Why you can’t just screenshot an NFT

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Why you can't just screenshot an NFT

“N-F-T!””What does one of ’em go for?””1.2 million US dollars””29 million dollars””69.3 million dollars””Everyone’s making so much money…… can you please explain,what’s an NFT?”When digital art is selling for millions of dollars, there’s one big question:HOW?How can this… be so valuable?Especially if I can just [screenshot sound]?“Delete that screenshot!””Oh my god, stop it”“STOP”You’ve probably seen explanations aboutthe technology behind this digital art,also called “NFTs.”“Runs on blockchain technology””Blockchain ledger”“A blockchain is a chain of blocks…”But that’s never really answered my questionof how they can be so expensive.To really understand what’s going on here,we have to take a step backand talk about the incredibly strange way we value art to begin with.”$11,250,000!””$30,200,000!””$41,000,000……. SOLD!”And that story starts not with NFTs…  but with a fistfight in 1973.”May I see your tickets please?” On October 18th, 1973,the “who’s who” of the art world gathered right here in New York Cityfor an event that would changethe art world forever.It was being hosted by these two:Robert and Ethel Scull.“They were really some ofthe first collectorsto passionately and in depth collect living artists,  from Warhol to Rauschenberg,Jasper Johns…”That’s David Galperin,Head of Contemporary Artfor the Americas at Sotheby’s.“It’s being auctioned at Sotheby’s”“Sotheby’s?”“Sotheby’s!”“I’ve been to Sotheby’s and they’re confident we’ll get a good price.”Yeah, that Sotheby’s.They actually owned thegallery that all of this was going down in.“This was the first time that living artists were selling for many tens  of millions of dollars.”And people HATED it, for a lot of  the same reasons they hate NFTs today.They said it felt gross, like too much of amarriage between art and money.“Hard, cold, MONEY”[Chanting]“There’s a famous story of Robert Rauschenberg getting into a fistfight in the middle of the  auction because he couldn’t believe the price at which his work was trading.”I managed to find some of the only footage of that moment.  It is the MOST POLITE fight I have ever seen…”Let’s go…”[Gentle shove]The artist felt ripped off.He’d originally sold his art for $900,and it had just gone for $85,000…He got none of that.But what was most important is what happened next:“I’ve been working my ass off for you to make that profit?”“How about yours? That you’re gonna sell now?”There! These two men had justexploded art prices forever… and in this moment, they knew it.“That really was the moment that changed everything.”“Why do you think that moment happened?”“If you think about that time in art history, that was really the moment where living artists became celebrities. Andy Warhol in the ‘60’s,  celebrity was his medium. And it was at this turning point when Warhol himself became  just as famous, if not more famous than the celebrities that he captured in his works.”When art becomes more aboutthe artist’s personal celebrityor the ideas behind the artthan about any physical object, it becomesuntethered from other benchmarks of value.Lame things like “how much did that costyou to make?” or”how long did it take you?” or even”how much do I want that hanging in my house?”It becomes:”How much is that idea worth?”People debate how exactly to measure art prices, but they agree on the directionthat they’ve gone since…UP.”The market has entirely exploded.”And with it, the very idea of what art IS exploded too.Art can be text phrases, shown in public places….A pile of candy, slowly eaten.A banana taped to a wall. Even instructions to make the art yourself.This is by an artist named Sol LeWitt…“One of the things LeWitt is famous for are his wall drawings, all of which are  site specific and actually painted or drawn on site. So I think that the question when  we look at it really depends on what the artist wanted and how they viewed originality…”“Yeah here’s this really fascinatingquote from Warhol. He said:”I think it would be great ifmore people took up silk screensso that no one would know whethermy picture was mine or someone else’s.”“With Warhol, he was an artist who  loved toying with that notion.There’s actually an artist namedElaine Sturtevant, an appropriation artistwhose entire body of work deals with ideas of originality and authorship. And so  she would copy works of art by artists like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns and many others.  And actually with Warhol in particular, Warhol just gave her the silkscreen that he used, so she  could make her appropriations of his work.”“Wow.”“So for him, that whole idea of like, “what is original and what is a copy?” is a question  that is so integral to the understanding and the appreciation of his art.”When art is branding and concept, it’s also hype and ego and speculation and investment… and that  applies to basically every kind ofart now, not just the “weird” stuff.[BANG]”SOLD!”Now, a lot of people look at thisand they say…Say it with me… “money laundering.”And it does seem to be the casethat there isplenty of money laundering and fraudin the art world. But I think stopping there iskind of a cop out. You’re avoiding the big question of WHY someone would pay so much for this art  by saying “they wouldn’t!”… instead of reckoning with the mind-bendy fact that some people really  pay for the concept behind the art, and what they own is the fact that they bought it.“The actual drawing on the wall is not the artwork. The artwork is the certificate. Without  Without the certificate,the artwork has no value.”