How to design your NFT – 71Bait

So let’s say you bought an NFT. Not because you want to make a bunch of money and you’re just going to flip it — we call these folks the JPEG pinball machines — and not because someone sold you a big idea about “community” and you didn’t buy an NFT as much as one Link to a discord – that’s the yacht clubbers – but you bought it because you just liked the way the thing looked. Maybe you’re a collector, maybe this is the first valuable piece you’ve ever acquired. In any case, you bought it not to sell or use it. You bought it to look at. You’ll want to hang it up in your home!

On the one hand, you have many options for presenting your digital art. After all, it’s just an image. (You could even – gasp – just print that thing out and hang it on your wall.) Pretty much any screen you have will display it just fine, and it’s always there right on your phone anyway. But your 50-inch LCD panel doesn’t do the piece justice, not really.

As NFT art continues to grow in value and artists become more concerned about how their digital art is presented in the real world, the question of how to present your digital collection has become more complicated. Galleries looking to promote digital art need to rethink not only the devices they use, but also the way they light their gallery and how people move within it. Artists, accustomed to their work always remaining the form in which it was created, now need to think about both digital and physical versions of their creations. Art collectors are often faced with completely new decisions about how to present their pieces. And you thought NFTs were complicated.

Scott Gralnick has been thinking about NFT displays for a while. He’s now the co-founder of Lago, a company building a $9,000 NFT framework designed for high-end collectors, but he’s been in crypto and Web3 for almost a decade. When he spoke to his fellow crypto whales, Gralnick said, the same thing kept coming. “I have a multi-million dollar collection,” they said, “and I needed to upgrade it to a television. I don’t want to show it on my computer, I don’t want to show people my phone, how can I get this in my home?”

Gralnick and his co-founders set out to build something for these folks, but also something that could entice traditional art buyers — who might not like the idea of ​​phone-bound art at all — to jump into the NFT space. “I’ve had friends who’ve had dinner at Christie’s and Phillips and Sotheby’s and they get NFTs, they get embossed artwork,” Gralnick said. “But it always came down to one question: How do I enjoy this at home?”

Gralnick now calls the Lago frame a tool for “mass consumption” NFTs, which is fair enough to say about a $9,000 frame. The team absolutely wanted to make sure the frame couldn’t be confused with a TV, so they chose a 33-inch square display with a resolution of 1920 x 1920. An optional camera sits under the frame, just above an optional soundbar, which artists can use to expand their pieces. “Maybe they’ll build something unlockable,” Gralnick said by way of explanation. “If I do the right gesture sequence, it unlocks. Or maybe I’ll turn around and actively throw it at the other frame.” You can use the Lago frame to view an NFT, or use the companion mobile app to browse through your entire collection. Or, if you prefer, present a rotating series of pieces curated by NFT influencers. (Gralnick says these come with clear cues as to which pieces you own and don’t own, so don’t pretend you own the monkey.) In that sense, the frame can be both a display and a distribution channel – an NFT museum in your own home.

Astronomical price and all, Lago has sold its entire inventory in pre-orders. That’s not surprising: the dedicated NFT display is a booming industry. Tokenframe’s displays range in size from 10 to 55 inches and cost up to $2,777. NETGEAR has actually converted its digital photo frame business into an NFT business – and its Meural screens total $599.95. Canvia managed 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 stages. For DIYers, you can use a Raspberry Pi and the TokenCast protocol to build your own NFT screen cheaply.

Since all you technically need to get into business is an LCD display — and not even a particularly high-end one — startups in this space have come and gone quickly. Qonos, for example, was launched in 2021 and said it’s sold out its first series of frames, which could access the owner’s own collection as well as an entire gallery of Qonos-curated artwork. Now there’s virtually no sign of Qonos 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 it’s all a bit 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 right next to each other. And you just swipe through.” When he set out to build an NFT framework, he wanted to build the least interactive, least gadget-like thing he could make.

Infinite Objects started with “video printing,” which in practice means embedding an ad in a simple frame, setting a single video to play in that frame forever, and shipping it to you. “When you take it out of the box, it turns on in your hand,” says Saveedra. “It doesn’t have any knobs or switches, there’s no interface whatsoever.” The result is much more like a painting straight out of Harry Potter – a moving piece within a stationary object hanging on the wall or on your shelf.

Saveedra now does the same with NFTs. Infinite Objects has worked with Mike Winkelmann, who you may know as Beeple, to manufacture and ship physical versions of every NFT sold by Winkelmann. It also works with Dapper Labs and is the official framework of NBA Top Shots. Printing your NFT starts at around $120. You can buy frames ranging in height from 6.4 to 11.4 inches, the displays are surrounded by either bamboo or acrylic. The displays themselves aren’t particularly impressive – 1024 x 576 on the largest model, lower resolution than the original iPad back in 2011 – but Saveedra seems to think that the mere existence of a durable physical object is what matters most. “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 presenting digital art for two decades, is also firmly on the side of “don’t just put it on the TV”. “You don’t want to jump to the NBA playoffs and then turn on your $100,000 artwork,” he says. “It takes away so much.”

Some artists, Sacks said, care deeply about the screen where their artwork ultimately ends up. They dictate a specific resolution and aspect ratio, even the size at which their piece should be displayed. Others even go so far as to create the object on which their work is to be displayed. In this case, Sacks says, “The artist provides us with a sculpture. The art is not just the content; it’s the object that goes with it.” But a lot of the things Bitforms shows and sells are what he calls “unframed works,” where the file is sold and the buyer can display it however they want.

Things are a little different at the Quantus Gallery in London. Josh Sandhu, a co-founder of Quantus, says the team tested six or seven different TVs as they prepared for their first NFT exhibition. Now 36 Samsung framesets line the walls, some vertically and others horizontally. “The matte look is quite similar to an actual print,” Sandhu said. “They’re pretty high-end.” Quantus wants to experiment with other display ideas — Sandhu wants to build a wall of retro TVs, host a VR exhibit, and explore holograms — but for now, TVs will do.

That’s the thing about NFT art and how we present it. Ultimately, it’s not about graphic fidelity or pixel density, it’s about practicality. Buy an NFT so you can look at the JPEG all the time? Or is an NFT about your relationship with the artist, with other collectors, even with the underlying technology? And maybe just as important, who gets to decide? With physical art, most of these decisions are made when the art is made, and when it changes hands it becomes impossible to track and control. NFTs and the blockchain are about tracking; Artists can know exactly who owns their work, and collectors can know exactly who created it. So whose art is it 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 specific purpose. They are an act of provenance, a claim to ownership and authenticity never before possible. Artists appreciate the technology for this. (And for the ridiculous sums of money they make minting NFTs.) Now that prices and enthusiasm are falling and the JPEG pinballers and yacht clubbers are disappearing from the scene, the art scene is starting to figure out how the digital and the physical art world interact . And exactly the resolution that requires it.

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