What’s Worth More: A Painting or an NFT?
In just a few years, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have invaded and transformed the art market. Reaching prices sometimes considered exorbitant, is NFT art as profitable as it is risky? Can we really say that an NFT work is worth more than a painting? Artsper investigates for you!
Artistic legitimacy, monetary speculation and NFT art
What exactly is the difference between an actual painting and an NFT work of art? It is indeed art in both cases. But if painting is a concrete and material entity, digital art is anything but palpable. And this, regardless of the price – even outrageously high – of the NFT is in question. Logically, the painting should therefore have a much higher value. But as is often the case in the art market, things are not so simple. For despite its dematerialized nature, the NFT has gained impressive legitimacy, and in record time. Thanks to the official title of ownership, each NFT work has a market, with symbolic and artistic value. In this sense, it is similar to a painting in that it is a unique work of art.
However, there is another major difference between an NFT artwork and a painting. Although an NFT is unique, it can be divided up amongst owners. This is why an NFT can be sold to many people at the same time. This is the case of the work The Merge, split into 266,445 digital units, themselves shared between 28,983 buyers! It’s boon for the artist, but not necessarily for the buyers…
NFT art: works with astronomical prices
The explosive NFT art market takes no prisoners: some works are, to this day, the most expensive of the world. And yes, Jeff Koons’ Rabbit has been dethroned by two other digital works in the year 2021. The winner is The Merge, sold in March 2021 for $91.8 million. Also in line with the biggest hits are several works by Beeple. Everyday: The First Five Thousand Days and Human One, which sold for tens of millions of dollars. Larva Labs’ CryptoPunk, amounting to several million dollars, has also made big news. In that sense, NFT art is more valuable than most contemporary art. But is it really a wise purchase, given the limited amount of time we have available?
Painting VS NFT art: the hare and the tortoise
If some NFT artworks are indeed worth astronomical sums – like Beeple’s Cosmonaut – what about tomorrow? These works are still well priced today, but everything suggests that this market is unreliable. It was, from its inception, a new chaotic territory, quickly identified as a potential speculative bubble. And the downfall is now underway: reaching peaks in August 2021, the price of NFTs has been in free fall since July 2022.
Material and immaterial works: the dangers of a similar model
If the NFT art market is in danger today, it is because it has based its economic model on physical works. It thus becomes liable to the risks related to the immateriality and influences of the institutional art and financial markets. Additionally, there is a real environmental concern due to the large amounts of electricity consumed to mint NFTs. It is estimated that minting one NFT is equivalent to the energy usage of 9 days of the average household. All things considered, NFT art is now experiencing an impressive decline. It is obviously impossible to predict the future, especially when it comes to artistic and monetary value. But one thing is for certain: the market for classical art, as fluid as it is, still remains eminently more solid than that of NFTs.
Founded in 2013, Artsper is an online marketplace for contemporary art. Partnering with 1,800 professional art galleries around the world, it makes discovering and acquiring art accessible to all.Learn more