If art is the utility, why do we need NFTs?

I first heard about NFTs in November of 2021 when the hype was super high. One of my partner’s colleagues had mentioned it to him at work and he therefore mentioned it to me on our way back from a gig that night. This was in the height of the NFT hype. The market has since declined. Part of this undoubtedly due to fatigue in the space and the initial hype passing, the other part due to macro-economic factors and a loss of trust in the blockchain industry. 

A phrase commonly used in the NFT space is “the art is the utility,” which refers to the fact that these digital collectibles don’t need to power anything other than their own existence to be sought after. What is clear from many exhibits on AI and web3 is that stunning art, viewing it, and being inspired and moved still matters draws crowds. NFTs unfortunately don’t possess this same power yet. This bears the question, where art is its own utility, does it need NFTs?

Oftentimes, exhibitions that showcase NFTs in the form of QR codes are too much of a fuss and don’t tend to attract the same attention the art itself does. Often, trying to simply scan a QR code to claim a free NFT comes with needing to download a complex app and set up a Metamask crypto wallet. It just feels too techy and overwhelming for the average consumer. 

William Anderson recently detailed his experience of this at the Gund Lobby at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. “What most visitors to the prestigious museum didn’t realise however was that one floor up from the viewing was a QR code that would allow them to claim a souvenir of the event in the form of a Non-Fungible-Token […]

Walking up to the crowd of people on the second floor, I searched for the QR code. A QR code that was minutes of walking away from the mind-blowing art. I was excited to get a limited edition NFT memento for the event. Despite the crowd, no one had their phone up to the QR code. I went to scan it, waving through a line and realising I was more in the way of museum-goers waiting for a different exhibit than anything else.” Anderson for Forbes. 

There are platforms and organisations aiming to change this. TokenTraxx, for example, is a NFT distribution company based in London. It empowers artists to bridge their web2 community with web3 tech and enables fans and followers to purchase NFTs (often marketed as digital collectibles) with regular, non-crypto currency. 

But it certainly rings true that despite what the tech encompasses, it is the art itself that often draws numbers and traction. 

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