APIs used:
  • Get single NFT with cached metadata from contract  
  • Get NFTs from contract with metadata  

In the world of digital art, NFTs are making waves, redefining how we view ownership, authenticity, and the very essence of art online. Essentially, the single thing enabling the value and importance of NFTs is provenance; the history of an NFT's ownership, which is a tamper-proof onchain record.

Breaking Down NFT Provenance

At its core, NFT provenance is about tracing the history and ownership of a digital asset back to its origin. It's like having a digital ledger that records every transaction, transfer, and change of hands, ensuring that every piece of art can be verified and traced back to its creator. This not only adds layers of authenticity and value to the artwork but also provides a clear, unforgeable history that fights against fraud and forgery.

The Importance of Property Rights Online

In the traditional art world, property rights and provenance have always played crucial roles in establishing the value and authenticity of artworks. The internet, however, presented challenges in tracking and proving ownership — until blockchain technology and NFTs came along. With each NFT being unique and stored on a blockchain, the current owner and the history of ownership are permanently and publicly recorded. This visibility is crucial for artists, collectors, and enthusiasts alike, ensuring that digital property rights are respected and secured.

How Visibility of Ownership Transforms the Art World

One of the most significant impacts of NFTs on the art world is the visibility of ownership. In traditional art, provenance can sometimes be murky, with histories of ownership being lost, forged, or disputed. NFTs eliminate these issues by making every transaction and transfer visible on the blockchain. This not only simplifies the verification of an artwork's history but also adds a new layer of interaction and connection between artists and collectors.

How Covalent Supports NFT Provenance

Covalent plays a crucial role in Web3 by providing easy access to blockchain data, including NFT provenance and ownership details. This data is available through Covalent's powerful unified API, which offers endpoints like:

Get single NFT with cached metadata from contract


Commonly used to get a single NFT metadata by token ID from a collection. Useful for building NFT card displays.

Get NFTs from contract with metadata


Commonly used to get NFT token IDs with metadata from a collection. Useful for building NFT card displays.

Specifically, a core field in the Get NFTs from contract with metadata and Get single NFT with cached metadata from contract endpoints is the current_owner field, which shows the onchain wallet address of the user who currently holds the NFT. This is very valuable for verifying authenticity, as well as understanding the NFT’s history, which can be obtained using the Get NFT transactions for contract endpoint.

Here is a tutorial on how to find the current owner of an NFT using the Covalent API.

NFT Provenance Examples

From iconic digital artworks and historical tweets minted on the blockchain to collectibles associated with celebrities or significant events, the provenance of each NFT tells a story.

Here are some examples of how NFT provenance manifests in various contexts:

  1. Digital Artwork: Consider an NFT created by a digital artist known for their unique style and contributions to the digital art world. The provenance of this NFT would include the artist's identity, the creation date of the artwork, its initial sale, and all subsequent transfers of ownership. A famous example could be any piece from Beeple, such as “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” which sold for $69 million at Christie's. The provenance of this piece is critical in establishing its value and authenticity.

  2. Historical Tweets: Jack Dorsey, Twitter's co-founder, tokenized his first tweet as an NFT. The provenance of this NFT includes the original tweet's date, the minting date of the NFT, and the history of ownership since its creation. This provenance validates its significance as a piece of internet history.

  3. Collectibles and Virtual Assets: Consider a rare virtual item in a blockchain-based game, tokenized as an NFT. Its provenance would include information about the game developer who created it, its introduction into the game world, and every player who has owned it since. This transparency ensures the item’s rarity and authenticity, contributing to its value both in-game and potentially in the real world.

  4. Music and Multimedia: An NFT representing a piece of music or a multimedia project by a renowned artist or creator comes with provenance detailing the creator's information, the date of creation, and its history of ownership. For example, 3LAU sold an album as an NFT, where provenance plays a key role in illustrating the album's origin and ensuring that rights and royalties are accurately tracked and attributed.

The Future of NFT Provenance

As the digital and physical worlds continue to merge, artists and creators now have the tools to tokenize physical artworks. This means attaching digital provenance to a piece that follows it through its lifecycle.

Sculpture Example

Imagine a renowned sculptor, Elena, creates a breathtaking bronze sculpture named "The Whisper of Dawn." To bridge digital and physical, Elena decides to tokenize this sculpture into an NFT. Here's how it works:

  1. Creation and Tokenization: Upon completion, Elena works with a digital art platform to create a high-resolution 3D scan of "The Whisper of Dawn." This digital representation is then minted as an NFT, uniquely representing the physical sculpture in the digital world. The minting process includes detailing the sculpture's creation date, materials used, dimensions, and the artist's intent and inspiration behind the work.

  2. NFT Provenance: The NFT's metadata contains all the essential information about the physical sculpture, including its digital twin's creation details. It also holds Elena's digital signature, ensuring authenticity. As the NFT changes hands, each transaction is recorded on the blockchain, creating an immutable history of ownership that is transparent and verifiable.

  3. Physical Attachment: The physical sculpture is equipped with a secure, tamper-evident NFC (Near Field Communication) tag that links directly to the NFT. This tag allows any future owner of the sculpture to verify its authenticity and provenance by scanning it with a smartphone, leading them to the NFT's record on the blockchain.

  4. Lifecycle Journey: As "The Whisper of Dawn" is exhibited in galleries, loaned to exhibitions, or sold to collectors, each event is updated in the NFT's metadata. This creates a comprehensive provenance record that encompasses both the physical journey of the sculpture and the ownership history of the NFT.

  5. Enhanced Value and Security: Collectors interested in "The Whisper of Dawn" can easily access its complete provenance, enhancing the sculpture's value by providing certainty about its authenticity, history, and connection to Elena. Additionally, the provenance secured on the blockchain deters forgery and theft, as any attempt to sell a fake or stolen piece would be easily debunked by the NFT's public record.

  6. Future Possibilities: Beyond ownership and authenticity, the NFT could include exclusive content for the owner, such as interviews with Elena, behind-the-scenes creation videos, or digital previews of her upcoming works. This not only adds value to the physical piece but also deepens the connection between the artist and the collector.

Conclusion: Bringing Property Rights Onchain

NFTs and their inherent provenance capabilities usher in a new era in the art world. By providing a transparent, immutable record of an artwork's history, NFTs are solving age-old problems of authenticity and provenance. As the landscape continues to evolve, Covalent is committed to surfacing onchain data in meaningful, accessible ways through the unified API. The future of art is here, and it's more transparent, secure, and connected than ever before!