After Pak and Beeple, What’s Next for NFT Collectors? Art Made With a Paintbrush


Felix Xu started the NFT art collection by purchasing the algorithm-generated Chromie Squiggle. Today, 29-year-old Chinese tech executive Xu has over 3,000 blockchain-based collections. However, his crypto wallet has a hole that he wants to fill with real paintings. His budget has reached $ 500,000 and is already on the waiting list for high-demand artists like Zhang Zipiao who use paint and moving brushes.

So in December, Xu, the founder and CEO of the startup Arpa and Bella Protocol, ventured into the gallery booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. There, David Zwirner and Pace Gallery dealers sought to look at the contemporary art market. He was looking for education. They were looking for a sale.

“I was really surprised at all the sculptures and paintings,” Xu said in an interview, expanding interest from good modernists like Picasso to living artists like Nigel Cook and Jesse McKinson. I praised the fair for that.

Xu is seeing an increasing number of NFT collectors looking to invest cryptocurrencies in concrete things. A painting he bought in January by Chinese artist Renqian Yang, who lives in New York.

Critics have ridiculed that it is impossible to marry an NFT with the world of art. But responding to Crypto Nouveau’s wealth tastes has become an enthusiastic obsession with the world of commercial art. It’s reshaping itself around these new collectors almost a year after artists such as Beeple and Puck sold NFTs or non-fungible tokens for tens of millions of dollars, a typical techno. Encourage the fobic art industry to move towards the Metaverse.

After all, among the NFT collectors roaming Miami Art Week was an anonymous crypto collector known as Pete D. , “On his blog. And Austin-based Rahira Zafar Made her first purchase from the fair, a painting by Matthew F. Fisher provided by the OCHI Gallery.

“The gallerist said he was a great artist whose work is gaining value,” said Zafar, a documentary and blockchain start-up advisor. To her expensive NFT merchandise, Bored Apes and Crypto Punks, whose proof of ownership is stored on the Ethereum blockchain, she has since added 20 pieces to the wall.

credit…Rahira Zafar

Even when they open courts from Metaverse to collectors, art galleries are advancing further by embracing technology that threatens their business model. Many are investing in digital platforms. Industry experts say dealers have the opportunity to limit the incentives for their artists to cut them out as intermediaries and sell their work independently.

“The art market is constantly looking for new areas of expansion, and the world of NFTs is like a perfect gateway drug,” said Nata Shadegen, chair of art market research at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Anyone involved in a market like a very volatile and speculative NFT can easily move into the world of art where the same dynamics occur.”

Sotheby’s began selling NFTs last year, with digital assets selling $ 100 million, 78% of all NFT bidders being new customers, and more than half of bidders under the age of 40 making sales. I am.

“In the last three to four months, there has been a growing interest in physical art from NFT collectors,” said Charles Stewart, CEO of the auction house, and new collectors can provide art history. He explained that he was anxious for the context of digital works.

(According to competitor Christie’s, NFT sales were $ 150 million. Both auction houses are now doubling their crypto business. For example, Sotheby’s is developing an NFT marketplace to support auctions. Participated in a $ 20 million investment in the person Mojito. House built its own virtual gallery last year.)

Justin Sun, an early convert from the NFT community, was a tech entrepreneur, founder of the cryptocurrency platform TRON, and bought $ 20 million in Picasso at Christie’s auction last year. In November, he continued to buy the 1947 Giacometti sculpture “Renez” at Sotheby’s for $ 78.4 million.

It was Sun’s art advisor, Sydney Xiong, who processed the transaction over the phone. Xiong helped Crypto Billionaire build a collection of traditional NFT artwork for his APENFT Foundation. This is the platform she said fills the gap between the world of art and the Metaverse.

“Before the auction, he knew nothing about Giacometti,” Xiong explained, talking about the artist for three hours before the pair bid. “I educated him and tried to let him know how important the lot was and why he should have it.”

