What Are NFTs and How Are They Benefiting Latinx Artists?

NFTs BELatina Latinx
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Over the past few months, you’ve probably heard more and more about NFTs. Do you have any idea what they’re all about? Neither do we. That’s why we decided to dive into the information and try to decipher them, especially when we learned that they seem to be a way for Latino artists and creatives to break away from the hegemonic art system and make it.

It all started with the rise of cryptocurrency, transforming the capitalist system into the digital world. The first NFT project was launched in 2015 on the Ethereum blockchain, but interest and total monetary value skyrocketed earlier this year.

But what is an NFT?

Its acronym stands for “Non-fungible tokens.” It represents a cryptocurrency token that functions as a certificate of authenticity for a reproducible item, such as a photo, unique piece of digital art, music, or otherwise.

As The Economist explains, an NFT is a record on the blockchain of a cryptocurrency (an immutable ledger that can record more than just virtual currencies) that represents pieces of digital media. Invented a few years ago, it can be linked not only to art but also to text, video, or bits of code.

How does it work?

Like someone buying bitcoin, NFTs have been becoming currency in the digital world, especially after Christie’s, Britain’s largest auction house, sold a piece of digital art for $69 million earlier this year. What it actually sold was an NFT, a cryptocurrency token that proves the buyer owns an intangible marker related to a unique piece of digital art, music, or other items.

In recent months, tweets, basketball dunk videos, and even the source code for the World Wide Web have been sold as NFTs. From June to September, they generated nearly $11 billion in sales, an eightfold increase over the previous four months, according to DappRadar, a market tracker.

As The Economist continues, for creators who freely upload their works or sell them as identical copies, the concept of originality is difficult to pin down. Exclusivity is impossible to enforce when digital files can be shared freely on the Internet. However, collectors want the cachet that comes with claiming a work of art as exclusive. This is where NFTs fit in.

How do artists benefit?

As The Guardian explained, the technology offers a revolutionary new way to sell art and bypass the stuffy gatekeepers of culture, whose resistance to a crypto future seems as square as the 19th-century Parisian art world’s disdain for Impressionism.

With a simple Google search, anyone can find and download the file associated with an NFT for nothing and store it on their phone or computer, but only the owner has the right to sell it. Each NFT is unique, and all transactions are recorded on the blockchain, a type of database invented in 2008 to record the movement of cryptocurrencies.

Thanks to smart contracts on the blockchain, artists are setting rules for themselves regarding commissions (typically 10 percent) on resales, revenue that has been hotly contested for visual artists.

“Artists and creative communities are the ones who are making things interesting right now,” says Sara Ludy, an artist who works across digital media and recently moved to Placitas, New Mexico, to Hyperallergic.

“It’s like the galleries are kind of spinning in circles, trying to grasp this moment and find ways to get into NFTs,” says Ludy, who has been vocal on social media and with Hyperallergic about her aims to create a more equitable split of her NFT sales. “One gallery I think has done an exceptional job is Transfer Gallery. They just had an online exhibition called Pieces of Me with Left Gallery, and in addition to a well-curated show, they created a preservation model where the works are properly contextualized and stored, and they also created a redistribution model where a percentage of all artwork sold would be distributed to those [artists] who didn’t sell.”

Ludy adds, “These are the galleries to pay attention to, those who are creating inclusive and transparent models that benefit everyone. Galleries showing up with traditional art world models and opacity aren’t gonna make it.”

Thus, a transparent, experimental, and participatory community has been created where artists buy and sell for six figures or more, and a network of support is created among all.

Just a few weeks ago, two Latino artists took the opportunity to fill the NFT space with meaningful Día de Los Muertos-inspired art.

As reported by NBC News, crypto investor David Galan founded a Day of the Dead NFT project, a collection of 7,777 NFTs. The project’s digital assets feature art heavily inspired by La Catrina.

Galan partnered with graphic designer Armando Parrilla, whose art is influenced by the street culture of his Southern California upbringing.

“To see people with our culture in this NFT space … it’s like, it’s a chance. Is it breaking a barrier? Is it going to open doors for other artists from within our culture?” Parrilla said.

The Day of the Dead NFTs are just the first phase of what Galán, Parrilla, and the rest of their team plan to create: an augmented reality world where users can visit virtual cemeteries that they can customize to honor their loved ones.