“Without the certificate, the artworkhas no value”…You know where I’m going with this…“Delete that screenshot!”The big difference between NFTsand the art that came before themisn’t why they have value…it’s who decides.With NFTs, there’s a new group of people, excited about a new kind of art.  And the same critic who looked at a banana taped to a wall and said “this is worth $120,000,”now look at this and say it has no value.They don’t decide anymore.”Um… Okay…””Alright!””Oh my god, yes”I’m having a bit of a “pinch me” moment…That is Alexis Ohanian,founder of Reddit and investor.And he’s giving me a tour ofhis NFT collection.”I went on a little shopping spree…””I bought this one…””I liked the vibe of it. I liked how it looked aesthetically.”This actually functions also as a ticket to events, so NFTs can have other uses that  add other kinds of value. But right now, we’re just talking about their value as art.Alexis is married to Serena Williams, which I’m not just saying because she’s amazing,  this is about to be relevant…“I know you obviously wanna see the Serenapunks…””The seventh one, I gifted to my wife…”When Alexis gave this to Serena,he transferred the credentialthe entry into a database that says who owns it. The reason NFTs took off now,  as opposed to digital images 10 years ago,is because now there’s a database that some critical mass of people agree to. It happens to be using a technologycalled a blockchain but in theoryit could have been run by Sotheby’s orsomething… if everyone agreed to that.“As long as there is a critical mass of people  who believe in it, that is the only database that matters. And so yes, you can right-click save to  as many different databases as you want but as long as enough people believe that there’s one  that truly matters then it’s the one that’s gonna win.”If you’ve ever heard that an NFT is just “a link to an image”… this is what that really means.It’s weirder than you’ve been told. Because that’s actually where the value is.“Without the certificate, the artwork has no value.”Ok, let’s pause here for a second. We’ve gotten pretty far away from how most of us understand value.  It helps to think of an example of whatyou personally might do. Let’s saythat you bought a painting… [OOF]You might think that this has value because you have it and no one else does. Butas a thought experiment, what if they did? This is a drawing by Andy Warhol.Last year, an art collective called MSCHF bought it for about $20,000. Then they made  999 exact copies. They mixed the original in with the rest and sold them each for $250.So, would you personally pay more if you could figure out which the original was?  If it came with a… certificate of some kind?I think most people would. Maybe becausethey like it, but also maybe becausethey think other people would and then they could sell it for more.Now imagine an infinite number of copies.For me, this example really made it clear that even for those of us outside the art world,  “value” is an incredibly flexible idea.So, when someone says“Oh I can just screenshot that” or“Why do NFTs have any value?”… they might think they’re making a new point.When really, they’re asking the same questions the art world has been asking for decades:  “What is value? Where does it come from? What is too much, for too little?”[Laughing]NFTs are bringing those questions more into the public sphere by taking things to an extreme:”What about more money? And no physical product? And anyone decides?”It’s like it’s the same equation, but NFTs threw a 0 in there somewhere and  the math is coming out all wonky.But it’s the SAME EQUATION. It makes a lot of people extremely uncomfortable. Which is fair.  In some cases, we’re talking about pricesthat are so much more thanthe price of a house. For a digital image.But you don’t need to believe every sale price, or ever want to buy an NFT, or  even not hate that other people arespending their money this way, to see thatNFTs are part of themuch larger context of art itself.“In the next five or 10 years, we will seea new generation of artists who are creating exclusively with digital in mind…This is a new medium. The new canvas is this technology. And it’s massive.”What’s revealed on this new canvas?Us.NFTs are a shiny new thing, and in them,we see our own reflection more clearly than we did before.After all, isn’t that…the value of art?Hi again, this is where a sponsorshipmight go, so I want to take a second and talk abouthow that works:I’m an independent video journalist now,full time, and one of theways that people support this work isby doing sponsorships or ads.I haven’t actually done any yet but I wantto be super transparent about howthat’s gonna work for me.The most important thing to know is:If it’s an ad, you’ll know it’s an ad.For example, I might do an adat the end of a youtube video.It’ll be marked as an ad.Or an ad that’s just an individual TikTok,it’ll be marked as an ad.They do not have editorial oversight intoany of the other stuff that I’m makingwhether it’s in that same video or in othervideos or collaborations oranything else. That’s all me. What’s interesting about video sponsorships isthat you’re the one saying them, andas a journalist that can be kind of interesting,it’s more like a podcast read thana television ad. So as the person whomight say the ad, the thingsI really want you to know are:1. I’m only gonna say things I actually believe. I’m only gonna work with companies I actually like.So the things in the ads are true.But 2) companies have a say inwhat’s in those ads, so whether that’s just “drive to this link” orthey’ve actually seen a script.But 3) and most importantly,if it’s an ad, you’ll know it’s an ad.Cool? Great.

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