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With the seemingly endless media coverage of NFT sales as of late, perhaps the most notable being the $2.9 million sale of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first tweet as an NFT, many have begun to ask the same question:
What is an NFT?
NFT is an acronym for “non-fungible token.” Non-fungible is an economic term that refers to a commodity’s inability to be exchanged with other commodities of the same type. Translation: a unique item that can’t be replicated or replaced, even with something in the same category. To put it even more simply, imagine that you have somehow miraculously obtained a signed guitar that once belonged to Prince. While you could choose to sell that for an insane amount of currency, you can never trade it for another identical item. The signed Prince guitar is non-fungible.
NFTs, the digital equivalent of a signed Prince guitar, are currently sold in the form of Ethereum blockchain tokens using Ethereum cryptocurrency and USD. All forms of media can be sold as NFTs, giving the purchaser exclusive rights to that piece of content.
Perhaps one of the more notable NFTs that garnered media attention for its record-setting sale price was an art piece created by Mike Winklemann, professionally known as Beeple, called “Everydays: the First 5000 Days.” The digital art piece raked in a whopping $69.3 million.
What is truly puzzling to most about the NFT phenomenon is its realm. NFTs are purely pieces of digital media, with no attachment to the physical world outside of our ability to view them on our screens. Without a way to monitor or enforce who can actually access (or even duplicate) the content, the only thing that is special about an NFT is its unique blockchain-authenticated ownership.
At the end of the day, consider the value of an NFT akin to the value of any other piece of artwork or media — it is determined by the market. Countless replicas of the Mona Lisa can be found on bedroom walls, in middle school classrooms, and numerous other places around the world where they can be viewed and enjoyed by millions.
In fact, the winner of the Jack Dorsey tweet auction Sina Estavi compared his pricey digital acquisition to the centuries-old Leonardo da Vinci piece:
“This is not just a tweet! I think years later people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting,” Estavi tweeted.
Estavi may be onto something; like the Mona Lisa, regardless of how many replicas can be created, bought, and sold, there will only ever be one Mona Lisa.
Many analysts attribute the explosive NFT trend to bored retail and meme traders’ FOMO (fear of missing out,) and believe that it is only a matter of time before the NFT bubble bursts in the same fashion as many trading trends before it.
Though the buying and selling of tweets may seem absurd, the NFT phenomenon has been advantageous to digital artists who, before NFTs, went largely uncompensated for their works. The NFT has breathed a new life into the value of artwork created using digital media, allowing artists to finally capitalize on their cultural contributions.
Doge-1: the SpaceX mission funded by Dogecoin
SpaceX announced Sunday its plans to accept payment for its services in the explosively popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin. The Canadian renewable energy technologies firm Geometric Energy Corporation will pay SpaceX solely in Dogecoin to send an 88-pound satellite that will “obtain lunar-spatial intelligence from sensors and cameras” to the moon. The mission, dubbed Doge-1, is expected to take off in early 2022.
“This is not a joke,” Geometric Energy Corporation CEO Samuel Reid said via phone.
Despite the announcement, Dogecoin has been on the decline since SpaceX CEO and Twitter celebrity Elon Musk appeared on Saturday Night Live last week and called the currency a “hustle.” Some speculate that his offhand comment may have sparked the massive selloff that caused the coin to plummet in value from its peak price of $0.73 down to $0.43 in a matter of hours. Three days later, the value still hovers between $0.40 and $0.50 on average.
Musk also wrote a tweet about the Doge-1 satellite on Sunday:
Musk’s cavalier tweet reflects the spirit of retail traders across the country, whose collective mantra “to the moon” has gained explosive popularity along with the rise in trading trends like cryptocurrency. It appears that Musk intends to show his support for the crypto and retail trading community with the SpaceX mission to take Dogecoin “to the moon” — literally.
