Meet Amrita Sethi, the ex-banker who pioneered digital art and NFTs

Few artists have a CV that includes 15 years of working in leadership roles in global financial services companies. But Amrita Sethi is not your typical artist – and her innovative and entrepreneurial approach to her work, including her adherence to the emerging NFT phenomenon, owes a lot to her background in business.

Born and raised in Kenya, Sethi is a British national with a global outlook, having worked in executive positions around the world for companies such as HSBC, Barclays and Zurich Insurance. “I had an artistic bent from a young age, but I also fell madly in love with economics,” Sethi says of her early career. “Then, three years ago, I decided to do something more entrepreneurial, so I came back to my passion for art. “

Sethi’s work is unique. While she produces more traditional pieces that draw on conventional painting methods, she is best known for her digital art; in particular, it launched “Voice Note Art”, an idea for which it holds the intellectual property rights. The idea is to take a word – the name of the subject of the work, for example – and then use the sound waves that the name produces when said aloud to produce an image. “People have never seen her before and when you bring their story to life, they find it deeply personal,” she explains.

This multimedia art form has captured the imaginations of people, especially in Dubai where Sethi now lives. A few months after giving up her career in financial services, she won the Outstanding Artist Award at World Art Dubai in April 2019 and was invited to produce live activations and installations for a series of international shows. Since then, she has created Voice Note Art portraits for a range of clients, including celebrities and world leaders such as the Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

More recently, Sethi has become somewhat of a pioneer in NFT. The acronym stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, but leaving that mouthful aside, the important point is that NFTs are a new way to sell digital art and music.

NFTs are unique digital assets that can be bought and sold; in fact, they are certificates of ownership for a virtual asset such as a digital work of art. These certificates are recorded on a blockchain – in most cases the Ethereum blockchain – with the ledger providing an immutable record of ownership. Tokens can also be configured to include provisions for the artist to receive a share each time the NFT is sold to a new owner.

An NFT does not necessarily give you ownership of the copyright in the artwork, nor does possession of an original painting preclude the sale of prints of it. But the NFT shows that you own the original work.

In the conservative and mainstream art world, NFTs raised eyebrows, but the idea caught on quickly, not least due to some jaw-dropping deals. More famously, auction house Christie’s closed the sale of an NFT by digital artist Beeple for $ 69 million earlier this year.

Sethi was one of the first to embrace the idea. “When I started creating my Voice Note Art, you couldn’t make money with digital works and I had to produce prints that I could sell,” she explains. “So when I first started learning about NFTs, the idea was really exciting.”

Sethi’s financial background has helped her grasp a concept that requires some understanding, but she is convinced that NFTs have a great future. “They really allow an artist to get off the page – to create and sell more dynamic work,” she says. “It also democratizes art; in the past galleries have acted as gatekeepers and that has some value, but if you don’t have the keys you’re left out – it gives artists a voice.

Of course, while anyone can create an NFT, there is no guarantee that someone will want to buy it. In practice, artists have to work just as hard to create demand for their work – to build a compelling story around their pieces. But by using digital platforms such as Terra Virtua, through which Sethi sells his NFTs, it is possible to reach a large target market.

From a buyer’s perspective, Sethi believes NFTs can bring new generations of art lovers into the industry, including younger buyers who have grown up buying digital assets in locations. environments such as games. “You get a tamper-proof provenance for the job,” she emphasizes. “You can buy art for display, with some really exciting possibilities with augmented and virtual reality, and like traditional art collection, there is investment potential as well. “

Sethi’s work becomes more and more valuable. She just sold her last NFT for $ 10,000. “Unlike most digital works of art, which can be reproduced endlessly, each NFT is encoded to have a unique digital signature and characteristic,” she points out. “This gives NFTs the attributes of originality and rarity that make them so attractive and valuable – just like a physical work of art.”

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