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How NFTS are Mapping a New Future for Street Artists

While NFTs may have been around for some months you might still be wondering what the hype is all about… 

In 2021 and 2022, NFTs have made a name for themselves in the art world more than ever. Despite the ongoing debate about whether NFTs should be considered assets rather than artworks, it is hard to ignore the lingering ricochets that the sale of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days has had on the art world.

Having sold at Christie’s in one of the hottest auctions of 2021, where it fetched a staggering $69.3 million, Beeple’s artwork, and the NFTs of digital artists such as CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club have firmly put this new technology on the map, with huge brands like Nike and Disney, celebrities and famous contemporary artists jumping on the bandwagon. 

But what really are NFTs and how have they changed the game for street artists?

So What is an NFT Anyway?

‘NFT’ stands for non-fungible tokens. This is a way of registering a one-of-a-kind image, video, or any form of digital media on a blockchain (a system of recording digital information in a way that makes it impossible to duplicate or hack).

This means that underlying NFT art is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data which can be used to guarantee the uniqueness of each NFT and to prove its ownership.

So Why are Street Artists Interested in NFTs?

Much like NFTs, Street Art emerged with the aims of disrupting the art market by focusing on creative freedom rather than the taste of the market. Not created to circulate at auction or to hang in a museum where it would be visible only to an elite few, the original street artists liberated art from its institutional confines and repositioned it in public spaces. This allowed artists to democratise art by bypassing galleries, thereby reaching a much larger and wider audience. 

Although Street art has undergone a major shift in public perception, with street artists such as Banksy and KAWS making a huge name for themselves in the contemporary art market, street art is still one of the most undervalued and underserved sections of the art world. This is perhaps due to the ephemerality of street art, who’s lifespan, intentionally or not, is often very short. 

Farewell to Love ( after a wall art by Banksy) ,  Thomas Dellert,

However, a new trend among street artists is emerging! Many street artists are turning to NFTs to give their artworks life after they’ve been covered up or removed.

For example, 2021 saw the creation of the Murals of the Metaverse Plan, the coming together of SIX artists—Jet Martinez, Wolfe Pack, Vogue, Joshua Mays, Bud Snow, and Ruff Draft, who muralised over 10,000 square feet of Oakland USA’s Tribune Tower. However, the works they created were never destined for permanent display and were soon covered up by their creator’s own hands! Instead, every mural was scanned and turned into a 3D model of itself, which was then enhanced using augmented reality and turned into NFTs.

So what does this mean for Street Artists?

The digitalization of street art necessitates a rethinking of a street artist’s professional path. Despite the rise in popularity of street art, many artists still struggle to make a living. This may be altering as a result of NFTs and their popularity amongst established and first time art collectors. With NFTs, street artists are able to extend their reach to a global audience, to be better compensated, and find advocacy for their work, aided by companies like Streeth and the NFT Mural Collective, both of which specialise in turning street art into NFTs. 

And finally, with greater permanence, street art will be able to achieve its rightful place in the art market and history!

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