Felix Xu began his collection of NFT art by acquiring a Chromie Squiggle, which was created by an algorithm, to begin with. At the time of this writing, Xu, a young Chinese IT executive of 29 years old, owns more than 3,000 blockchain-based valuables. A hole has sprung up in his cryptocurrency wallet, and he would want to fill it with actual paintings instead of virtual ones. His budget is approaching $500,000, and he is already on a waiting list for in-demand painters who work with paint and moving brushes, such as Zhang Zipiao, who are now in demand.
The result was an excursion around the gallery booths of Art Basel Miami Beach in December, when dealers from David Zwirner and Pace Gallery attempted to woo Xu into the contemporary art market. Xu is the founder and CEO of the start-ups Arpa and Bella Protocol. He was searching for a better education, while they were aiming to make a profit.
Xu is one of an expanding number of NFT collectors who are eager to invest their cryptocurrency in something tangible: a conventional art collection, which he began with a painting by Renqian Yang, a Chinese artist based in New York, which he purchased in January.
Critics have sneered at the notion that a union between non-profit organisations and the art industry is feasible. A year after artists like Beeple and Pak sold NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, inspiring the traditionally technophobic art industry to venture into the metaverse, catering to the tastes of the crypto nouveau riche has become the frantic obsession of the commercial art world, which is reshaping itself around these new collectors.
The APENFT Foundation established a $100 million fund in November to support the development of digital artists’ abilities. More than 30 employees are currently employed by the organisation, which intends to showcase both its physical and digital collections in the Chinese city of Shanghai. Xiong said that the foundation is currently contemplating issuing Giacometti and Picasso NFTs on the TRON blockchain, which was also founded by Sun. Giacometti and Picasso NFTs will be issued on the TRON network.
To put it another way, Sachs is transforming his studio into a “trans-dimensional manufacturing facility,” where he will be producing 1,000 rockets. He has sold hundreds of rockets to art collectors and is now working at a breakneck rate to accomplish the remaining tasks on his list.
He has also made an effort to persuade dealers and financial institutions to use the new technology. When the Los Angeles County Institution of Art decided to acquire an NFT from “Rocket Factory” in November, the artist stepped in to assist the museum by guiding them through the process.
While museums have been slow to embrace non-profit organisations, art dealers have been ahead of the curve. A pioneer in the digital market, Pace Gallery hired museum curator Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle to head up its online sales efforts last spring. This was followed by the introduction of Pace Verso, a platform devoted to non-traditional works of art.
Art dealers and institutions have long attempted to court Silicon Valley’s digital pioneers as art connoisseurs, with varying degrees of success. In fact, Pace was one of the first galleries to open in the neighbourhood. Crypto collectors, according to Boyle, are typically attracted to a collection because of its aesthetic appeal. During an interview, Boyle said that some people are drawn to the bright colours and cartoonish designs they’ve seen on the internet.
He said that the NFT community is “searching for opportunities for social participation.” He advised that Pace should learn how to “growth hack” its business model by organising community events, holding raffles, and giving away free items, such as T-shirts — all of which are strategies that cause purchasing frenzy in the non-profit sphere — in order to succeed.
It has already given birth to an extraordinary offspring. Since last year, Erick Calderon has gone from owning and operating a ceramic tile company to being the mogul of Art Blocks, a new-fangled technology platform that expects to produce more than $100 million in digital sales by the year 2021. California-based artist Calderon made his money from early investments in CryptoPunks, and he also developed the Chromie Squiggles series (one of which Xu purchased for more over $1,000 as his first NFT artwork). Another of Calderon’s squiggles sold for $2.5 million in August, according to public records.
For his part, Calderon is investing a portion of his income in the creation a collection of drawings by digital art pioneers such as Vera Mólnar, Manfred Mohr, and Herbert W. Franke. He also created an exhibition room for his firm in Marfa, Texas, where the NFTs are displayed on the walls like framed paintings, which was dedicated to him in October. Following a recent town hall meeting to discuss Art Blocks in further detail, the atmosphere turned hostile as conventional artists in attendance started to cast doubt on the NFT reality.
Calderon expressed optimism about the idea of a future in which the NFT community and the art world might coexist, and he expressed a desire to continue purchasing more conventional works of art in the future.