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Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Is it a life saver for the world of art? Perhaps not!

The story of NFT reminds me of the classic novel, The little prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The little prince lands up in an island where there is only one very serious looking man seated behind a large desk. The man is looking up at the sky and then back into a lager repeatedly. He is noting something down in the lager and then opening the drawer to keep the lager back into it. After that he locks the drawer. Taking up another lager, he sets about his noting ritual.

The little prince asks him, befuddled, ‘What are you doing?’

The man pauses and replies in a hurry, ‘Can’t you see I am counting and keeping track of the stars up in the sky?’

The little prince asks, ‘Why are you doing that?’

The man says, ‘I own the stars of the universe. I am keeping precise count of them.’

The little prince is confused. ‘You mean you own the stars! What do you do with them?’

Now it is the turn of the man to be taken aback. ‘What do I do? Nothing! What can I do with the stars out there so far away?’

‘Then what is the point in owning them?’ Inquires the little prince.

The man swells in pride, ‘I own them. All of them! I am the owner of the stars!’

So is the story of NFT.

A digital file can be reproduced in any number of copies. But thanks to NFT, the original is embedded with a code called Non fungible token that can not be copied. Wonder of technology, undoubtedly. And that embedded digital file is the original. When copied, the copy is without the token. Hence the very structure of the original always stands out wherever it is, in whoever’s possession.

Now, let us consider an image. An Image of a beautiful flower. Looking at it gives all the pleasure to the viewer. An exact copy does not deprive the viewer from getting that pleasure, be it without the NFT hidden in its belly. So, the factual utility of the image ends at watching at it. But then in today’s world there are people who cares more. If they know that there is an NFT encoded inside, they can feel better when they look at the same flower. It becomes more flowery!

Not really! The encoded NFT is an authentication certificate that the image is original. The owner is looking at the original even if it has everything same as the duplicate.

So, it is right to brag! NFT offers the grand right to claim ownership of a digital work.

Just like the man in that planet who was happy boasting about owning the stars up in the sky even if he did exactly the same thing as anybody else. And that was simply looking at the sky.

So, NFT offers the special privilege of bragging ownership, not utility!

I am being sarcastic about this grandeur of ownership pride. One can say that the same applies to an original Leonardo or Rafael. Why should anybody be excited to look at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre when a nice print can be found with the hawker by the side of the road? Well, there is a difference. The Mona Lisa in the louvre has the same board on which Leonardo painted. It has the same strokes of paint that was applied by the old master’s hand. It was the same physical piece that was carried by the master for several years wherever he went. It was the same piece that was stolen by a nameless janitor because he wanted the Italian property to be back to hits homeland. So much of history was embedded into each grain of that physical object. The digital file in the computer is not like that. Still, the fancy of ownership empowers one to brag. The bragging right!

And how about NFT in art? Someone told me that NFTs are the ultimate game changers for struggling artists. The Van Goghs of this modern world would not die ignominious death any more thanks to NFTs.

Well, the trouble in this perception is rooted in the fact that such advocates of NFT does not understand art. They go by the couple of black swan mega transactions like that of the collage of Beeple and the Nyan Cat. These advocates did not even look at the so-called collage or the primitive animation of the cat. Those are not art works in wildest imagination.

You can have a look at the collage below. This is just copied from internet and pasted here. Don't look for NFT inside it.

And here is the cat.

Both sold through NFT platform at millions of dollars. I do not know how these are different than trying to sell a random screenshot of my desktop. Well, I must say loud and clear – IT IS THE ORIGINAL SCREENSHOT taken by pressing Fn + PrtSc on my own keyboard with a fine layer of dust on them.

Think over, will you buy the NFT-embellished original screenshot in exchange of a million dollars and call it artwork?

Perhaps you will if you have no idea of what art means and what artist means.

Now, with a positive attitude, I must say that NFT offers one unique advantage for digital artists. That is the authentication of originality when the creation is prone to reproduction at the flick of a finger. Besides, the thread of exchange of hands (computers) remains recorded when it goes through change of ownership. Hence, the artist can earn a commission whenever a resell happens.

Now, let me throw up a question at this point. Even in case of non-virtual paintings on canvas, copies and reproductions happen. And when one non-popular artist’s work is copied by another non-popular artist, there is only heartburn. A little noise in closed circles of near and dear ones. Nothing more. Nobody really loses money because neither artwork actually finds a buyer with a million dollar on the table.

So is the case of digital artists. There are thousands of digital arts rolled out on daily basis in this world by unknown struggling artists. Even if their arts are embedded with NFT and can not be copied yet they have no benefit beyond feeling good because no million-dollar deal strikes every alternate anyway.

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