NFTs, non-fungible tokens, as collectible, digital, blockchain-secured files became an international sensation in 2020, with the trend in trading them peaking in the fall of 2021. Many sold for millions, and one even sold for $69 million. And yet what exactly are they, and why do they have value? This is the definitive book on NFTs in the story of art and collecting.
It is co-authored by an art historian who has written often on the value of art and the history of collecting. NFTs caught Noah Charney’s attention and fascinated him. He, too, felt that initial knee-jerk reaction that so many who hear of a $69 million sale do: how is this digital image different from me clicking “right-click save” on my touchpad and downloading it to my computer? Why would anyone pay $69 million for something that’s not f*cking there?
This book provides answers to these questions and far more. Charney sees in NFTs a direct parallel to the history, sociology and psychology of art collecting. He was recently a “normee” but he’s now halfway inside the club—he is also an acknowledged authority on the history of art and collecting. He knows all there is to know about humans collecting things of no practical value but that we just really want. But then he worked for a period with two crypto-related companies, and got to know this world from within.
He’s not alone on this ride. The second half of this book is written by someone who knows just about all there is to know about NFTs: Kenny Schachter. Kenny is an artist, collector, curator, professor, columnist and NFT influencer. In fact, he was listed in the fall of 2021 as among the 30 most influential people in the world of NFTs. He even coined (and trademarked) a term, NFTism. While Charney is an art historian considering the NFT phenomenon from the thoughtful but remote perch of his couch, examining NFTs historical and within the context of collecting and the value of art, Kenny has been “in the field” more than anyone, even during the pandemic, zipping from London to Zurich to Art Basel Switzerland to Art Basel Miami. He has his finger on the virtual, digital pulse of this fascinating, bizarre, hugely lucrative phenomenon.
Welcome to the definitive book on NFTs.
Noah Charney is an internationally best-selling, Pulitzer-nominated American author. Noah presents on television (with appearances on CBS, BBC and also here, Discovery, History, Nat Geo and more) and he writes regularly for numerous major publications, including The Washington Post, The Observer, The Art Newspaper, The Atlantic, Salon and many more. His first book, a novel called The Art Thief was translated into fourteen languages and was a best-seller in five countries. His subsequent books have been non-fiction, including The Art of Forgery and The Museum of Lost Art, both #1 Amazon best-sellers in their category. The Museum of Lost Art was the finalist for the Digital World Book Award and Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography and drew critical praise from The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review and beyond.
Charney has taught for American University of Rome, Yale University, Brown University and now teaches at University of Ljubljana (he lives in Slovenia). He lectures at major museums around the world, including recent talks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Dallas Museum of Art. He has given TEDx talks (one on Leonardo da Vinci and another on art crime) and recently did a TED Ed video that got 250,000 views in the first three days and is now over a million.
After having made digital art for decades, Kenny Schachter has spearheaded the traditional art world’s adaptation of Non Fungible Tokens in 2021 by lecturing from Yale to the Hirschhorn Museum and written a series of feature articles for Artnet on the subject. He has curated wide-ranging NFTism exhibitions (which term he trademarked) at Nagel Draxler in Cologne, Institut in London and Nagel Draxler’s booth in Art Cologne, Art Basel Switzerland and Art Basel Miami.
Schachter has curated contemporary art exhibits in museums and galleries and teaching (art history and economics) for more than thirty years; presently in the graduate department of the University of Zurich (appointed to advisory board January 2021) professorships at the School of Visual Arts (NY) and New York University Schachter has a regular column on Artnet.com in addition to writing widely for various international publications including most recently New YorkMagazine and The Times Magazine (UK)
He recently staged the first phygital NFT group exhibit at Nagel-Draxler Gallery in Cologne, and participated in a two-person show with Eva Beresin at Galerie Charim in Vienna (both in May 2021)
Schachter is presently the subject of a documentary being produced and directed by Chris Smith (Tiger King/Fyre Festival), and a Hulu/ABC NFT film, and has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine (cover story, September 1996), and London’s The Observer, The Independent, and The Telegraph.
He is currently based in New York.
A great read for people who are looking to learn more about NFTs and are wondering how this breakthrough technology has impacted our world today.
If you want to be the person imagining new art, or at least understanding other people's fundamental contributions to new art, be sure to read both parts of this book.
11/8/2, Jing Culture & Crypto: The release of the book is highlighted in this feature.