Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are turning the art world upside down, disrupting an industry that’s been around since cavemen decorated their caves with a lump of charcoal. Featured is the meme of a cat with a Pop-Tart body that took the Internet by storm in 2001. The creator turned it into an NFT this year and sold it for a cool 300 Ethereum (ETH; S$1.53 million) on NFT platform Foundation.
Tweets to go
There’s something to be said about ultra-short attention spans and Twitter’s 280-character limit (which, by the way, is double what was initially allowed). What we can’t say is that penning down your thoughts, however brief, is worthless. The billionaire co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey has sold his first tweet for US$2.9 million (S$3.81 million) on Valuables, a marketplace dedicated to autographed tweets. That’s about $152,000 a character! The proceeds went to GiveDirectly, a non-profit that helps families with Covid-19 in Africa.
NFTs on fire
Here’s a stark reminder of the last time virality failed to deliver. A physical NFT – somewhat ironically – of an oil painting depicting the corporate logo of an event of the decade – the luxe 2017 Fyre Festival, co-founded by rapper Ja Rule – and which included the note “F*** this painting”, sold for US$122,000 on Flipkick, a crypto platform where the rapper is head of the artist and repertoire department.
The price of freedom
Edward Snowden – famous, or infamous, after he blew the whistle on the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance practices – has released his first NFT artwork in exile. Dubbed Stay Free, the artwork consists of Snowden’s portrait, taken in silhouette by renowned photographer Platon, against the entirety of the text in the landmark 2015 Second Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling that the NSA’s mass surveillance was, in fact, illegal. The entire proceeds of the April 16 sale on Foundation – a whopping 2,224 ETH, making it the third best-selling NFT of all time – was directed to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
What makes NFTs so special is that they are at once reproducible and unique. Enigmatic artist Pak’s collaboration with legacy arthouse Sotheby’s is one for the history books. The latter’s first NFT sale, it’s a statement by both parties on the democratising power of digital art against conventional notions of scarcity and value. Pak’s art – cubes upon cubes, tessellated infinitely – is a decisive period on that statement. It sold well. Very well, in fact – to the tune of US$17 million.