“They Can’t be Funged!” What’s up with NFTs?

How did a novel idea meant to benefit artists and creators become a frenzy of people clamoring over each other for pictures of punk monkeys in a $17.6 billion industry?

Ah, the whimsical world of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). At the height of their popularity, people were trading digital pixels loosely resembling apes for a staggering US$2.8 billion a month. Fast forward to July 2023 and the NFT market has come down from the clouds, now hovering around a mere 3 per cent of its former glory.  

At its core NFTs were initially created to establish digital ownership and authenticity. Meant to act as digital certificates, built on blockchain technology, they were designed to certify the originality and ownership of digital assets, ranging from art and collectibles to in-game items. 

NFTs are less about the actual art, song, or image and more about being a digital proof of ownership. They’re like a virtual badge that says, “Hey, I’m the real owner of this unique digital thing!” So, while you can still enjoy the art or music, the NFT’s main job is to make sure nobody can fake or copy your ownership. It’s like having a digital key that unlocks the real deal in the virtual world.

Beyond verifying ownership, they empower artists to maintain greater control over their work. Artists can use NFTs to tokenize their creations, ensuring that they get a fair share of any future revenue generated from their art. 

This means that as their work gains value over time, they continue to benefit from it, providing financial security and recognition for their talent. Somehow this concept devolved into a frenzy of uninformed, FOMO-driven investors, yeeting their life savings on pictures of punk monkeys.

Matthew Hougan, Chief Investment Officer at Bitwise Asset Management, sees potential for NFTs to transcend their initial hype. He believes that the second generation of NFT technology will make its way into the real world within the next two to three years. Hougan remains optimistic about the broader NFT ecosystem, even as trading volumes have dwindled. 

That’s all well and good, but it turns out that today 95% of the 73,000 NFT collections we examined are essentially worthless. We went from buying and selling million-dollar pixel art made on MS Paint when the NFT market was worth a jaw-dropping US$17.6 billion to… well, nothing. It’s safe to say that not every pixel is a Picasso.

Then there’s the curious case of supply and demand. Less than a quarter of all NFTs are actually ever bought, leaving a whopping 79 per cent of collections collecting dust on a USB somewhere. It’s almost as if people finally realized that buying a cartoon cheeseburger won’t satisfy their hunger. Who knew?

But wait, there’s more! It turns out the listed NFT prices often differ significantly from their actual selling prices, leading to a speculative market that’s reminiscent of the wild, unpredictable days of the early internet. 

However, not all hope is lost. The future promises a shift from speculative buying to genuine utility and significance. Forget about million-dollar pixel art—NFTs are branching out into preserving cultural heritage, where they digitize and protect historical artifacts.

They’re also infiltrating the gaming industry by enabling true ownership of in-game assets. Moreover, NFTs offer token-gated access to exclusive content, fractional ownership opportunities in real estate and high-value assets, and secure digital identities, reshaping the way we engage with digital culture.

It’s like the NFT market is finally growing up and realizing it has more to offer than just digital trinkets.  

When it comes to NFT as an investment, Hougan suggested considering cryptocurrencies like Ethereum or companies actively engaged in the NFT space, such as Nike, which has already earned an impressive US$185 million in NFT revenue. 

Ultimately, NFTs are undergoing a much-needed transformation, akin to the dot-com bubble burst that ultimately paved the way for the digital revolution. So whether you’re an investor, creator, or simply an amused bystander, keep an eye on the NFTs that bring real value and purpose to this quirky digital universe. 

After all, it’s not just about buying and selling psychedelic monkey JPEGs—it’s about making the virtual world a bit more useful and slightly less bizarre. 


What the hell is an NFT?

The next digital revolution — let’s break it down for you.

Chances are you’re feeling the same way your grandparents did when the internet blew up in the ’90s and, rest assured, you’re not alone.

Las year , you saw Mark Zuckerberg host a weird video about a game-like reality. Now, your friends are making thousands of dollars on some alien planet they call the “Metaverse.”

What kind of witchcraft is going on here? Let me break it down for you.


NFTs explained

An NFT, or “non-fungible token” is a digital asset that’s been around for quite a while now. In plain English, that basically means that it’s entirely unique and irreplaceable… kind of like the original Mona Lisa — just digital.

Think of it as a form of virtual art, whether it’s music, a drawing, a Gucci-themed ghost, or a picture of your cat. Wait, I can make money off my cat? We’ll get into that in a second.

So how exactly do NFTs work? It all started with Ethereum, the first blockchain to support these tokens. To oversimplify: a blockchain is a digital ledger that records and distributes all transactions across an entire network of computer systems, making it virtually impossible to be manipulated.

Ethereum’s blockchain, unlike Bitcoin and Dogecoin, is designed to support NFTs by storing additional bits of information. Attaching metadata (details like name, description, image and a link), along with a transaction log, to each token provides investors, artists, and collectors an additional layer of authenticity and value to their assets.

When crypto-mania exploded and gained support from high-profile celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Gen Z masses were quick to hop on the trend. In fact, Chain Analysis, a data platform providing research findings, estimates that the NFT market reached $41 billion (yes, with a “b”) in 2021.

Unsurprisingly, a number of other NFT-supported blockchains have since emerged like Flow and Tezos, each trying to capture their share of the market.


The Metaverse explained

So, you just bought Beeple’s artwork for $69 million and want to show it off. There’s only one problem – it’s not a physical object. Did you really just waste $69 million? No need to panic, the tech gods have got us covered.

