NFTs are changing artists’ lives for the better by connecting physical works with impossible-to-pirate digital versions, offering creators more control, a worldwide stage, and greater potential for turning their art into a career.
Words and Photography by Urth HQ
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are one-of-a-kind digital assets. Given they’re digital in nature, can physical works of art be turned into NFTs?
The short answer is that yes, physical artworks can be minted and sold online as NFTs.
Slowly but surely, NFTs are transforming the way creatives around the world are leveraging the blockchain’s smart contracts, and NFT physical art is making the non-fungible market ever more accessible to artists in all creative disciplines.
This new technology is changing artists’ lives – for the better. Instead of the traditional route of setting up an art gallery, artists now have easier access to art as a career. NFTs are therefore moving the onus away from the financial imperative of art, and towards the creative, expressive side through exclusivity and authenticity.
Learn more about NFTs and how artists can link their physical creations to these valuable digital assets.
What are NFTs?
NFTs are digital products stored on blockchain ledgers such as Ethereum and Solana, and buying NFTs allows you to take ownership of a one-of-a-kind digital artefact.
For artists, this means they can create a digital copy of their physical art (such as a photograph or painting), and sell it on the NFT marketplace.
Creatives around the world are pushing the boundaries of digital art to transform the way it’s appreciated on a global scale. NFTs connect the world’s creative artisans with enthusiastic and supportive patrons. If you want to learn more, read our intro to NFT art.
The benefits of linking physical art to NFTs
One of the common misconceptions around NFTs is that they can be easily copied and passed around. However, arguably the biggest benefit of linking physical artworks to non-fungible tokens is that sellers and buyers can easily prove the art is genuine.
That’s thanks to the unique blockchain technology that stores this information and cannot be altered or ‘faked’.
Similarly, following the purchase, a buyer can easily prove the NFT is theirs. Whether for valuation or resale, this offers a clear advantage for everyone in the industry concerned about legal ownership of their art. As such, an NFT will retain its value, or perhaps even increase in value, should the buyer choose to sell.
And for the artist, many NFT marketplaces (such as SuperRare ensure that every sale results in royalties, meaning they could stand to continue earning from the same piece of artwork for many years to come. Unlike physical art where the artist rarely knows where their work ends up, NFTs allow for a clear digital history as well as the perk of additional income.
Not to mention, linking physical art to NFTs cuts out the middleman, so the artist can deal directly with the buyer, and enjoy the full profit of the work.
Still not convinced? Hear from Australian-based photographer, George Byrne, on how NFTs are benefiting artists.
The challenges of linking physical art to NFTs
Unfortunately, linking physical art to NFTs does have its drawbacks that buyers and sellers should be aware of prior to finalising any sale.
For example, should an artist create a physical painting, then sell the digital print as an NFT, they could also sell the physical copy to another buyer, which would be unauthenticated without the NFT.
Additionally, there have been accounts of NFTs going up for sale by someone other than the original creator. This is not an accepted practice, and marketplaces are quickly putting procedures in place to stop this from occurring, look into claims of unauthorised sales, and remove the NFT from sale as soon as possible.
Another potential issue is that in most cases, the buyer cannot display the NFT for the public, as they own the artwork, but not the copyright. Unless the copyright is embedded into the terms of the NFT, it is not the buyer’s right to share or distribute the work.
These challenges are important to be aware of, but not prohibitive. The market will continue to grow, and as it does, it will iron out the wrinkles.
Ways to sell NFTs and physical art
There are a few different ways to sell NFTs and physical art. Artists might like to start by researching the various marketplaces to view the terms and potential benefits tied to each one.
For example, artists can list their NFTs on a marketplace such as OpenSea and offer physical copies of their work in the unlockable content section of the NFT. Opensea is currently the largest NFT marketplace, and therefore offers creatives a large market for their work. With OpenSea, you can also set your own royalties for future sales (up to 10% per sale).
An example of an initiative offering physical prints in the unlockable content section of NFTs on Opensea is ART3.io by the British Journal of Photography. They offer the physical print to the first buyer of each NFT.
Or if, as an artist, you’d prefer to focus on your work and creativity rather than navigate the terms of NFT marketplaces, you can get in touch with a gallery such as Artxcode to find representation.