So let’s say you bought an NFT. Not because you want to make a lot of money and you’re just going to flip it – we’ll call these folks JPEG pinball machines – and not because someone sold you a great idea on “community” and you didn’t didn’t buy an NFT as much as a link to a Discord – that’s the yacht clubbers – but you bought it because you just liked the look of the thing. Maybe you are a collector, maybe this is the first valuable piece you have ever acquired. Either way, you bought it not to sell or use it. You bought it to watch it. You want to hang it in your home!
For one, you have many ways to display your digital art. It’s just an image, after all. (You could even – gasp – just print the thing out and hang it on your wall.) Pretty much any screen you have will display it fine, and it’s still there on your phone anyway. But your 50-inch LCD panel won’t do the room justice, not really.
As NFT art increases in value and artists start to care more about how their digital art is displayed in the real world, the question of how to display your digital collection has become more complicated. . Galleries that want to promote digital art need to rethink not only the devices they use, but also how they light their gallery and how people move through it. Artists, used to their work always retaining the form in which it was created, now have to think about both digital and physical versions of their creations. Art collectors are often faced with a whole new set of decisions about how to display their pieces. And you thought NFTs were complicated.
Scott Gralnick has been thinking about NFT screens for a while. He’s now the co-founder of Lago, a company that builds a $9,000 NFT framework designed for high-end collectors, but he’s been in crypto and Web3 for almost a decade. When he talked to his fellow crypto whales, Gralnick says, the same thing kept coming up. “I have a multi-million dollar collection,” they said, “and I had to adapt it to a television. I don’t want to show it on my computer, I don’t want to show my phone to people, how can I get it into my house? »
Gralnick and his co-founders decided to build something for these folks, but also something that might inspire mainstream art buyers – who might not imagine phone-related art at all – to enter the space. NFT. “I had friends who had dinner parties with Christie’s and Phillips and Sotheby’s, and they get NFTs, they get minted art,” Gralnick said. “But it boiled down to one question each time: how can I take advantage of this at home?”
Gralnick now calls the Lago frame a “mass consumer” tool of NFT, which is pretty long to say about a $9,000 frame. The team wanted to make sure you couldn’t mistake the frame for a TV, so they selected a 33-inch square 1920 x 1920 screen. an optional soundbar, which performers can use to augment their pieces. “Maybe they’re building something unlockable,” Gralnick said in explanation. “If I do the right sequence of gestures, it unlocks it. Or maybe I turn around and actively throw it at the other frame. You can use the Lago frame to display an NFT or use the associated mobile app to browse your entire collection. Or, if you’re so inclined, showcase a rotating set of pieces curated by NFT influencers. (Gralnick says these come with clear indications of which parts you own and don’t, so don’t pretend the monkey is yours.) In that sense, the frame can be both a display and a distribution channel – an NFT museum at your own home.
Astronomically priced and all, Lago has sold out all of its stock on pre-orders. It’s no surprise: the dedicated NFT display is a booming industry. Tokenframe screens range from 10 to 55 inches and cost up to $2,777. Netgear has actually turned its digital picture frame business into an NFT business – and its Meural displays cost as much as $599.95. Canvia pulled off a similar pivot. Blockframe and Danvas and others are all making similar promises about their luxury digital art displays, though most startups are still firmly in the hype and pre-order phase. For DIYers, you can use a Raspberry Pi and the TokenCast protocol to build your own cheap NFT display.
Because all you technically need to get into the business is an LCD screen — and not even a particularly high-end display — startups in the space have come and gone quickly. Qonos, for example, launched in 2021 and said it sold its first set of frames that can access the owner’s own collection as well as an entire gallery of artwork curated by Qonos. Now there is hardly any sign of Qonos left other than a private Squarespace site. (Qonos founder Moe Levin did not respond to a request for comment.)
Joe Saavedra, the founder of Infinite Objects, thinks this is all a bit too much. A lot of companies, he says, “really make TVs that do a lot less than a TV. And in the end, it’s a gallery, a slideshow of your NFTs, so it doesn’t matter if that NFT you paid $10,000 for and this one was an Airdrop, they’re all side by side. And you’re just slipping. When he set out to build an NFT framework, he wanted to build the least interactive, least gimmicky thing he could do.
Infinite Objects started out by “printing a video”, which basically means putting a display in a simple frame, setting up a single video to loop forever inside that frame, and you dispatch. “When you take it out of the box, it lights up in your hand,” says Saveedra. “It has no buttons or switches, there is no interface.” The result is much closer to a painting straight out of Harry Potter – a moving room inside a stationary object that hangs on the wall or sits on your shelf.
Saveedra is now doing the same with NFTs. Infinite Objects has worked with Mike Winkelmann, who you may know as Beeple, to create and ship physical versions of every NFT Winkelmann sale. It also works with Dapper Labs and is the official NBA Top Shots frame. Printing your NFT starts at around $120. You can buy frames from 6.4 to 11.4 inches in height, with the displays surrounded by bamboo or acrylic. The screens themselves aren’t particularly impressive – 1024 x 576 on the largest model, lower resolution than the original iPad in 2011 – but Saveedra seems to think the very existence of a durable physical object is the thing. the most important. “If it’s on a TV, I can just flip it, right?” he says. “Alright, cool, next.”
Steve Sacks, the founder of the bitforms gallery, which has been showcasing digital art for two decades, also falls firmly on the “don’t just put it on a TV” side of the equation. “You don’t want to go back to the NBA playoffs and then light your $100,000 piece of art,” he says. “It takes away so much.”
Some artists, Sacks said, care deeply about the screen on which their works end up. They will dictate a specific resolution and aspect ratio, even the size at which their part should be displayed. Others will go so far as to actually create the object on which their work is to be displayed. In this case, Sacks says, “The artist provides us with a sculpture. Art is not just content; it is the object that goes with it. But many of the things bitforms show and sell are what it calls “unframed artwork,” where the file is sold and the buyer can display it however they want.
At the Quantus Gallery in London, things work a little differently. Josh Sandhu, co-founder of Quantus, says that when the team set up for their first NFT show, they tested six or seven different TVs. Now 36 sets of Samsung frames line the walls, some vertical and some horizontal. “The matte look, it’s quite similar to an actual print,” Sandhu said. “They’re pretty good quality.” Quantus wants to experiment with other display ideas — Sandhu wants to build a wall of retro TVs, host a VR exhibit, and check out holograms — but for now, TVs do the trick.
That’s the thing about NFT art and how we display it. It’s ultimately not a question of graphic fidelity or pixel density, but a question of purpose. Do you buy an NFT so you can watch JPEG all the time? Or is an NFT about your relationship with the artist, with other collectors, even with the underlying technology? And perhaps just as important, who decides? With physical art, most of these decisions are made when the art is created, and as it changes hands it becomes impossible to track and control. With NFTs and blockchain, tracking is the point; artists can know exactly who owns their work, and collectors can know exactly who created it. So, who owns this art, really?
No one I spoke to claimed to know the answer. And almost every one of them said that was part of the fun. NFTs have a definite use. It is an act of provenance, a claim of ownership and authenticity that had never been possible before. Artists come to appreciate the technology for this. (And for the ridiculous amounts of money they make hitting NFTs.) Now, as prices and excitement plummet and JPEG pinball machines and yacht clubbers disappear from the scene, the artsy crowd is starting to catch on. how the worlds of digital and physical art interact. . And exactly what resolution it requires.