Making sense of the NFT gold rush

NFTs have been all over the news, spreading a mix of confusion and excitement in equal measure. Here, James Britton, group managing director at Stink Studios, explores what opportunities they might open up for artists and designers

Like a lot of people, I’ve been struggling to get my head around NFTs. As the cryptosphere continues to move from the fringes to the mainstream, these Non Fungible Tokens have been making the headlines, with online searches now exceeding those for ‘blockchain’, according to Google trends. What’s followed has inevitably felt a bit like a crowd of thousands rushing to get through a single doorway, as everyone from big name artists to internet celebrities clamber to get their work minted and up for sale to the highest bidder before anyone realises what’s actually going on.

But to dismiss all this as a get-rich-quick scheme, or as hysteria that will pass along with countless other technology fads, risks overlooking the core idea that has made NFTs such a fascinating proposition in the first place. The idea, and the underlying technology associated, will endure and outlast the current hype, and so raises a discussion about the wider issues at play.

Firstly, NFTs help to frame the issue of authenticity of digital materials at a time when more and more of our daily lives are played out online. What’s being traded in these high profile examples is not the work itself, but a digital certificate of provenance that is deemed valuable in its own right. Art buyers have always prized provenance; proof of the source of a purchase, or prior ownership, as evidence to reassure that an artwork or object is authentic.

Top illustration by Harry Haysom; Above: Artwork by Zeitguised