New NFT Art Gallery Causes A Stir - Cat Smith


HOST: The art world is in an uproar about digital work -- especially a new trend for pieces that come with a special certificate of authenticity, called an NFT, a “nonfungable token.” When someone buys a piece of NFT art, they’re not buying the work itself, what they’re paying for is the certificate, basically a piece of code. Two weeks ago, the auction house Christies sold an NFT for $69 million, kicking off a craze that’s left some scratching their heads. Cat Smith has the story on what’s next for NFTs.


CAT SMITH, BYLINE: At the Superchief NFT gallery on East 11th Street in Manhattan, workers in jeans are buzzing around setting up for an art show tonight. Only, there’s no art on the walls. Instead, 11 blank TVs are hanging in the space -- they’ll show colorful pieces of NFT art. Some will be animated and have sound.


EDWARD ZIPCO: Anything that can be presented digitally -- at all -- is possible to be an NFT. So I think that’s an incredible opportunity for everyone to get in the mix.


SMITH: That’s Edward Zipco, owner of the Superchief gallery. He’s planning to auction the NFTs, or digital certificates of authenticity, to the highest bidder. The artist gets a cut of the sale, like a usual gallery deal. But the next time that certificate gets sold, the artist gets a cut again. That’s not typically how things work in the art world -- and it’s got people like Zipco super excited.


ZIPCO: The reason why this is the most important movement and moment in, I think, living history, is that it provides artists royalties. That’s the big thing. That’s what makes it something to fight for.


SMITH: Zipco is calling this the world’s first NFT gallery opening. But actually, others have beat him to the punch -- like Atlanta-based artist and gallery owner Greg Mike. He’s been hosting an NFT show for the past week. The highest big he’s gotten so far is $25,000. In the past, it’s been hard for digital artists to make money off their creative work. Buyers often go for works they can touch, like an oil painting or sculpture. Now, they’re featured in galleries -- and making bank.


GREG MIKE: That’s what’s exciting about this space, that some of these digital artists are being looked at as a real artist.


SMITH: Tina Rivers Ryan is an art curator and historian who specializes in contemporary art. She’s worried about all the hype around NFT art.


TINA RIVERS RYAN: If you go back and look at the history of what’s being called the crypto art market, you can see that essentially there was no market before the beginning of this year. The volume of it was very small.


SMITH: But, she says, that’s changed. RYAN: It has skyrocketed both in volume and value essentially overnight.


SMITH: One big reason? Ryan says people are looking for a way to spend their high-value digital currency. And what better place to put it than digital art?


Cat Smith, Columbia Radio News.