A NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is a certificate of ownership over a digital asset. The transaction gets recorded on the blockchain, which has been described as a huge spreadsheet that is open to the public: anybody can add to it and it cannot be changed. Because the ledger is publicly available and unable to be altered, the information about the digital asset (mp4, jpeg, OBJ, youtube link, etc) is certified and able to retain and change in value the same way physical art does. The space is relatively new, but has been heating up in recent months. Here is an introduction article that breaks down the positives (digital creators can sell their art) and negatives (the blockchain uses a ton of energy) and much more.
One of the more publicized sales of "Crypto Art" is Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland selling more than $1 million worth of digital art in January 2021. More on that:
One of the earliest and most prominent artists in the NFT space goes by Beeple. This FAQ page on his website has insights about the process and legitimacy behind the NFT market. From the page, " Question: Why the hell would I buy this stuff if i can just see it for free on instagram? Answer: yes you can, and you always will be able to SEE my work for free. This is for people who are interested in COLLECTING artwork, which is a very different experience."
Aside from creators with massive built-in fan bases, NFT's give young artists a place to sell their digital art. One example is Nate Mohler, a gradutate from UCLA and student of Refik Anadol. In addition to his public installation and physical art, he creates mind-bending digital art using 3D software and AI training scripts. His first NFT sold for over $1000. Here is a link to his website:
Vimeo Caption: "3460w x 2160h. Love the grungy dark grossness and textures in this test. Ai Neural Styletransfer; Trained with 2 photographs of tagged street trashcans"
Briefly mentioned above was the environmental impact of blockchain technology. The basics of the problem is that each time something gets added to the blockchain, computers need to use a lot of energy to record and verify the transaction. Here is an article explaining more about the impact.
Ethereum (ETH), a popular cryptocurrency behind the sales of NTF's, is particularly energy-inefficient. Currently being developed, Ethereum 2.0 claims that it will cut the energy (or "gas", as it's called) by 99%. More on that: