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What the NFT crypto art craze means for artists

A detail shot from Beeple's historic collage
Beeple via Reuters
A detail shot from a Beeple's collage "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS"
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published Last updated on

It’s been two weeks since Christie’s historic $69.3 million auction for crypto art ignited light bulbs around the world. Digital content creators of all caliber have been plotting their own Beeple moment, hoping to find a similar fortune like the 39-year-old graphic designer from South Carolina who instantly became rich and famous via the single-lot sale.

Since then, more gambits have vied for headlines. Many are stunts or dada experiments designed to test the borders of the nascent crypto art market and the non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) that confer ownership and authenticity of digital files that live in the ether, where they can be easily replicated. There have been NFTs for the audio recording of fart noises; for a meme based on an unflattering yearbook photo; and for a portfolio of paintings made by a humanoid robot. A slew of celebrities—from Grimes to Diplo—have entered the fray. Quartz got into the action, too, and sold an NFT news article for 1 etherium (worth $1,800 when the auction closed) on the NFT marketplace OpenSea. (The New York Times and Time magazine soon followed with their own NFT drops.)

Some artists, however, are earnestly looking into how blockchain can bolster their livelihoods. The questions on their minds: Can anyone make a fortune in the NFT market? Is it truly a democratic platform?

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