You’ve probably heard it before: “Can’t I just right click and save as?” NFTs are still an emerging technology, and misconceptions and misinformation about them remain prevalent in the public sphere. So, why collect digital art when you can download a file for free? Why would someone collect a Van Gogh instead of just buying a print? There are actually plenty of reasons for collecting digital art.
What problems do NFTs Solve?
For decades, digital artists have struggled with a problem: How could they distribute their art? While it’s true that digital artists could previously be commissioned and paid, the works they produced were distributed as file types with no protections or provenance–it was difficult to determine the origin and therefore authorship of a work, and while someone can own the intellectual property associated with a JPEG or an MP4, there was no way to own a piece of digital art like someone can own a painting or a sculpture. This system also meant that largely, digital artists could only be paid for their work on commission; they could only earn from their art if they created for other people instead of themselves.
A second problem was trust–how could a digital artist trust that a collector would send them money, or how could a collector ensure that an artist would complete a commission?
"Noise Dreams in the Early Morning" by Sky Goodman on SuperRare
NFTs allow digital artworks to exist as unique items, which can be easily bought and sold. Artists are not limited to getting paid on commission–now, artists can mint original works at will and sell them on a digital art marketplace. And now, NFTs give digital art provenance, meaning that the origin of a work, as well as its history, is recorded transparently on the blockchain. And blockchain also provides a system where two parties don’t need to trust each other, or even a third party–blockchain transactions are automatic once executed. On an NFT marketplace, once a collector authorizes a purchase or a bid, the transaction is guaranteed.
NFTs also make it easier for collectors to loan out pieces from their collection and, since NFTs are digital, have fostered the development of a truly global art market, connecting artists, collectors, and viewers from around the world.
NFTs have also changed the way we consume art. Even if a collector owns a piece of art, that work is still visible on chain, making it possible for collectors to easily find pieces they love from other people’s collections in order to make offers, and also allowing for everyone to see and enjoy a piece of art, even when they don’t own it. This way, anyone can enjoy an artwork without buying it or paying admission at a museum or traveling to a gallery or a private collection, but the artist still gets paid for their work.
"Pixels on Acid 17" by Acid Boy on SuperRare
Why should you buy digital art?
The primary reasons to buy digital art are the same as buying physical art. Now, since digital artworks can be unique objects, buying digital art supports artists and allows you to own and display art. And, because some NFT art marketplaces (like SuperRare) honor artist royalties, artists can now earn passive income every time one of their works is sold on the secondary market.
Buying digital art supports a previously underserved sector of the art world, taps you into the most recent trends in art, and, ultimately, allows you to buy, sell, trade, and own art that you love.