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  • Writer's pictureVivienne Boucherat


Last month I wrote about the current and speedy development of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) within the world of visual art and the extraordinary, if rather unnerving, potential of ‘A.I. digital image generator’ applications suddenly available to us.

Continuing to muse on the subject of art and machine, I had to investigate the phenomenon of non-fungible tokens (NFT’s). I am so confused by the implications!

It is that perennial question - what is the VALUE of art?

We may well have all heard about NFT’s, but what exactly are they?

A brief definition of an NFT is: ‘a cryptographic asset based on blockchain technology’.

Ok, so basically, this means that an NFT is a line of digital code - a URL, traceable and verifiable in the world of blockchain*. The owner of this digital ‘token’ becomes the exclusive owner of the work that the token is attached to, ie. the underlying asset. The word ‘non-fungible’ means unique and irreplaceable. These immutable tokens have sold from a few hundred dollars to many millions of dollars!

The ‘underlying asset’ is a piece of digital art, music or film, or a component of a computer game. Unless stated, the intellectual copyright does not get sold with the piece - that remains with the creator, but again, as with the A.I. digital image generators, I am sure that copyright issues and licensing misunderstandings will ensue.

NFT’s came to the world’s notice in 2015, but the first known NFT was actually created on 3rd May 2014 by digital artists Kevin McCoy and Anil Dash.

For a relatively new medium, forecasts for the future of NFT’s differ massively. Some sectors predict huge growth and already 15,000 - 50,000 NFT’s are sold per week, alternative sources tell us that the sales of NFT’s have been in rapid decline since the beginning of 2022.

Who to believe? I am not sure if I care!!

Of course, through history, thousands of people have bought artwork which will also serve as an investment, but in NFT’s the SOLE value of owning ‘art’ appears to have become its’ financial and trading potential - nothing to do with a visceral reaction or a discerning eye.

Some entrepreneurial artists have made big money from this (for an extreme example, see Beeple, “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” which sold for $69.3 million in March 2021!), but as to buying NFT’s - I am no expert, but is there a whiff of emperor’s new clothes here?

My personal preference is to choose and buy a thought-provoking and/or beautiful piece of work that I feel a connection with, (directly from the artist if I can), and put it where I can see it every day. I know it will bring me a moment of joy or wonder or make me appreciate and think. The picture may be of small financial worth, but for me - this jolt of triggered brain activity and emotion is the value of art!

Have a valuable November all.

*Blockchain is a digital system which maintains a record of transactions. It is basically a digital ledger.

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