For the last year, the digital art ecosystem has been abuzz with talk of NFTs. Digital artists, crypto entrepreneurs, and digitally-minded museums have moved to adapt to the potentially seismic shift brought on by the rising trade in digital artworks – in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – following the record breaking sale of Beeple’s Everydays at auction last winter. Since then, many artists have hoped to mirror Beeple’s success, while organizations as diverse as the NBA, the British Museum, and traditional investors have sought to present NFTs as a revolution – not just in how digital art is commodified, traded, and conserved, but in how cultural objects themselves are curated and consumed in an increasingly digital world.
Heralded by the COVID pandemic, the shift to virtual experiences isn’t going anywhere, but the jury is still out on how paradigm-shifting NFTs will be over the long term. The rapid growth of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, social media, and immersive technologies, coupled with momentous sales by digital artists, makes it clear that NFTs will be part of the cultural and financial technology (fintech) industries for the near future. But right now, there is no consensus on what role NFTs may play over a longer time horizon.
While there is still uncertainty, how are cultural organizations approaching NFTs, and what might they mean for the future?