In November, the APENFT Foundation launched a $ 100 million fund to develop the talent of digital artists. Currently, more than 30 people are working at the Foundation and will be exhibiting their physical and digital collections in Shanghai. Xiong said the Foundation is currently considering creating Giacometti and Picasso NFTs on the TRON blockchain, a cryptocurrency platform also created by Sun.

(In December, Sun announced that it would retire from TRON to promote the use of blockchain and crypto in Latin America.)

Many artists have moved to the Metaverse in projects that span digital and physical elements. In many cases, the recognized goal is to turn crypto wealth into an art lover. Artist Tom Sachs has abandoned furniture design and museum exhibits and is running a pet art project called “Rocket Factory.” In this project, users will be able to purchase three separate stages of a digital NFT rocket ship. When the ship’s parts are combined, the artist launches a physical replica into the sky. After being restored, the replica will be shipped to the owner in a custom display box and the online version will be updated with the startup metadata.

Sax described the project as turning his studio into a “transdimensional manufacturing plant”, producing 1,000 rockets. He sells hundreds of rockets to art collectors and is working at a tremendous pace to complete them all.

“Our development team is in Portugal and we have contractors in South Africa and Germany,” he explained. “We hired someone named CoolCat. I don’t know her real name, but I have the studio key.”

He also tried to persuade dealers and institutions to adopt new technologies. In November, the artist helped the Los Angeles County Museum of Art begin acquiring NFTs from the “Rocket Factory” and guided the process to the museum.

“We took them in our hands and taught them everything, and then launched a rocket on the LACMA campus,” Sax said. The agency is in the process of figuring out future conservation of NFTs and rockets.

If museums are enthusiastic about NFTs, art dealers are moving forward. Pace Gallery hired early adopters of the digital market and museum curator Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle to lead an online sales effort before introducing Pace Verso, a unique platform dedicated to NFTs. ..

Art dealers and museums have long sought to attract Silicon Valley innovations as art lovers. Pace was one of the first galleries to open there. Boyle said crypto collectors are often attracted to aesthetics. “They’re interested in visuals,” Boyle said in an interview, adding that some people want the vibrant shades and cartoon style of what they see online.

Last year, the gallery helped artists such as Lucas Samaras, Glencaino and Urs Fischer release tokens. According to Boyle, the program helped put aspiring collectors like crypto investors and Felix Shoe on track in the gallery.

Xu asked about Adam Pendleton, an artist known for his large monochromatic and conceptual paintings, after Fisher and Samaras bought the NFT.

But he remembers that Pace was the one who gave some advice on how to attract more NFT collectors for their traditional paintings and sculptures.

The NFT community “seeks for social involvement,” he said. He suggested that Pace needs to learn how to “grow hack” a business model by launching community events, creating raffles, and offering products such as free T-shirts. All of these are ways to drive enthusiastic purchases in the NFT world.

For dealers looking for the next generation of art buyers, attracting NFT collectors like Xu is a long-term investment and may not continue to be successful. His hobbies have already evolved beyond the best artists in stock at Pace. “Recently, I am actively looking for emerging artists who have an avant-garde spirit and tackle the real challenges of reality.”

So will the marriage between NFTs and the world of art continue?

It has already produced rare offspring. Last year, Erick Calderon became a tycoon of Art Blocks, an NFT platform that claims to have generated over $ 100 million in digital sales in 2021 from operating its ceramic tile business. Calderon, CryptoPunks created the series Chromie Squiggles (one of which was purchased by Xu as the first NFT artwork for over $ 1,000). In August, another wavy line of Calderon was resold for $ 2.5 million.

Calderon uses some of his fortune to create a collection of drawings by pioneers of digital art such as Vera Molnár, Manfred Mohr and Herbert W. Franke. And in October, he opened his company’s exhibition space in Marfa, Texas. There, NFTs are displayed on the wall like a framed painting. A recent town hall meeting explaining art blocks was tense when the traditional artists in attendance began to question the world of NFTs.

Calderon said he remains positive about the future potential of the NFT community and the world of art coexisting and is keen to continue to buy more traditional art.

“I said I would exchange CryptoPunks for Donald Judd or James Turrell,” he jokingly said. “But no one accepted me for that offer — not yet.”


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