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NFTs: Let's start over

The recent media and social avalanche of NFTs brings with it an underlying problem: the vast majority of people do not understand what this new technology is all about. In that sense, suspicions abound about a new speculative fraud, a new bubble that will soon burst, or even a covert pyramid. This confusion has been compounded by headlines highlighting news of NFTS being sold for millions of dollars; likening this new tool to a delusional lottery or a new bonanza rather than a technological breakthrough that, I believe, could be very profitable for many artists around the world.

After watching dozens of tutorials, consulting press articles and reading the interesting books written by Eva Cortez and Daniel L. Bray, I am afraid that the debate could be facilitated if the conversation starts differently. Although human beings live today surrounded by new technologies, for many - myself included - they are somewhat indecipherable: I doubt very much that we know with certainty and precision what a computer is, what a GPS is or what Twitter is. But what we do know is what these artifacts or inventions are for. In that sense, it would be better, before defining "what is" an NFT (a thankless and complex task in itself), to stop and understand "what" they are - or may be in the future - for.

Although the true scope of this technology is not clear to date, a couple of considerable attributes can be highlighted that, in my opinion, have a transformative and beneficial power for many artistic and cultural markets. To these attributes of NFTS, in particular, I will refer below.

An initial clarification: not all NFTs are works of art -or seek to be- and the markets in which they are traded are not exclusively artistic markets. There are video games, sports brand "wearables", newspaper columns, magazine covers, collectible sports cards that, among others, are also part of this universe. Likewise, many artists, including the famous Damien Hirst, decided to get involved in this new scenario. In the NFTs spectrum there is enough room for everyone; in that sense, complaints and objections regarding the "artistic value" of some works related to other purposes or contexts are irrelevant.

The Kiss Genesis, an example of a collection of NFTs created in Colombia and inspired by a high scale mural.

In the first place, NFTs are a tool -mainly- economic. For any artist, digital or not, it is a growing alternative to access audiences that would otherwise be unreachable. The platforms on which these NFTs are traded, such as Opensea, Rareware and Binance NFT (many of them with minimal access costs) allow the work, careers and projects of creators to come into contact with potential buyers and investors. Given the nature of the transaction (similar to a stock exchange), as soon as the works are purchased, they can be immediately offered for sale. In other words, these markets are designed to enhance the transactions of the works, which can pass through several owners in the course of a few days, increasing their value with each transaction.

A second and most important aspect is that the markets in which NFTs are traded present an unprecedented opportunity for permanent remuneration for artists. For decades the art markets presented a great injustice: the artist only participated in the first transaction, but in subsequent sales it was others (gallery owners, collectors, auction houses) who profited, sometimes disproportionately. A work sold by an artist for hundreds of dollars to a gallery could end up costing millions of dollars in subsequent sales. A situation that, in addition to being unfair, made the artist's job precarious, who, in spite of selling his works, would not achieve the longed-for economic stability over time. There is plenty of evidence. On the other hand, the specialized NFTs markets allow the artist or creator to participate in a percentage (a kind of royalty) in all future sales. A transcendental advance that will allow the consolidation of the life and professional project of thousands of artists.

Finally, NFTs can be an essential aid to freedom of expression in the world. One of the most harmful circumstances for free expression is its subjugation to the world's economic and political powers. It is not fortuitous that big billionaires buy newspapers, magazines, television channels and streaming services: they know the power to control public discourse beyond business. For all this, the connection that NFTs markets promote between artists and audiences favors the artist (solving his urgent economic issues and without the need to please clients or governments) to explore and consider themes and realities in an independent and sovereign way. In effect, the well-known marketplace of ideas, fundamental to the consolidation of freedom of expression and essential freedoms, will become more robust, broader and more diverse with the presence of NFTs. Society as a whole will improve.

As I mentioned at the beginning, much remains to be discovered with this new technology and its scope is still on the eve of being even conceived. However, for now, it is worthwhile for any artist or artistic project interested in finding an economic alternative for their career to explore this new space under construction and, if it is the case, to enter and experiment their participation in these markets. Something big is looming over all of us and, to that extent, it is better to be prepared and get used to the new universes. There is no point in closing our eyes.

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