In the last two years, collectives of Indian artists have bought into the NFT idea
Karan Kalra, a 30-year-old multidisciplinary visual engineer, at his home in Delhi woke up to a flood of emails, an unusual start to a normal day. Just a day before that, he created his NXT ‘Dreamers’, an example of the love for his dog Zelda to enjoy a car ride on. He had previously managed to sell some artwork but was still waiting for his first ‘big’ sale. It came on that day in 2021. A sense of recognition and triumph ran through his veins when he realized that the artwork had been bought for around 600 WazirX – an India-based cryptocurrency – worth around Rs 80,000. Kalra has not looked back since then.
What is NFT?
It’s hard to interpret these virtual digital assets without drowning your brain cells in a bowl full of technical jargon. In simple words, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital assets that use blockchain technology. It serves as an authentic proof of ownership of both digital and physical goods and is non-exchangeable, traceable, and irreversible. An NFT can be anything – an image, video, GIF, song, or physical object.
And what is something whose value you can trust and whose authenticity needs to be guaranteed? art. Over the past two years, the Indian art industry and artists’ groups have embraced the NFT idea. Be it Kalra’s Rs 2,000 note paintings or Siraj Hassan’s ‘Caged’ series, ‘Crypto Art’ is giving artists a new canvas – it is digital, unique, non-transactional, and perfect for the metaverse era. This guarantees that you have the artist’s original piece as it comes with a digital signature. Artists who have been using software to produce art for years had no way of ensuring exclusivity to the afterlife or the buyer. Crypto art has changed that. Now, an NFT painting can hang on your digital wall and be completely yours. Signed, sealed, and delivered on the blockchain.
Kalra, who has spent many years as an artist for big corporations, swears by the big wave of change NFT has brought to the art space.
“You always feel like a second-class citizen in art,” he says about life before NFT. He isn’t the only one.
In the last year or so, a virtual army of artists has walked out from the invisible dungeons to claim their worth using blockchain technology. Artists no longer have to rely on middlemen or wait for years to make their first sale. The advent of free-floating digital creation like NFT has democratized the art market for artists across ages. “I am selling art from a sleepy coastal town like Udupi! It is a level playing field,” says Shreya Daffney, a 29-year-old artist, and architect, who has sold over 30 artworks in the last five years.
And when Christie’s sold Beeple’s ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ in 2021 for a stunning $69 million, making it the first NFT art to be sold by a major auction house, the crypto art industry both at home and abroad got the validation and boost it needed.