Can Traditional Art Be Sold as an NFT?

NFTs have really taken off recently. According to Financial Times, the NFT market reached a staggering $40 billion in 2021. This rapid growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, and everyone wants to get in on this gold rush. Could you use traditional art to do so?

You can convert your own physical artwork into a digital NFT and sell it. If it’s someone else’s art you want to convert, you need to first acquire permission from the owner. An exception to this is public domain art, which you are free to use without obtaining permission from the artist.

This article will highlight what you need to know before converting a physical art form to an NFT. We’ll also go over the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.

Selling Traditional Art as an NFT

In this case, traditional art refers to artwork that has a tangible presence in the real world, unlike digital art. The process of converting physical art that already exists to an NFT is not complicated in and of itself. However, there are certain things you need to be aware of. 

When the Art Is Owned by You

In this scenario, you are the copyright and intellectual property owner of the artwork that the NFT will be based upon. There will be no legal issues if you choose to go this route. You can photograph or scan the artwork, edit it, and then convert it, or create a digital version of the art using the physical version as a reference point

However, that does not necessarily mean that converting your physical art into an NFT is a good idea from a financial point of view. I will discuss this in more detail later.

When the Art Is Not Owned by You and Is Protected by Copyright

In this case, you’re not the owner of the art and it’s protected by intellectual property laws, including copyright. You can’t legally create an NFT out of someone else’s art unless you have explicit permission from them.

Failing to acquire permission and creating an NFT out of copyrighted artwork would entail a breach of intellectual property laws and likely result in legal action being taken against you by the copyright holder. The penalties you will face for such an offense are likely to involve hefty fines, so it’s best to avoid this route.

When the Art Is Public Domain

Art in public domains refers to art that does not have copyright protection. There are several ways in which a piece of art can lose its copyright protection, such as simply through the passing of time.

In most countries, a piece of art loses copyright protection 50-70 years after the artist passes away. As such, many traditional pieces fall into this category.

Artwork may also be placed under public domains if the artist intended for it to be so.

You can use art in public domains to create your NFT just as you would with your own art. There are no legal restrictions that prevent you from doing so, but since anyone else can do the same thing, you will hardly see any financial benefits.

Benefits of Selling Traditional Art As NFTs

It may seem counterintuitive at first, considering how many people think that NFTs can simply be ‘screenshotted’, but one of the most significant benefits that NFTs offer to artists is security in the ownership of their work.

Copyright laws exist similarly to how they do with physical or regular digital artwork, but NFTs have the added advantage of running on the blockchain. Blockchain technology allows for all transactions carried out in the lifespan of an NFT to be stored in a publicly viewable ledger. These records also include important metadata about the traders and owners of the NFT.

Put simply, transactions, and hence, the rights to any particular NFT can be easily verified due to the transparent nature of blockchain technology.

You can easily prove to someone—perhaps an interested client—that the NFT in question is indeed your own.

Moreover, converting traditional art to NFTs has financial advantages. Physical artwork can fetch high prices, but with NFTs, the amount of customers you can reach is much greater than your art could in, say, an art gallery.

Using NFT platforms, you can sell the artwork at high prices with the added advantage of having the option to receive a royalty every time the NFT is involved in a sale or trade.

By selling your artwork as an NFT, you eliminate the need for an art gallery to act as an intermediary, which means you don’t have to give them a share of the sale.

Drawbacks of Selling Traditional Art As NFTs

The benefits of selling your art as NFT might seem like no-brainers, but before you commit to it, you should be warned about the potential pitfalls.

If you think about it, the primary factor in determining the value of an NFT is how rare it is. People want to possess things that are one of a kind. If a famous physical artwork already exists for the NFT you create, there’s a chance that potential buyers will be less interested than if it was an original NFT artwork.

In addition, if the foundation of your NFT is a popular artwork, chances are that similar NFTs already exist. This can also drive the price down, as your piece won’t have a feeling of rarity associated with it.

Furthermore, converting your owned artwork into an NFT runs the risk of being stolen digitally. Even though copyright laws will protect your NFT, the stealing of NFTs in large marketplaces has been rampant and is still a problem that is being addressed.

The moderation services on these websites have been unable to keep up, and so it is often the artists who have to deal with this problem themselves and manually have their stolen work taken down.

How to Sell Traditional Art as an NFT

To convert a physical piece of art into an NFT, you’ll need to mint an NFT on the blockchain. This can be complicated, so a good prior understanding of the crypto and blockchain environment goes a long way here. 

It’s also important to know what you want the NFT to end up like before starting the creation process; once an NFT has been minted, changes cannot be made to it.

Here is a brief overview of what the entire process will look like:

  1. Convert the physical art into a digital format by taking a picture (for a painting), using a 2d/3d scanner (for a sculpture), or hiring a professional to do it for you, depending on the type of physical artwork you wish to convert.
  2. Look for a suitable online NFT marketplace that offers tokenization.
  3. Select a blockchain. Ethereum is reliable, very commonly used, and beginner-friendly, but there are many other options to choose from.
  4. Create a crypto wallet and purchase cryptocurrency.
  5. Attach your crypto wallet to your chosen NFT marketplace.
  6. Upload the file you wish to be created as an NFT onto the NFT marketplace.
  7. Confirm the creation of the NFT.

That sums up the entire process. Keep in mind that this is just a general overview; some variation is to be expected in practice.

Conclusion

Traditional art can be converted to and sold as an NFT as long as you own the intellectual property rights to the artwork, have permission from the owner of the rights, or the artwork in question falls into the public domain category. Breaking copyright laws can have serious consequences, so they must be paid attention to.

Selling traditional art as an NFT comes with the potential for financial gain, but there are also challenges associated with selling NFTs. Careful consideration of the pros and cons will allow you to make the best decision for your situation.

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