tokenize their artwork and then make a sale of it non-fungible. It is all around the blockchain’s distributed ledger system, which allows the artists to specify the scarcity of their work when it comes with the terms of the token, to be safely logged on Ethereum’s secure cryptographic ledger.
The SNL skit mocks a craze where anything could be tokenized, including “GIFs of Ron Funches eating Lunchables. Or pics of Colin Jost’s face, very punchable.” The NFT world is like that. When Jack Dorsey tokenized his first tweet on the platform, he made a quick $2.9 million from the sale.
However, there are some genuinely cutting-edge artists creating digital assets. Beeple created one image every day for 5,000 days and sold the tokenized collection as “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS.” In a landmark auction for both NFTs and Christie’s auction house, EVERYDAYS has been sold to NFT collector Metakovan for $69.3 million.
And there are also some exciting new artists, like 18-year-old artist from Seattle FEWOCiOUS, who made $370,000 on their birthday this year on NFT auction house NIfty Gateway.
Also, there is Los Angeles artist Refik Anadol, who vowed the public across the globe with his exciting machine-generated data paintings. He vowed to tokenize every single future piece of work as an NFT.
NFTs are now really taking off. And it is a confusing, often overwhelming world in the digital space.
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