I can think of many reasons to hate NFTs – digital art and collectibles that use blockchain to prove ownership like a big crowd-handed receipt.
They have an atrocious environmental footprint. Most of the artwork appears to have been scraped from DeviantArt gutters around 2010 (it’s not just a burn, people were actually stealing DeviantArt artwork for NFTs). The artwork may disappear from the web after purchasing it. And I can’t say with a straight face that NFTs are particularly meaningful to own. Sure, some people are reselling NFTs for profit, but if someone can right click to save that jpeg then you are at least a little of a miller for spending millions of dollars on it, right? (Unless you really need a way to launder money!)
But after hearing Lucas Zanotto’s experience with the NFTs, I will admit to being right on their merits. Zanotto is a multi-faceted designer of Italian descent best known for co-founding the children’s app brand Yatatoy. In the past year or so, he’s made six figures selling NFT curls of his incredibly charming geometric figures. NFTs allowed him to crack the code to make a living as an artist doing what he loves.
“I’m sort of at the middle level of the whole NFT world,” Zanotto says with a laugh. In a way, he’s right. He appears to be one of the many upper middle class NFTs, who are successful but not as successful as their friends who have made millions of dollars selling NFTs. But given that only 1% of NFTs sell for over $ 1,500, he is undoubtedly one of a relatively small group of artists who make a good living selling NFTs.
Zanotto has built a career directing commercials, creating animation, and running the aforementioned children’s apps company Yatatoy. (His Miximal, Drawnimal, and Bandimal apps earned Yatatoy our own Most Innovative Company award and an Apple Design Award for playful aesthetics and experience.) But like many artists, he always struggled to systematically monetize his own art as opposed to commercial projects. .
About four years ago Zanotto started publishing his animations to twitter and other social media platforms – short animated loops he loved to do, but had no home otherwise.
“I have good followers, and it’s rewarding, and I got a lot of jobs because of this stuff,” Zanotto says. “But I’ve always grappled with the question of ‘Can I monetize this somehow.’ In the end, I put a lot of work into [those loops], and I would love to make a living from that.
Like many creatives, Zanotto shared his art as a courtesy, a move he hoped would garner enough attention to allow him to find higher paying work down the line. All the while, he was also contributing to the gold mine of content that drives engagement (and profits) for social media companies, without reaping direct rewards for his efforts. (Twitter has since launched Tip Jar as a way to give back to these creators as it struggles with a fairer, longer-term arrangement.)
“I tried opening a poster store and stuff like that, but to be honest it’s too complicated to sell a few posters,” Zanotto explains. “You pay to print them and you end up with a few dollars. It’s not something that works long term for income.
Then, around September 2020, one of Zanotto’s friends mentioned NFTs. Zanotto had never really understood what blockchain was. But then he discovered his most promising quality for artists: if he sold a work of art as NFT, he could ostensibly sign his name with an option called “creator’s share”, not only making income. on the first sale, but a portion of all subsequent sales of the work as it increased in value. This revelation convinced him that it was time to pursue the medium.
On the cusp of the NFT boom, Zanotto was able to set up video calling with NFT marketplaces including SuperRare and Nifty Gateway as they were still looking for artists. (The timing was crucial. A year later, those markets were inundated with demands.)
When Zanotto put his first collection of buckles on Nifty Gateway, they sold for around $ 10,000 in 10 minutes.
“Today, it doesn’t sound like much, but I was over the moon! Zanotto said. “Finally, I found a way to sell a loop and get money directly from that loop. It was mind-blowing for me. Imagine how many bloody posters I would have to sell to get $ 10,000.
The sale was a cause for celebration, but it was also thermal control for Zanotto. He wondered if association with NFTs could damage his reputation as an artist and if the financial success of such specific digital art would mean people wouldn’t take it seriously when working in others. mediums. After a month of reflection, he took over the NFTs. And he’s been releasing them at a steady pace ever since.
While he has certainly succeeded, Zanotto is also a realist, who does not claim to have done so solely on merit. He is strategic in his outings, and has studied the operation of the NFT market on auction sites.
“It’s a game, to be honest. Art in itself does not play such a big role. It’s networking and name suppression, ”Zanotto explains. “You find a collector who feels inspired, he buys a first work cheaply, and he buys the second for [a lot more]. With this big purchase, other collectors suddenly take an interest and buy the next one.
Its quick scan may be enough to sour you over NFTs again, and that’s perfectly right. However, it is “exactly the same game” of the traditional art world, Zanotto emphasizes. Much like in crypto art, it’s the millionaires and billionaires who drive up the prices of traditional art, not the rest of us. Damien Hirst, one of the richest artists in the world, took a break when British businessman Charles Saatchi took an interest and funded the production of his first formaldehyde statue. Over the past year, COVID restrictions in the wealthy Chinese market have hurt the performance of the entire art world. The rich have always determined the market value of art.
While you or I found many of the early NFTs to be aesthetically questionable, Zanotto notes that they met market demand. The first wave of crypto wealth was full of tech evangelists. This is a cohort that appreciates the aesthetics of the internet and the meme art that they grew up seeing on message boards, as much as high art.
However, these days he sees the bar raised with a greater variety of aesthetics and sharper execution, due to countless new performers hitting NFTs every day that add variety and nuance to the medium.
Zanotto may recognize all of these constructions of the NFT market, but as an artist he always finds himself unable to resist being sucked deeper into his craft, working harder on increasingly complicated work. When I mention that if he sold $ 10,000 worth of oil paintings he would probably pay a lot more for his materials and make less profit per piece, Zanotto isn’t so sure.
“My render has been running for four days and it will take three more,” he says of the NFT he is currently working on, which means it takes his computer up to a week of continuous calculations to produce his. last pieces. Not all of his work takes that long to produce. Even still, even as Zanotto invests in new processors and graphics cards, it inevitably needs more power to keep up with its creative appetites. “You [always] try to go to the limit, I think.
As for where Zanotto plans to go next, he has chosen not to invest his time solely in NFTs, as nice as they have been financially. In December, Zanotto will organize a solo art exhibition in a cathedral in Shanghai. It will have screens filled with its digital loops throughout the chapel, but it will also have large physical sculptures of its characters and an augmented reality experience, adding another digital layer to the exhibit.
“It’s all mediums together, and that’s what I’m working towards,” Zanotto explains. “I don’t want digital art and physical art to be divided. Together, it is a medium. I find it weird that it’s so different between digital art and traditional art.