HHave you noticed the term “NFT” in news feeds over the last few years? The seemingly cryptic acronym has recently gained momentum, moving from tech-heavy digital spaces to the mainstream.
NFT stands for “non-fungible token”, a digital asset as irreplaceable as a work of art and based on blockchain technology (a decentralized public ledger for financial transactions). NFTs have become something of a revolution in the art world, allowing artists and digital content creators to generate new revenue and connect through virtual communities worldwide.
Confused? Curious? A collective of NFT artists, collectors and enthusiasts called NFTxCincinnati is hosting UNFIT, an immersive art gallery and exhibition that aims to educate newcomers and engage the local NFT community. NFT works will be featured by artists from around the world and there will be expert panel discussions to shed more light on the industry and medium. The event will take place on February 25th and 26th at the Sample Space at The Banks. Panel discussions and a gallery party will take place on Friday, and the gallery will be open for final viewings on Saturday.
UNFIT Co-Curator Andrew VanSickle is a Cincinnati-based artist and photographer who has been collecting NFTs since 2021. “The values [of NFTs] As an artist, I certainly see the opportunity to imprint or register your artwork or edition via the blockchain,” he says. “The cool thing is that your art will always be flawless, embossed and forever. It also gives the artist a sort of rent when the artwork is resold.”
When an artist sells one of their works as an NFT, it becomes digital content. Yes, it can be viewed by anyone in the digital space, but since it’s non-fungible (aka non-replaceable), only one person can claim ownership. NFT creators also earn royalties from each resale.
“If I sold a physical painting through a gallery and the transaction went through, I would do my share and the painting would go on a collector’s wall somewhere, and that would be it,” explains VanSickle. “The collector is in control. You can sell it for a profit and take the money and I’ll never see it again.”
However, artworks created as NFT can be viewed and bought and sold virtually by anyone in the digital space, and they remain in the exact same state forever. Nor is its value generated by artistic institutions, but by members of the NFT community themselves — one of the key benefits of the technology, says Van Sickle. When an artist puts an NFT up for sale, he or she sets a “reserve price,” which is the most affordable price, and then a community of NFT collectors and enthusiasts pushes the piece’s value up or down. He likens it to the stock market, where demand and perceived value are in constant flux.
Take photographer Isaac “Drift” Wright, one of eight artists on display at the UNFIT gallery. In his biography, he describes himself as a US Army special operations veteran who learned to manage PTSD through urban exploration. This usually involves scaling various sky-scraping urban structures and snapping photos of the view below. One of his NFT collections on OpenSea is titled Where My Vans Go; Piece #104 in the collection was originally listed with a reserve price of 10 Ethereum, and its current owner is now asking for 871 Ethereum (about $2.7 million) for resale.
VanSickle says Wright’s situation is what makes the NFT artist marketplace so groundbreaking. “Everyone has this opportunity,” he says. “New superstars are born through NFTs. A whole different class of people outside of art institutions decide what is good and what has value.”
UNFIT co-curator Noah Beiting says the community aspect of the NFT world is a big draw for enthusiasts, too. Users can join conversations, network with like-minded people, connect about common interests, and play a role in creating and supporting community-founded projects. Community Moderators also often run giveaways and raffles as perks.
One of the communities Beiting is a part of is the Royal Society of Players, “an exclusive NFT community” with “an unparalleled collection of 10,000 handcrafted NFT playing cards.” In a description of the community’s function and utility, their website states: “[T]These cards are so much more than meets the eye – they are actually your keys to the Royal Society. For players who want to attend the next soiree and connect with like-minded people both in the metaverse and in real life, we invite you to join the club and mint your cards, which have been conveniently left in the room for you to admire and can appreciate and collect.”
“The Royal Society of Players is a strong community with many members from Cincinnati,” says Beiting. “They offer educational resources, live meetings, grants to fund events like ours, and raffles to often win prizes and giveaways. Everyone is helpful and friendly.”
Beiting has been buying and trading cryptocurrencies since 2015 and collecting NFTs since 2021. He says the NFT community is already strong in Cincinnati and hopes UNFIT will help it grow. One of the first steps is to help newcomers educate the medium themselves, which is why he, along with co-curators VanSickle and Cincinnati artist Annie Burke, organized a series of panels demystifying the world of NFTs. Topics will include “NFT 101”, sustainable revenue growth in the token market, how brands are using the medium and the architecture of the metaverse.
When asked how he envisions the growth and potential of the local NFT community, Beiting says, “More physical events. More local members who are part of global communities. More local artists are creating work and building communities to create longevity for their art and themselves.”
UNFIT is free and open to the public. The gallery will be open for three time slots over the two days. Reservations can be made through EventBrite.