PFPs: An easy transformation of NFTs into art

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Introduction to PFPs

NFTs have taken up a lot of our mind space this past year despite the drop in value of many of them. However, if NFTs are primarily seen as art, there are many parallels to the current art world. And fortunately or not, we need to introduce another acronym, the PFP, which stands for profile pics.

As we previously wrote, artists whose careers grew up online like Kaws, Takashi Murakami, Daniel Arsham and others, have made their names not in creating museum works but rather through appealing to the masses. While these artists create unique pieces for their traditional collectors, their majority income comes from prints, multiples, and editions, usually in a series of between 50 and 1000, typically signed and numbered, and very friendly for social media. 

Driven by Social Media

In our Instagram obsessed society, we want instant recognition and instant credibility. We don’t want people to ask, “What artist is that?” or  “What brand is that?” We don’t want to be posting our artworks only to be publicly humiliated that we bought a forgery. Artists, like Kaws, sell out his prints for nearly $10,000 per drop, a number that took art legends like Warhol and Lichtenstein decades to achieve in auction. Prints and editions are easier for today’s growing amateur collector base because they are recognizable, well documented, and while they are limited, others have them and are actively posting them and or reposting them. 

The NFT world has noticed this trend and projects that feature PFPs, which are easily displayed and recognized, have started to take hold. Some of the most recognizable NFTs are PFP projects including Crypto Punks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Meebits, Pudgy Penguins, Sup Ducks, and more. 

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Prints, Editions, and Multiples Rule

Unlike traditional NFTs which are usually one-off unique works, PFPs are part of a larger series, similar to prints, multiples, and editions. Each PFP is slightly different as no two are the same, for example, and are algorithmically tweaked to ensure this uniqueness; the equivalent of art’s “hand finished multiples.” The simplicity of PFPs leads to their popularity; everyone knows what a profile picture is. This popularity and desire to stand out, but not too much, leads to the popularity of these projects. Sup Ducks sold out within 48 hours bringing in more than $1.5 million. 

Like today’s’ popular art, where Kaws utilizes the Simpsons, Smurfs, and Mickey Mouse for his inspiration, PFP projects like “Bored Apes” and “SupDucks” taps into that same nostalgia, the TV shows, movies, and especially cartoons that aired in the ’80s and ’90s, when both buyer and seller were still kids. 

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Hype Drives

Again, like art, the NFT projects that are most hyped are typically the most coveted. Many collectors turn to Twitter for advice and recommendations. GaryVee recently tweeted about EtherRock, a series of clip art rocks, that drove the price up twenty times.  If Rohan Gharegozlou from Dapper Labs, the company behind CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot, is to tweet about something it will most likely sell out as Berk Ozdemir found out, the creator of Bastard GAN Punks.  As other artists have learned, the NFT space thrives on FOMO. Typically if a project sells out in seconds, many “flippers” can easily double their money on eBay or other resale platforms.

Lifetime Value

However, like artists, the PFP purchase is the beginning. Most PFPs offer some basic perks: access to a hidden Discord channel, exclusive content, along with the commercial rights to the NFT. The Zenft project where 8888 unique Bonsai were created, sold out in less than an hour on June 1, netting the team more than $2 million, created new perks for NFT owners, AR and VR versions. 

The artist’s analogy is that we start with a $10 shirt from Uniqlo, then a $250 400% Be@rbrick, then a $1000 1000% Be@rbrick, then a small print for $2500, then a large print for $6000, then a numbered and limited edition toy (probably in wood) for between 15-20K, then, if you ever get there, the print portfolios for $30-50k, and then originals and bronze sculptures for the price of a small (or large) house. 

We’ve seen this play out before in the art world and the winners will be the ones that can identify what the NFT equivalent will be. In this case PFPs are the artists’ prints, editions, and multiples. Artists out there, what are you thinking? Are you seeing the parallel evolution between the art world and the NFT world?  What’s your take on NFTs? How can you utilize the internet to better serve you?

 

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