Kiechel Fine Art Center in Lincoln curates art from around the country, specializing in 19th and 20th century American art and — now even NFTs.
It is among other Lincoln art galleries that have been experimenting with NFTs this past year as a way to showcase local artists’ work. Owner Buck Kiechel said he currently has a few NFTs by Lincoln artists displayed on the third floor.
Kiechel Fine Art held an event this summer during Lincoln Calling that explained what NFTs are and projected them for people to see on TVs on their third floor. The event, which focused on explaining to people what NFTs are, went well, he said.
“Buck sees ahead of the curve,” said Michael Burton, a Lincoln filmmaker and artist. “We had a whole show of NFTs this summer. Twenty pieces in the gallery, and I’m still making them, and we’re selling them regularly.”
Non Fungible Tokens, known as NFT, use recent technology as a way to show ownership for work. NFTs have seen a significant rise in popularity within the past year with improvements in technology.
The first official NFT on the Ethereum blockchain, a list of transactions that anyone can verify, was minted on Aug. 7, 2015. There are several other cryptoart categories: CryptoPunks, Rare Pepe and CryptoKitties. Most notable is Rare Pepe, named after the Pepe the Frog meme, popular in 2016.
When Kiechel heard of NFTs, he researched NFTs to see if they were worth the investment.
Kiechel, who has 30 years in the business, said that he does not see the long-term value in NFTs. When curating his collection, he said he focuses on the long-term value and how a certain piece of art will be worth in 30 years.
But Kiechel said he appreciates the draw it brings to local artists, like Burton.
Burton started creating NFTs to showcase his digital art.
He said he was always interested in art. As a kid, he made stop-motion animated videos with his brother. He decided to pursue art seriously in 2007 and started creating stop-motion animated paintings. In 2011, the Denver Art Museum featured one of his paintings at the exhibit Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image. His work was featured among artists such as Jenny Holzer, Jennifer Stein, Matthew Weinstein and others.
Burton has created NFTs and even introduced new technology for displaying them. Burton used Raspberry Pis, a mini computer used to learn how to code in languages, and monitors that he programmed to display NFTs on a small plugged-in frame.
He said that his most recent NFTs are digital landscapes. His paintings and NFTs are inspired by driving across the country looking for old barns to depict. One of his NFTs depicts a hazy green rainy landscape with some trees and the sun trying to peek through..
“It’s not like all of a sudden NFT showed up, and then everyone’s new to it,” Burton said. “Although there are a lot of people who are trying to cash in on it and just making things and they weren’t doing this stuff before us. And some of them are really awesome about it.”
Burton agrees with Kiechel that recognizing local artists is a positive of NFTs.
“This is a nice medium for people who are content creators to get a little bit of money for the enjoyment that people take in their work,” Burton said. Content creators typically do not receive a lot of money from posting their work online unless they have a big following.
NFTs are lucrative now in the right market. The most expensive single piece art NFT sold was Everydays by Mark Winkelmann for $69.3 million on March 11, 2021. This art piece includes a collage of images made once a day from 2007 to 2020. Winkelmann has been creating digital art for decades but this recent technology allowed him to earn millions.
While the recent technology with NFTs allow new art to be created, some, like Kiechel, question the longevity.
“When I look at the actual medium, it’s more of a promotional thing,” he said. “It’s not a long-term value proposition.”