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Calgary’s Next Economy: Boris Walks Alone Art using NFTs for digital art

How about owning (or renting) a piece of priceless art, but have it as a digital representation of the real thing?

Jen Armand with Calgary-based Boris Walks Alone Art Inc. said the answer lies in non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Armand’s company is built on the premise that one can have a piece of art hanging in their home via the use of digital technology and promotion.  

“Using blockchain technology, digital artwork has the ability to build scarcity and choice for the buyer,” Armand said.

According to data on Statista, tens of thousands of pieces of art are sold via NFTs, but the number varies dramatically from month to month. In March 2023, the number of sales recorded on Ethereum, Ronin and Flow over the prior 30 days was roughly 9,000. It’s been as high as 100,000 in the past two years.

Armand herself is from the graphic design and photography world. She understands the challenge artists have in reaching a wider audience with their work. Armand had photographed fine art in the past and thought then that those files would have a value in the future. She thinks NFT is the way to lock in that value.

“I do think the solution is there for a lot of artists that are just waiting for this,” she said.  

“I think that the problem was the technology was really complicated.”

That’s where Armand and Boris Walk Alone Art have found a home.

“I really take care of basically everything for the artists that I have,” she said.

Right now, Armand said she’s working with 30 artists.

Digital art via cryptocurrency

An NFT is an asset that has been tokenized through the use of blockchain technology. They have unique code and metadata that can’t be replicated.

NFTs can represent digital or real-world items (like art) and when they’re made into tokens they are turned into digital assets that make the original work available to buy, sell or trade.

Armand said the artists don’t have to be experts in technology. She said solutions like Boris Walks Alone Art give the artists more time to create.

“It’s a bit of the wild west right now because the technology is really advancing and changing very fast,” Armand said.

Right now, much of the art sells on places like OpenSea, which is the world’s largest NFT marketplace.

She’s been examining a newer idea of having the artwork delivered directly to a customer’s digital wallet via smart contracts.

The art can be displayed on a digital art LED screen with technology built in to display the art it its ideal form, whatever the lighting.  Armand said holders of a few pieces of digital art can change the art at any time they want.

‘You can’t know all parts of a business’

Armand said she could be a salesperson for the Alberta Velocity – Catalyzer program.

“I’m wearing the shirt. I love this program,” she said.

What made it especially valuable for her was examining the different parts of her startup. They’ve provided her all sorts of advice in every facet.

“As a founder, I really think that you can’t know all aspects of business,” Armand said.

She said it will help propel her forward as she navigates the fast-changing technology in the art world. The one thing it creates is provenance for any piece of art – past or present.

“Right now, we could say that Johnny made this piece of artwork, but over time that may be lost,” Armand said.

“With blockchain technology, you can’t change it. Once it’s on the blockchain, it’s there forever.”

Armand wants to double her field of artists over the next year. She’s exploring gallery partnerships and other creative ways to connect with artists.

She’s also explored the rental side of art. Some people aren’t able to afford the original, so NFTs provide a limited-time solution as well.

“The solution is there and it’s going to be very powerful,” she said.

“I wouldn’t change my whole business if I didn’t believe in it.”