N.F.T. fine art trend makes its way to Southwest Florida

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The fine art trend of the non-fungible token, also known by its acronym of N.F.T., has arrived in Southwest Florida.

The founder of Emillions Art, a fine art showroom in Naples, has unveiled her first N.F.T. It’s on display at 837 Fifth Ave. S., suite 202.

Marlissa Gardner, who founded the showroom four years ago and moved to its current location two years ago, just unveiled the N.F.T. She did so with a 32-second movie of digital artist Robin Austin’s work.

Austin created a photo mosaic. From far back, it looks like a young Frank Sinatra in a famous, 1938 police mug shot. Up close, there are more than 3,000 images of Sinatra of different shades, allowing for the drop-back effect of the mug shot.

Gardner said she already had a client interested in the Sinatra piece.

The asking price: $250,000.

“What we do, is we work with clients in finding contemporary art,” Gardner said. “And now N.F.T. We’re helping people add to their collection. They’re either starting or growing or divesting.

“There are a lot of people who are looking to pass on items to other collectors. Or there are collectors who are looking to grow their collection or diversify their collection. We help them in that process by helping them diversify their portfolio.”

Fine art has become not just big business but a reliable long-term investment for the wealthy.

From 1995 to 2020, fine art value grew by 14%, while the S&P 500 total return grew by 9.5%. Global equities grew by 7.7%, gold by 6.5% and U.S. housing by 4.3% during the same span.

In more recent years, the value of fine art grew even more, by 180% between 2000 and 2018, according to the Artprice 100 Index.

Now, the non-fungible token is entering the mix. It gives buyers the certainty that they, and only they, have the original work that’s logged onto the blockchain, a method of storing cryptocurrency.

“It’s a digital way of creating ownership of an asset,” said Neil Pennington, who is partnering with Gardner on the N.F.T. acquisitions. “And it’s a way of being absolutely certain of ownership and rights associated with an asset.

“When it comes to art, clearly, the issue is what rights do I have? It’s an issue that’s been running through the art world for millennia. For many, many years. With something digital, you can download something, print it, and claim you own it. In digital art, you can actually prove that a file has been created and you own it. When you sell it off, the person has a record of this ownership.”

The blockchain benefits the buyer but also the artists, said Pennington, who has been working in the blockchain space from his home near London since 2016.

“For artists, you can program in royalties,” he said. “You can make sure the royalties are paid on secondary sales.”

Pennington, who will be in Naples for six weeks, Nov. 11 until Dec. 25, working with Gardner on their N.F.T. projects.

“I’m a big believer that it’s going to change business and life,” Pennington said of N.F.T.’s and other forms of cryptocurrency. “People value what they own. For people who are focused on value and are focused on quality and owning high-value, authentic pieces of art – technologies such as the N.F.T. combine for you something that’s digitally produced but also a well-presented piece of art.

“The world is moving in that direction. There’s significant money to be had.”

Non-fungible tokens are coming to the sports world as well, Pennington said.

“The original clip of Michael Jordan scoring a memorable basket,” Pennington said. “The original clip of a guy hitting a home run to win the World Series or something. If you’ve got the original one, it has value. If you own the rights, then you could potentially take advantage of it. You have many different strategies that could be employed. There are ways of revolutionizing that digital space.”

Anybody can create an N.F.T., Pennington said. But profiting off it? The value must come from having enough beholders.

“At the end of the day, the N.F.T. is a small contract that specifies when it was created, who created it, where it came from,” Pennington said. “That sort of thing. But it also has rights for sale and resale. Can you use it for printed T-shirts? Yes, you can, no you can’t. Because it’s on the blockchain, there’s a record of that.”

Emillions’ exhibit, “Is Art an Asset or an Investment?,” ends Saturday. It explores how are changes with time and why the rise of N.F.T.’s is meaningful today. The showroom is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

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