Simple, just buy land in Decentraland – one of many virtual land platforms – build a museum, hang up your most prized possessions on the wall and invite others to visit. Problem solved.

Welcome to the Metaverse.

A virtual or augmented reality where you can do everything you do in the real world — okay, maybe more. Your avatar (fancy way of saying your fictional character) can buy clothes, cars, houses and can go to work, just like you do in real life. Here’s the catch: those virtual goods cost real money.

If you’re thinking this might just be a phase, have a look at world-renowned brands who are diving into NFTs like Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, Balenciaga, Gucci, Ray-Ban… the list goes on. They can now sell their products for real money, while avoiding rising costs along with the entire manufacturing and supply-chain process. No wonder big corporations are hopping on the crazy train.


I just want to know how I can make money off my cat

Well, it’s certainly not impossible. A proud pet owner recently sold a picture of their grumpy cat as an NFT for $83,000. Shortly after, a meme of a dog, commonly known as Doge, was auctioned for $4 million. The best part is that the process is pretty straightforward once you got your digital wallet set up: you simply select an NFT marketplace like OpenSea, upload your file along with important details, and let the buyers bid away.

Oh, and it gets better. A CNBC report just announced that real estate sales in the Metaverse hit $500 million in 2021. Let that sink in – digital land and buildings… in an imaginary world… are now worth more than Beyonce’s entire career. Yes, the world has completely lost its mind. Or perhaps not.

It seems the Metaverse, along with NFTs, has given birth to a different form of investment. Similar to stocks, investors are buying tokens with the expectation that their value will appreciate and that they’ll be able to re-sell them for a profit. Of course, this is the lowest level of NFT involvement and requires nothing but a digital wallet and a couple hundred dollars (maybe more than a couple).

So, the big question remains: is this a bubble? Perhaps, but one thing is sure, there is money to be made until it bursts.


Graphics by James Fay


Introducing Lana Denina

An artist who speaks her truth through intimate art-making

Social media does have its advantages; it allows people to discover and connect with the many talented artists that share their work on social platforms.

I came across Montreal-based artist Lana Denina’s Instagram account a few months ago while scrolling on the application’s explore page. The colour palettes she uses and her detailed illustrations of faces caught my eye.

Denina, who is of Beninese and French origin, is currently studying Marketing at Concordia. She remembers copying drawings from her childhood books when she was six. Then, she started painting.

Her style is unique. Denina’s art illustrates modernity and authenticity, exploring human relationships, body movements and morphological diversity.

My paintings are greatly inspired by our era of beauty and technology,” says Denina. “I also incorporate a lot of modern fashion into my art.”

Denina combines digital art and painting, representing people of colour is important for her as she feels they should be more included in contemporary art.

She looks up to different cultures. For instance, she gets inspiration from the art of the Shōwa era, a period of time in Japan that signified the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from 1926 to 1989. Denina also admires Dan masks, traditional objects created by the Dan people, an ethnic group from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the masks are integrated into the hierarchical system that governs political and religious life.

Her paintings are designed differently from each other. Some pieces are darker, whereas some are lighter; it all depends on Denina’s mood. The faces depicted in the artworks were envisioned by the artist, creating new beings. “They all are made-up faces from my imagination. It’s a mix of various faces I saw over the internet or in real life that I thought were unique,” said Denina.

Moi vouloir Toi (2021) is an animated painting depicting a woman with a snake on her head looking at a man. The background changes colour, from green, purple, to a fading red, giving life to the artwork.

L’ocean du regret (2021) is a self-portrait of Denina from the series Wet, a collection of paintings she created where water is always present. In this painting, viewers can observe Denina standing in the water, with a cut over her heart. The piece is about giving one’s heart to someone fighting personal battles and the way it can be harmful for both people. The piece is painted with dark red shades, making the painting seem more intimate since it’s a self-portrait and red is known to signify intimacy and passion. It’s as if Denina was portrayed in her vulnerability.

I want to show my process of evolving throughout adulthood but also tell love stories,” said Denina. “Love is extremely powerful because it transforms people into vulnerable beings. It unveils the true nature of people.”



Loving myself, suffering with myself (2021) is another astonishing work, illustrating a woman in a red background, sitting on a red couch looking at viewers. This painting is about self-love and the way it can be challenging to accept one’s self. “I mostly love my sad paintings,” added Denina. “ They express powerful feelings.”

Her most recent work, Puedes oírlo (2021), which translates to “you can hear it” in Spanish, is animated work, showing a couple sharing an intimate moment, while the sound of a heartbeat can be heard. This painting seems to be a remembrance of a past relationship, where one still remembers the heartbeat of a partner that they once heard; a sound that never left.

I’m attached to all of my paintings. All of them are unique and capture a particular emotion I was feeling at the time they were created,” said Denina.

She possesses the skills to fabricate her art with different materials. Duo Tone is a set of velvet rugs, each with a different illustration on them. She also designed a woven throw, inspired by the Suri tribe, a community from Ethiopia. A woman meditating can be seen on the throw.

“I want to tell stories about life, the good and the bad sides of life. Every human being on Earth is different and has [their] own story,” said Denina. “I want to represent people as much as I can.” For the moment, Denina is working on a silk scarf she is designing.“The sky really is the limit, I have so many ideas. Lots of new projects are coming up soon but cannot be revealed yet!”

Viewers can keep up with Lana Denina’s work on her website and Instagram.


Photos courtesy of Lana Denina.

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