With NFTs, the beginnings of a new cultural patronage

The received non-fungible (NFT) or fungible (JNF) tokens in French will see their arrival in 2021. Still ignored by the general public in recent months, these tokens registered on the blockchain – a large registry of decentralized – guarantee a contract of virtual property, unique and unfalsifiable to the holder of a digital object. Used in art in the form of digital works, NFTs interest collectors, without escaping the financial speculation of the art market and the fluctuations of cryptocurrencies. of report from Art Basel and UBS emphasized the amount Sales of NFT artwork reached $2.6 billion in 2021, while a year ago they did not cross the limit of one million. Today, this technology is indeed a new economic model for artists and cultural institutions, despite a still unclear legal framework.

On March 11, 2021, American crypto-artist Beeple sold his digital work “Everydays – The First 5,000 Day” for $69.3 million at Christie’s. On the other hand, a few months later, the digital artist package selling his creation “The Merge” for $91.9 million on the Nifty auction platform. These two titanic sales have thus rearranged the cards of the art market, placing the two professionals in the Top 10 of the most expensive artists in the world.

In France, the first NFT of a work was created in Marseille in June 2021 by the association “Pour que Marseille vive” and Marseille artist Deniz Doruk for the exhibition “Résister ensemble! at Château Pastré. The work was divided into 150 equal parts on the Tezos blockchain by the creators who intended to show that “Anyone can get a piece of art. It is no longer only for an elite”.explains Hugo Roche Poggi, co-founder of the association and creator of the new contemporary art label Supermare art. At the same time, the entrepreneur tries to learn about the role of NFTs at conferences, because for him, this technology is “Still very poorly perceived and misunderstood by the general public. »

A new model for artists and collectors

Despite the lack of knowledge about the uses of coded signs, artists and cultural institutions are beginning to tap into them. In April 2022, the Vasarely Foundation of Aix-en-Provence is the first institution to transform a dozen works into NFT. Pierre Vasarely, director of the foundation and grandson of Victor Vasarely, sees this new virtual art market as a way to attract customers. who have been shy since the beginning of the health crisis. Thus, thanks to the sale ofa limited collection of 12 digital works by Victor Vasarely and 12 “Unwearables” by Paco Rabanne, Pierre Vasarely hopes to raise one million euros to restore the physical works of his foundation.

One of the NFTs from the Vasarely Foundation collection for sale

In the same principle, the street artist Marseille Nhobi chose to transform his murals into signs. “You have to move with the times”, slides the Brazilian covered in tattoos on both arms. Although the artist prefers “real world” in the virtual world, the sale of his digital works at OpenSea – the most used platform for selling NFT – should allow it ” [se] let me know ». To encourage buyers, his agent Jean-Jacques Leonard, the founder of the art boutique External viewshas developed a special offer: the purchase of a token offers a discount of 250 euros on a physical canvas from the artist. “For the price of a painting, the buyer will also get a free NFT! »appreciates the new initiative.

On the other hand, the question of money still seems secondary to the artist, still skeptical about the increase in the prices of some tokens. Fixed at 0.24 Ter (Etherum), one NFT of Nhobi today is equal to 350 euros. But tomorrow, its value could double or halve depending on the cryptocurrency exchange rate.

Nhobi’s NFT, vacationing in Les Goudes (Credit: Regards Exteriors, OpenSea)

Are NFT prices only speculative assets?

These assets are extremely volatile as NFTs are closely linked to the prices of the virtual currencies on which their price is based. Unlike currencies like the euro or the dollar, which can also fluctuate but to a lesser extent, cryptocurrencies can fall drastically. In November 2021, one Bitcoin was worth around $70,000, while in August 2022 it was trading around $22,000. That is, more than three times less!

In addition to erratic change, the price of an NFT job is sometimes inflated by speculative dynamics. Some NFTs report “The returns are hallucinatory, explains Jean-Jacques Leonard, If we ask accountants to analyze this market, they have never seen this! But they remain skeptical about the sustainability of these returns. I think we will have a speculative bubble sooner or later, but in a few years…”

Techno goes beyond speculation. Digital artists can finally enter the art world. It is revolutionary!

Primavera by Filippi, researcher specializing in NFT

When an NFT is auctioned, its price can increase and reach a value much higher than the initial value. However, this trend is far from general. According to nonfungible.com, a token sells for between $100 and $1,000 on average. And an artist does not affect this much directly in his family. The costs of transforming the work into NFT and the commission of approximately 15% of the sale price set by the hosting platforms must be deducted. Thus, for researcher and lawyer Primavera de Filippi, specialized in NFT: “Techno as such goes beyond speculation. Digital artists are finally entering the art world. It is revolutionary! »she excites France Inter.

Jean-Jacques Leonard (Credit: DR)

Jean-Jacques Leonard also realized this and observes the future of NFTs as “a great opportunity with the rise of the metaverse”. The agent dedicates his next book to him“Two worlds in motion” in this new virtual world. This universe will be able to give every individual the opportunity to live a parallel life through their avatar. Some see the metaverse as a disruptive technology destined to become the future of the Internet, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The CEO has also renamed his group “Meta” to identify his new development strategy.

Eventually, when the metaverse will be more successful, any user will be able – with their virtual reality headset – to buy and install a work of art (NFT) in their virtual home or in a gallery, for example.

A legal arrangement to be specified

However, NFTs, and even more so with the growth of the metaverse, lack their own legal framework. Maître Sauvajon, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property at the firm Hoyng Rokh Monegier, testifies that she is increasingly confronted with the subject to protect her clients, especially luxury brands. “We thought it was only at the beginning, but in reality it happens very quickly. Today, NFTs are not regulated in French law. There are rules that need to be made.” insists the lawyer.

However, NFTs do not exist in a legal vacuum. By default, protected files are subject to copyright and neighboring rights. Therefore, copying an NFT work may be subject to a fine. “If a protected work is reproduced in the virtual world, the author of this reproduction may be charged with an infringement action in the real world” warns the specialist.

CSPLA recommendations

At the head of the candidate for this topic, report of July 12, 2022 of the High Council for Literary and Artistic Property (KSPLA) lays out some twenty avenues for improvement for the management of NFTs in France. Several sections are devoted to copyright education and creating a guide to good practices between sellers and buyers. In addition, the document recommends a reflection on “creating third-party verifiers” content related to NFTs and on the implementation of ea “Taxation adapted to digital art”.

CSPLA also advocates for the maintenance of NFTs to support the cultural industry. “We must define priorities for the development of cultural and creative industries in Metavers, including in particular an axis related to the promotion of French cultural heritage in a universal universal museum”., the report says. A vision in line with the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, who assumes his vision of creating a European Metaverse to compete with the United States, whose giants, Apple and Facebook, have already invested several billion dollars to support this market. Published in 2002, a report on NFT statistics from HelloSafe provides that the NFT market is worth $174 billion in 2026. Speculation or not, NFTs are up for grabs!

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