Human-tech hybrids are Frederik Heyman's speciality, so it's no surprise that the digital artist listed his sci-fi fashion film Ceremonial Formality as an NFT earlier this week. Ok, hold up. What is an NFT? Why am I suddenly hearing about them everywhere? And why did Heyman's sell for $98,809?
NFTs are non-fungible tokens: in layman's terms they're digital assets that are bought and sold using cryptocurrency (in this case Ethereum), as collectible pieces of art. Just like the Mona Lisa or a Picasso, they can be duplicated and re-produced online. That's exactly what happened last week after the auction house Christie's became the first to hold a digital auction, selling an NFT by the digital artist Beeple for £50m. Here's the catch - unlike a physical artwork, NFTs live solely online, so can be right clicked and saved by anyone and everyone, for free. Mind boggled? Bear with us.
To acquire an NFT is to own the original; ownership records are stored in a blockchain forever. And, just like the dissemination of art works onto the internet, or as postcards in a museum shop, the reproduction of NFTs only adds to their value - only one person can lay claim to the original token. NFT collectors may also receive a contract as part of their purchase, or retain copyright ownership, meaning that they're able to receive a cut of any reproduction or sales costs later down the line.
NFTs are also a safe way for the wealthy to invest their money; stored in a wallet or artwork using the blockchain, they're not as vulnerable to the rise and fall of the stock market or banks. In a sense, NFTs live in an apolitical digital landscape with no third parties involved in the transactions. However, that's only if you're able to turn a blind eye to the climate controversy surrounding NFTs, due to the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the cryptocurrencies used to trade them. To buy an NFT, one must use the cryptocurrency Ethereum. These are created through powerful computers 'mining' in the blockchain (this is where our heads start to hurt). In short, a high energy consumption is involved, one to match that of Libya or Ireland. Beeple, the aforementioned Christie's artist, recently announced that all of his work going forward will be carbon neutral or negative. Others in the market are hoping that Ethereum will switch to a different system called 'proof of stake' which would be far less impactful on the environment.
The main thing you should know, is that NFTs are picking up pace, infiltrating everything from fashion and music to art. Recently, Grimes sold her War Nymph Collection for over $6m and the studio Illust Space sold digital versions of the late MF Doom's iconic black face mask for close to $200,000.
The digital artist Frederik Heyman has collaborated with brands such as GENTLE MONSTER, and most recently directed the music video for Arca's Nonbinary, featuring the pop sensation as a tech-hybrid. When it comes to digital artworks, Heyman is a master, using 3D scanning and photogrammetry to create images fit for a post-human world. Therefore, trading in NFTs makes perfect sense as Heyman's next move.
His film Ceremonial Formality, which first premiered on SHOWstudio in 2020, promises a glimpse into what our future psyches might look like, featuring fashion from Gucci, JW Anderson, Givenchy, Bottega Veneta, Marni and Mugler rendered in 3D. Heyman has now sold part of the film for $98,809 on the platform SuperRare, which sells digital artworks, aka NFTs. Users are able to bid or purchase at asking price, a bit like 'Buy Now' on eBay, except add a couple of 0's onto the price tag. Offering a VR gallery for collectors to show off their acquisitions, and even a leader board, SuperRare is an example of how NFTs are driven by the same system of patronage and value that supports the traditional art world. Stay tuned, because this is just the beginning.