How much would you pay for a 3D rendering of a sofa? Last month, a line of “virtual furniture” earned its creator nearly half a million real dollars on Nifty Gateway, one of several online auction sites for blockchain-backed digital assets.
Conceived by Andrés Reisinger, a 29-year old Argentinian digital artist based in Barcelona, the collection includes blob-shaped couches, a discombobulating set of drawers, and one pink swivel office chair.
To be clear, these are mostly computer generated files—not actual pieces of furniture. Winning bidders, however, can use them to furnish their virtual worlds and gaming environments. For instance, the person who paid $5,000 for a rendering of a gravity-defying table called Pinky can upload it to Minecraft.
Reisinger intends to eventually manufacture physical versions of five of his designs, including a custom-designed piece that sold for $68,000. (These exorbitant prices are more commonly seen for auctions of collectible furniture. For example, you can get a limited edition Salvador Dali throne for a few hundred dollars less.)
Reisinger’s stellar sales benefited from the burgeoning crypto-art market, where anything from digital art, video clips, even a tweet, can go for millions of dollars in a matter of minutes. Items listed on Nifty Gateway and similar platforms like Super Rare, OpenSea, Foundation, Zora, and MakersPlace come with a non-fungible token which serves as a certificate of authenticity vetted by the Ethereum blockchain. This allows collectors to resell the work with the option of sharing the profits with the original artist. Miami-based collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile recently pocketed over $6 million for reselling a 10-second video clip he acquired for $67,000 last October.
Crypto-art fans contend that non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, will be the future of art collecting. Critics say it will literally destroy the planet.
Cypto-Art and Covid-19
In 2014, Monegraph (short for monetized graphics) became the first platform to sell art using blockchain protocols. Attaching a deed of ownership to a piece of art creates scarcity for digital content that one can otherwise view online for free.
NFTs made news in 2017 when collectors spent over $1 million to own a game called “CryptoKitties.” But crypto-art truly blew up in 2020. Fueled by a spike in online gaming and general listlessness during months in lockdown, more collectors—including many tech millionaires—turned their attention to NFTs. The crypto-art market is now worth nearly $200 million, with nearly 100,000 transactions conducted in six of the largest platforms, according to figures compiled in Crypto Art Data. Last month, Christie’s became the first traditional auction house to venture into selling digital art accompanied by NFTs. (As of this writing, the highest bid for a digital collage,…