Capital gains tax hike, SEC announcement sends Bitcoin into period of volatility
The historic stock market selloff last Friday following President Biden’s capital gains tax hike announcement left the cryptocurrency market in shambles with more than $200 billion in losses across the board. The popular blockchain-based coins Bitcoin and Ether both dropped by nearly 8 percent in value in a manner of hours after the announcement last Thursday, with rising-star coin XRP falling by more than 16 percent. The proposed tax rate of 43.3 percent — double the current rate — would apply to returns on assets held in taxable accounts and sold after more than a year. It would also be the highest income tax rate in the country.
Bitcoin experienced another hit in its market value when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was delaying its decision on whether or not to approve Bitcoin as an exchange-traded fund (ETF) per the request of VanEck Global, an investment management firm that has been in operation since 1955.
“The Commission finds that it is appropriate to designate a longer period within which to take action on the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider the proposed rule change and the comments received,” said an assistant secretary at the SEC in a filing.
Despite the recent news stories, the largest digital asset in the world is still trading at more than five times its value one year ago to date. Major stock market players have recently entered the Bitcoin game with significant bets in the cryptocurrency — including Tesla, which has acquired more than $2.5 billion in Bitcoin. The coin’s value continues to pick back up, and many speculate that it could soon exceed its mid-April high of over $64,000.
Emily Ratajkowski to auction NFT in statement about image appropriation
The above image will be auctioned as an NFT at Christie’s on May 14
Artist Richard Prince is known for his highly controversial pieces, which often plagiarize others’ work. Some have deemed his appropriative style as a subversive commentary on exploitative American ideals, while others have condemned him as merely a misogynistic “troll.” Perhaps his most famous, and simultaneously most controversial rephotograph (a photo of another photo) titled “Spiritual America” is an appropriation of a photograph of then-10-year-old actress Brooke Shields, who stands completely naked, heavily made-up, and covered in oil in a bathtub. The recontextualization of the disturbing photograph, originally taken by Gary Gross, was named after another photograph of a castrated horse taken by Alfred Stieglitz. “Spiritual America” debuted in a gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1983 and quickly garnered global recognition for Prince, a then-budding artist.
Prince’s most recent newsworthy art show “New Portraits,” which debuted in 2014, featured prints (or “paintings”) of images appropriated from various celebrities’ Instagram profiles. Among the countless ultra-famous faces represented in the show was supermodel Emily Ratajkowski, who was surprised to learn that her image was one of those included in the show. In a tell-all article featured in New York Magazine’s The Cut last September, she chronicled her experience discovering the painting, her failed attempt to purchase it, and finally her obtaining a second image of herself that had been included in the “New Portraits” series. The Richard Prince “appropriation art” piece that she eventually claimed for more than $80,000 now hangs on her own wall — and she has decided to use it to create an appropriation of her own.
Ratajkowski’s The Cut piece, titled “Buying Myself Back: When does a model own her own image?” details multiple occasions where the model has lost agency over her own image. She prefaces a scathing account of sexual assault and legal woes regarding the non-permitted use of her images for profit with an emphatic quote:
“I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own.”
She continues her exploration of ownership almost in tandem with Prince, who is considered a pioneer in artistic commentary on authorship and ownership. The upcoming auction of her NFT (non-fungible token) transcends unprecedented layers of copyright infringement, the likes of which perhaps even appropriation artist Richard Prince himself has yet to breach. The NFT, titled “Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution,” depicts herself posed in front of the “New Portraits” piece she purchased in 2014. The image contains a photograph taken by a Sports Illustrated photographer, an Instagram post created by Ratajkowski herself, and the artwork created by Prince.
The piece will be put up for auction on May 14 at Christie’s, a globally-renowned auction house where artist Beeple’s infamous NFT artwork “Everydays: the First 5,000 Days” sold for a record-breaking $69 million; it remains the highest-grossing NFT to date. Though many pieces set for auction have a projected value listed on the site, Ratajkowski’s NFT shows “estimate on request” where a ballpark figure is typically presented. The model and actress’s net worth currently sits around $8 million — with the exploding popularity and value of NFTs, that figure could likely change with the sale of her debut artwork.