British Crypto Artist Tom Badley
Digital PR & Marketing
It’s early days in 2021.
In the last 12 months there’s been a global pandemic, a presidential election, conspiracy theories…
Furloughs, stimulus cheques or nothing at all.
Plans have been postponed, rescheduled and cancelled.
We’ve spent more time indoors and online than ever before
Jaded, somewhat, but determined to keep its spirits up, the internet looked around for something new settling improbably, or perhaps inevitably, on the ultimate WTF: NFTs.
We sat down with British Crypto Artist, Tom Badley (over Zoom, natch) to ask him all of the questions.
Q.Tom Badley, you are a pioneer in a space most of us had never heard of until recently.
Can you tell us what is an NFT? What does NFT stand for?
- NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. An NFT is a unit of data on the blockchain. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are just units of data – but they’re identical and interchangeable; one Bitcoin = one Bitcoin. An NFT is not interchangeable: each NFT is unique.
Q. How do NFTs fit into the wider space of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technology?
- Technically, NFTs are a natural progression in blockchain technology. The blockchain allows for digital scarcity: the data of any digital asset can occupy a unique timestamped part of the blockchain which is cryptographically secured. The only difference is that currency is fungible – meaning each unit is identical – whereas an NFT is non-fungible, meaning each token is unique. More generally, NFTs have the potential to function as the friendly, usable face of cryptocurrency. Anyone can issue an NFT, meaning anyone can monetise any digital asset or crowdfund an idea in a way that wasn’t previously possible. You buy, sell and trade cryptocurrency. You can do all that with NFTs but you are the issuer. You are the bank / artist / creator / author, whatever title fits – that’s the ideal anyway. There could be any number of scenarios that unfold, but digital barter undoubtedly has a place in the future.
Q. Banknotes feature heavily in your work, can you talk us through how they influence and inspire your work?
- For the most part, Artists have appropriated banknotes – they cut them up, deface them, or rearrange them. Uniquely, I come from the other side – I make them. The banknote is a printed product that is made in such a way as to make it very difficult to counterfeit. So straight away you have a very detailed design, made with secret processes and print technology that no other industry has. As it happens, banknote production pulls technology from all directions – multiple print techniques, inks with exotic properties, holography, engraving and so on. Add to that, a banknote is like a business card for an entire country. Even if it isn’t used by the population, its imagery still forms a psychic connection to something of value in millions of minds. Then of course, the designs involve typography, branding, portraiture and iterative patterns. So, all in all, I consider the banknote to be the ultimate artwork: it’s a placeholder for something that is technically impressive and all-encompassing, nice to look at and valued, and is also a kind of mirror for human consciousness. This is what I want in my work.
Q. What’s the best way to become an owner or investor in NFTs?
- There are platforms like Nifty Gateway that allow you to buy NFTs with a credit card, otherwise you need to have cryptocurrency – Ethereum is the most used blockchain for art by far. Beyond that, what is your motivation? Why own digital assets? Start with your ‘why’.
Q. In this day and age when fewer and fewer people own the houses they live in or the cars they drive, what are the reasons people might want to own a digital artwork?
- If your motivation is to make money, of course you need to chase the money. But you can also own art because it acts as an indelible temporal marker of the best of human creativity – then you need to go to the artists who are focussed, one way or another, on that.
Q. Could you explain to us why an NFT has value? Compared to banknotes?
- Some NFTs are considered great works of art, some NFTs are more like a rare pair of shoes. In general the higher prices are commanded by those projects or individuals that have large communities behind them, huge fanbases of people actively involved. The NFTs act as a kind of status symbol of social proof – the reward in a popularity contest, built from a constantly engaged audience. I think consistency is a huge factor in a projects value too. Making a lot of work that looks the same is easily digestible and has a stable quality that allows it to be trusted. This is the similarity to banknotes – they’re valuable because they’re trusted. Trust is still the only real currency.
Q. Kings of Leon released their latest album as an NFT, will we see more of this?
- In this form, yes. For as long as the blockchain is viable and unregulated.
Q. Who should we look out for as the ones to watch in NFTs?
- If I was going to guess who will make the most money in NFTs from here, it will be household names and influencers who have a global crypto-savvy audience. The figures from their recent sales will tell you where we are in the market. But to be honest, I’m more looking out for artists who are saying something life-affirming and relevant. The space is dominated by a California / tech / pop vibe that is very fun, but I wonder how much of it will be truly cherished going forward, which goes back to the question of why collect NFTs.
- I believe that all art is propaganda. Every artwork is underpinned by an agenda. By calling myself a propagandist, I’m really saying that my agenda isn’t hidden. I get calls to create designs for alternative currencies – especially now when faith in the system is reaching new lows. These designs have to communicate a powerful, high-trust message… How is that not propaganda?
Q. What’s the best way for an NFT newbie to blag OG status?
- They can’t. Everything is on the blockchain, so we just look at your transaction history and we’ll see that you bought your first Ethereum yesterday. I minted my first NFT on 27th June 2019 – anyone pre-2020 can be considered a ground zero crypto artist. Of course there are differences of opinion, but since the blockchain is immutable, there’s no way to fake a tokenisation date, a transaction, or even an artwork.
Q. What’s next for Tom Badley?
- I’m working on my largest pieces to date, which will all make use of banknote printing, technology and design. It will be a family of 5 limited edition prints; they’ll include large engravings and will be a kind of magnum opus of my process, and a celebration of the NFT space so far. Beyond that I’m working on a lot of private commissions.
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