IN THE ALLURING WORLD OF NFTs, THERE’S SOMETHING FOR THE ARTIST AND THE COLLECTOR

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ARTS & REVIEW

NFTs can, besides enhancing the artist’s visibility and huge potentials for bigger revenue streams, help preserve his works in a decentralised space and protect them from possible deterioration, Adesola Fakile tells Okechukwu Uwaezuoke

Adesola Fakile offered new vistas of potential for The Artist Ladder Konnect (TALK) residency participants when he delivered his talk about NFTs that Thursday, December 9, 2021. This was soon after he was introduced by Blessing “Bee” Azubike, the cultural producer and arts consultant, who was behind the residency programme.

It was Day Four of the five-day programme and all eyes and attention trailed him as he paced around the well-furnished foyer of the Sangotedo, Lekki-based Love Portion Art Hub, which was the venue of the residency programme.

The bearded, ebony-complexioned self-described multipontentialite – whose resumé also proclaims a maverick designer, creative technologist, solutions architect, digital novelist, and poet – dressed the part in black sweatshirt and black denim trousers, looking every inch the techie. Also, his bio-data affirms that he “creates and proffers design and technological solutions through critical needs analysis, leading to the materialisation of cutting-edge aesthetics and interactive works, based on user, data, and product centricity as well as digital operational excellence.”

Hence, no one seemed better suited to lead the discussion on NFTs that sun-drenched morning than this gifted adept of digital arts, science, technology, and “anything in-between”. Besides, it helped that his credentials glistened with experience working for such high-profile brands as the telecommunications company MTN, Heritage Bank, Lagos Momentum, British-American Tobacco, Total Nigeria, Total Ascent, ICAN-UK, Goldberg, Malta Guinness, NISER, Lagos@ 50 digital art collection for the Lagos State Government as well as his recognition as a digital technology resource fellow for the Nigerian Army, Navy and Empretech Nigeria, among others.

This two-decade experience in design and digital technology culminated in his founding of Udesign, Nigeria’s first Do-It-Yourself Platform. This, in addition to preparing him to become the Lagos International Poetry Festival’s lead designer and technologist, a five-star digital author on Envato’s Graphicriver, and the founder and CEO of Megaheadz, a high-end design tech company.

Back to NFT. It is an abbreviation for Non-Fungible Token, as virtually everyone in the foyer already knew. So-called because, according to Fakile, it is “a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, [which is] a form of digital ledger.” In other words, the uniqueness and irreplaceability of the data unit render it “non-fungible” unlike bitcoins, which because they can be traded for another, are fungible.

As a result, it’s not unexpected that a lot of the hype is around how it may be used to benefit visual artists. “NFTs can be associated with reproducible digital files such as images (jpg, gif, png, 3D formats), videos, and audio,” Fakile explained. “Because the blockchain cannot be manipulated and NFTs are stored there; they carry a Certificate of Authenticity or Proof of Ownership. The lack of interchangeability is what differentiates NFTs from other cryptocurrencies. They are unique and even though they can be copied and shared because the copies do not carry the cryptographic hash ID of the original one.”

NFTs can, in fact, be used to sell anything digital, including drawings, music, and literary works. However, the current emphasis appears to be on using technology to redefine ownership in digital space. Most NFTs, which store extra information that allows them to function differently than Ethereum coins like bitcoin or dogecoin, are supported by the Ethereum blockchain.

So, how does the artist stand to benefit from all this? Besides enhancing his visibility and huge potentials for bigger revenue streams, his works are also appropriately preserved in a decentralised space, where they cannot deteriorate. Therefore, NFTs – designed to produce works that can’t be copied even when the artist still retains the ownership of the work (the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork) – confers an enduring quality on artworks.

Also, NFTs have a feature, which the artist can enable to pay him a percentage every time the NFT is sold or transferred. Thus, he is assured of reaping some of the benefits of his work becomes extremely popular and skyrockets in value. The collector, on the other hand, who is concerned about his ownership of an artwork’s original version is not taken advantage of in the process. This is because he not only gains the bragging rights of owning an artwork with a blockchain entry to back it up, but he also gains some basic usage rights, such as the ability to post an image of an artwork online or set it as his profile picture. Meanwhile, NFTs, like any other speculative asset, can be purchased with the expectation that their value will rise over time and that they will be resold for a profit.

Fakile, who described the artist as “a vessel of endless ideas and expressions, [who is] always in motion, seeking new channels and mediums, through which these artistic notions can be made manifest and thus their uniqueness felt” recommends such NFT marketplaces as opensea.io that help artists extend the reach of their creativity.

As for the art dealer, the benefit accrues from the simple extension of the representation of his or her favoured artists and their artworks on the NFT marketplaces. “The basic rules of business will still apply in this case; a clear agreement on duties, responsibilities, and revenue share. Lastly, the art dealer does not entirely need a physical gallery or exhibition to get potential buyers to experience and patronise new works.”

Interestingly, people have developed online communities based on NFTs, whose communal activities depend on unique peculiarities. Hence, as the visual arts sub-sector embarks on a journey of self-preservation – which includes the preservation of its history in rich media and 3D formats on all blockchains – a new ecosystem led by collaborative efforts of brilliant minds offers new vistas of possibilities.