Finding hanging space for your recently purchased NFT artwork is not something you need to worry about, for your artwork will in all likelihood never need to be hung.
NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens is a technology that has been around since 2017 when CryptoKitties emerged as an experiment in crypto collectibles. At that stage, the average price for a crypto cat card was US $60. Four years later, in March 2021 the digital artist Mike Winkelmann sold an NFT for a record $69 million making it the third highest price ever fetched by a currently living artist.[2
For the $69 million, the purchaser bought the digital file and some vague rights to present the image, though how this is to be done, is still to be decided and agreed.
What exactly are non-fungible tokens or NFT’s? NFT’s are digital tokens are tied to assets that can be bought, sold and traded. They are similar to cryptocurrency in that they exist on crypto platforms which are used to authenticate the ownership of the digital file, however NFT’s have unique valuations set by the highest bidder. Basically, they exist on our computers as digital representations of artworks, songs, and films amongst other things.
When you buy an NFT what you are buying is a unique certificate of ownership that often gives you little more than bragging rights because the creator of the artwork will in most cases continue to own the copyright.
What most people do not realise with this new movement is the enormous carbon footprint that exists within cryptocurrencies and NFT’s.
When a digital artist wants to sell an NFT, they have to tokenise their work on a blockchain, or a tamper resistant digital public register. Tokenising their work involves a process called mining. Mining is an energy-intensive function whereby specialist computers take turns guessing the combination to a digital lock that can be used on the register. Ethereum which is one of the blockchains many people use, uses about 31 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity a year which is about as much as the whole of Nigeria. Much of the electricity required to drive these computers is from fossil-based fuels.
For an asset that has no physical presence or utility outside the digital realm, the process of producing these tokens or coins is extremely inefficient When you are buying NFT’s you do not see the power required to drive the calculations required to create the tokens you are using. It is easy to think, because the token has no physical presence there is no cost in its creation. The reality is vastly different.
As well as the cost to the environment, the legal impact of NFT’s requires further consideration and work, particularly in the area of how existing copyright laws will interact with the new technology. Already there have been instances where artists work has been plagiarised and sold on the NFT marketplace.
While we may not need to decide where to hang our NFT’s, perhaps we do need to think about the environmental and legal consequences of NFT’s before entering this digital space.