Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in 1507.
More than 300 years later it was not even considered one of the best paintings by da Vinci, let alone one of the best paintings in the world. In 1750, art experts from France ranked the top 100 paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa could not make the list.
In the 1850s, artists such as Raphael and Titian had works worth almost ten times more than the Mona Lisa.
It would take more than 400 years to become the most famous painting in the world.
In 1911, a handcuff working in the Louvre hid in a closet of supplies during the night. Mona Lisa is smaller than expected, so the next morning she went out with her hidden under her shirt and no one was wiser.
When it was stolen, it was neither the most famous painting in the wing, much less the Louvre. It took more than a day for anyone to realize he was missing.
No one knew where he was for two years until someone tried to sell him on the black market. When she finally returned to the Louvre, the Mona Lisa became the most famous painting in the world, basically overnight. Lines of people gathered to see the painting that was stolen.
Now he had a story. It had cache. And it became a pop culture phenomenon.
The Mona Lisa was painted more than 500 years ago, but is only known as one of the largest paintings in the world for 20% of its existence.
How much is the Mona Lisa worth?
A billion dollars? Two billion?
You can make fun of it but someone would pay for it.
How much would it cost to be the owner of the most famous painting on the planet?
How many uber rich people would buy it if they could prove how rich they are?
The funny thing about the Mona Lisa is that everyone sees her missing or scared. There could be no other reactions. It has to live up to the hype or be a complete disappointment.
This is how people see the world in the internet age.
And doing so goes with the NFTs.
People love them or bore them without an intermediate term.
Check out the top sales of Crypto Punks:
There are 10,000 unique pixelated characters, each stored in the Ethereum blockchain. It is sold for seven figures.
People pay more than $ 200,000 for EtherRocks:
What are EtherRocks? From what I can tell, it’s essentially the pet rock of the internet. Sure, why not?
The EtherRock website claims that only 100 of these Internet rocks for pets were created because nothing is currently sold as a shortage.
People also spend a lot of money on torn lines that you could draw with Microsoft Paint:
If you have cryptography or technology, you need to be optimistic about these things. This is in the technology contract. Everything deserves the benefit of the doubt.
If you’re not into cryptography or technology, you have to think these things are ridiculous.
And it’s ridiculous.
People spend six, seven, even eight digits to buy a JPEG.
But do you know what else is ridiculous? Human beings.
We do all kinds of crazy things all the time. We are superstitious. We are looking for a state. We are excited. We buy things and make decisions that seem ridiculous to outside observers on a regular basis.
Now, tech people who are interested in these things would tell you that this makes sense when compared to the art world.
Why is art valuable?
Because people attach value to it. Because it is scarce. And because it tells other people how rich you are.
When the art-NFT analogy lies flat, the value of the art world has passed more naturally. It’s almost as if the cryptographic world is trying to make NFTs valuable simply because they want them to be valuable.
Imagine you are a tech person in your early 20s. In 2016 you put $ 10,000 into Ethereum on a whim to get involved in tech circles. These big ten are now worth about $ 35 million. Making that amount of money this way in such a short period of time can play with you.
This is essentially monopoly money. What do you care if you put it in a pixelated image in JPEG form? If your peers believe that JPEG is valuable, it is valuable. At least for now.
Remember that the Mona Lisa didn’t become famous until she had a story in it. The history of NFTs is scarcity, community and really tech rich people with too much money.
But the Mona Lisa had nothing to do with social media. There were no online communities to gather around a cause. The herd mentality is as old as the hills, but group behavior had never had an accelerator like the Internet.
So it probably won’t take more than 400 years to become a famous piece of digital art. It’s probably about 400 minutes.
This is both positive and negative for digital art enthusiasts. These things are much more likely to come in and fall apart more quickly simply because the pace of innovation in this space moves very quickly.
From where I sit, I have a firmly rooted foot in every camp: the prices people pay for these things are ridiculous, but I understand why it’s happening (and will probably continue to happen).
Brian Eno once wrote, “To say that cultural objects have value is like saying that phones have conversations.”
These things are worth it because we are human. Maybe that’s all you need to know about the NFT boom.
To read more:
The timeless nature of the herd mentality
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