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The new world of NFTs

Discover Open Mic, a series of articles that celebrates Hennessy’s cultural richness and the passions of our communities. This month, editorial author Edd Norval explores NFTs’ revolution in the digital art world, empowering contemporary artists and muralists to dissolve physical boundaries and nurture a new audience of collectors.

OpenMic - The new world of NFTs

The term NFT was almost unheard of at the beginning of last year. Now, a year later, it has become one of the most talked about subjects in the art world and beyond, largely due to the $69 million price tag that a digital collage by Beeple fetched at auction. Spoken of in the same breath as headline-grabbing Bitcoin and various other cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, the non-fungible token has proven revolutionary in art, with the potential implications still unfolding.

Why? Well, to promote digital art, the artists are required to upload it online. That is, in essence, their gallery. But what’s to stop people just right-clicking and saving it? Or taking a screenshot? There has, hitherto, been very little legislation or systems to protect artists from having their work reproduced. That’s where the concept of the NFT comes in. Inextricably tied to the growing uptake of cryptocurrencies and the underlining - and more important - blockchain technology, an NFT acts as an exclusive digital certificate of authenticity. This cannot be copied, but it can be tracked and traded, as with a Picasso sold at Sotheby’s. Now, digital art has an original.

OpenMic - The new world of NFTs

Another fascinating result of the rise of the NFT is the way in which the fates of collectors and artists have been drawn together, rather than kept at arms distance by the art-world’s numerous middlemen. Whilst price might have created a barrier for entry into buying art, many artists are using the accessibility of NFTs to nurture a new relationship with their audience. One of the most exciting projects to do so has been the ever-innovative Damien Hirst’s NFT collection ‘The Currency’.

10,000 unique digital pieces correspond to 10,000 unique physical pieces stored away in a vault. The successful applicants then get to choose between one or the other. Whichever they pick, the other is permanently destroyed. Through this process, Hirst peels back the layers on what ‘value’ really means, whether it’s monetary, physical or prospective. Challenging the audience’s perception on value and money itself, Hirst leverages his artwork against an NFT to quite literally ask his audience - where do you believe the future lies?

OpenMic - The new world of NFTs

Galvanising digital artists the world over to have faith in the value of their works, NFTs offer more than just a means of digital authentication, but room to explore art in entirely new ways. In this emergent new plane where artists and collectors are entering a new digital world together, urban art gallery Underdogs made an important step towards formally bridging the two. At the beginning of last year, curating a group show of 40 artists, they launched the pioneering Ephemeral Ethernal. 

Ephemeral Ethernal is a platform where artists are empowered to enter this unique digital space and develop a more meaningful engagement with their own work, a new audience of collectors and an innovative medium for exploration. Dissolving physical boundaries in this way allows artists to explore their own themes and concepts in a way that would previously be unimagined. Now muralists can make their art move in a new dawn of immersive art.

The platform challenges ‘the structures that support our concept and experience of modernity,’ whilst ‘upending the rules of digital ownership and clearing the way towards the end of ephemeral art, evolving or even elevating it into a new plain of existence.’ Artists creating digital art as NFTs and selling it through Ephemeral Ethernal are able to find solace in the transferable value that can now be found in their work - where hours of effort are no longer poured into something that is easily and endlessly reproducible. Ephemeral Ethernal’s approach is to support artists in the creation of meaningful work, with a strong focus on maintaining the quality of the artworks and the collection’s consistency.

Julien Raffin’s fantastical collages have come to life in this digital format, selling initially through an exclusive Ephemeral Ethernal drop before re-entering the digital marketplace for resale on OpenSea. Alongside Raffin, the ever-inventive MaisMenos brought his unique brand of subversive art to an entirely new dimension through his inclusion on the platform, creating kinetic narrative led pieces that draw on his signature aesthetic. For an artist, this kind of opportunity highlights the real ‘artistic’ value of the NFT, an area that Ephemeral Ethernal wishes to curate thoughtfully in this new digital world.

OpenMic - The new world of NFTs

When we talk about NFTs, discourse isn’t so much surrounding their current position, but the possibilities that will be evident in the future. A whole new micro-economy looks like it’s just on the horizon, functioning in parallel with the art world’s current system, an emerging realm that artists and audiences are inspired to explore together with a shared sense of belief in the revolutionary potential of the NFT.

Credits :

This article has been illustrated with NFT art pieces coming from Underdogs Galerie, historical partner of Hennessy. Artists Mais Menos, Julien Raffin and Pedrita Studio have contributed to Ephemeral Eternal, challenging the boundaries of the contemporary art world through meaningful and digital pieces.
Take_0 NFT by Pedrita Studio
This is Art, photo by Mais Menos
What do you control, NFT by Mais Menos
La Folie des Grandeurs, NFT by Julien Raffin

Writing in the Margins - Hennessy

About Edd Norval 

A Scottish editorial author living in Aarhus Denmark, Edd Norval focuses on the psychology and behaviours within Art and Sports. Edd collaborates with, featuring the faces of today's best international urban art, one of Hennessy's most beloved artistic expressions.