Technology

What will happen to virtual art?

Eugenie Dumont

Art Collections Manager – Private Banking Degroof Petercam

The Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) market is emerging as an exacerbated version of the art market, subject to fashion trends, speculation and impulsive acquisitions.

Recently arrived in the spotlight, the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) entered the art world several years ago. Like the Dutch tulipomania encountered in the 17th centurye century, the spectacular surge in sales of these one hundred percent virtual works worries the art market which fears the repercussions of a speculative bubble linked in essence to cryptocurrencies. Conversely, we could also be the witnesses of a new artistic movement no longer taking the form of a urinal, but that of caricatures in jpeg format. Between Marcel Duchamp and Dutch tulips: what will happen to virtual art?

Since March and the record sale of Beeple, NFTs have become the object of dedicated auctions in the largest auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

They arouse the curiosity of great contemporary artists. The galleries exhibit these fully digital works in a physical environment with phenomenal success.



Disruptive, the NFTs modernize and streamline a traditional art market that was struggling to adapt.

Disruptive, the NFTs modernize and streamline a traditional art market that was struggling to adapt. Beyond taking advantage of the travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is their attractive liquidity and transaction speed at reduced costs that are of interest to the art market. There are also the advantages of the blockchain to certify the authenticity, provenance and ownership of the work. In addition, cryptocurrency-type virtual currencies are covered by the anti-money laundering directive. Stricter control and more in-depth regulatory obligations are likely to reassure investors.

Eugenie Dumont.

Direct, immediate and transparent access to its new currencies has already enabled a multitude of artists to sell their work by bypassing the middlemen, as Damien hirst which recently put several thousand NFTs up for direct sale. Other giants of online sales, such as Ebay, have announced their intention to open their doors to cryptocurrencies and NFTs, taking a stand against specialized NFT sales platforms such as Nifty Gateway or Opensea.

Collecting NFTs also allows you to avoid the significant costs of commission, maintenance, insurance, transport or storage. It is then possible to criticize the public availability of the works. This infinite reproducibility, however, becomes a force. Making use of social networks, these unlimited versions of the original work increase the aura of the NFT by offering its collection to the whole world, like a virtual museum accessible to all. These are all advantages that make NFTs attractive both from a practical and financial point of view.

What stylistic approach?

Their cult of caricature, 3D and futuristic symbols matches only too well the visual aesthetic of the new generations who are trying to take their place in the art market.



The accessible nature of NFTs seems to offer what pleases a resolutely protesting generation with pronounced socio-environmental aspirations.

Corresponding to the popular visual cues of our time, the accessible nature of NFTs seems to offer what pleases a resolutely protesting generation with pronounced socio-environmental aspirations. Against the academic validation criteria of his time, remember that the fountain by Marcel Duchamp has become one of the most transcendent works in the history of art, marking the beginning of conceptual art which has lasted for over a hundred years now.

“The First 5,000 days”, Beeple’s digital collage, sold for $ 69,346,250 million at Christie’s.
© AFP

However, it is necessary beware of a passing fad. Crypto-cowboys who have become collectors see NFTs as a way to leverage their virtual wealth. Their sudden arrival on the art market does not necessarily reflect a real passion for the subject, and suggests the risk of sudden disinterest, as soon as a new type of virtual good “in fashion” is available to them. will sell their hard-to-exchange coins for hard currency. Then appears the issue of price volatility. Impressive fluctuations in cryptocurrencies raise fears a crash in NFTs values which are intrinsically linked to it. The power of the blockchain would then be totally useless in the face of the closure of a sales platform, and the value of the NFTs linked to it would be reduced to nothing.

An art in its own right?

Is this a renewed pop-art movement with bright colors, or is it rather the dematerialization of a popular art with sometimes dubious aesthetics?



NFTs still have a long way to go before catching the attention of serious and seasoned collectors.

So far, NFT collectors have stuck between the emerging crypto billionaire and the young impulsive seduced. It seems that NFTs still have a long way to go before they catch the attention of great and seasoned collectors. Belgium, an international platform for contemporary art, hosts a growing number of large galleries and fairs. These daring collectors with keen eyes and mature taste are renowned for discovering the great talents of tomorrow. It seems, however, that NFTs haven’t won over them yet, but that could change.

The NFTs market is emerging as a exacerbated version of the art market, subject to changes in fashion, speculation and impulsive acquisitions. Once settled, the excitement of the novelty of this virtual art will give way to true followers. Coming back to our tulips, will they make floral arrangements of them or will they exhibit in the largest institutions, as is the case today for Duchamp’s work? Only time will tell.

Through Eugenie Dumont, Art Collections Manager – Private Banking Degroof Petercam

The summary

  • Are “non-fungible tokens” here to stay on the art market or will they be forgotten, victims of a new fashion?
  • For now, in any case, NFTs are the subject of dedicated auctions in the largest auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
  • They have the merit of modernizing and streamlining a traditional art market that was struggling to adapt.

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