Those who laughed when a duct-taped banana sold for US$120,000 and were blown away when a Nyan Cat GIF sold for $540,000 last month could be forgiven for thinking April Fool’s day came early two weeks ago when a JPG image sold for US$69 million.
On the same day that U.S. artist Beeple collected his record haul for an intangible work that can never hang on a wall, Thai artist Phurichaya Panyasombat sold her first work of blockchain NFT art for THB50,000 (US$1,600). And on Saturday, the crypto art trend will reach fad-forward Bangkok with the opening of an exhibition at a Sino-hip riverside venue.
“The news of Beeple’s NFT work drew a lot of attention from people in Thailand, and I’ve been observing NFT since the beginning of this year,” said Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti of Thonglor’s Palette Artspace, who is organizing the Mango Art Festival opening at riverside venue Lhong 1919. He says it will be Bangkok’s first NFT art show.
For those not running on the latest updates, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are files registered as unique via blockchain in the same way as cryptocurrency. They can be anything digital, from photos and music to paintings and even tweets. People have begun paying serious money for things like clips of basketball players to collect and trade like cards. They’ve also been storming the art world, which was already a place for people to park their fortunes.
Watjanasin said NFT is perfect for the pandemic-era art trade. Because many are still unfamiliar with the format, he said the gallery found young, upcoming digital artists to showcase and sell their work securely to people around the world.
If all goes well, he may offer NFTs of his private erotic works at another venue he owns, Bangkok’s Museum of Sex
Phurichaya, aka Fxaq27, said she didn’t think NFT was a passing fad as she believes digital works will have a place in museums around the world going forward. On top of that, human culture is increasingly expressed online, and she thinks the internet memes that define their place in historical records.
“I haven’t collected any NFTs yet, but when I have more money, I will definitely own some,” she said. “It’s like collecting a piece of history if you buy one-time hit internet memes such as Bad Luck Brian.”
Ahead of the curve is Siriphong “Preto” Tipayakesorn, a Thai visual artist who began collecting NFTs from NBA Top Shot and other artists and is now making his own. Siriphong, who lives in New York and has worked at a number of its museums, said he just spent US$2,000 (THB62,500) on a hypnotic visual and audio piece by American street artist Greg Mike.
“We have to admit that buying and collecting art is an extravagant hobby,” he said. “People who appreciate such activities usually have enough money that they’re not worried about how they’re going to feed themselves tomorrow.”
He said he doesn’t mind the fact it can only be appreciated online, where anyone can make a free copy of it. He said the large sums spent to own such works give a different satisfaction compared to, say, owning Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. “A copy is a copy,” he said, comparing copies of NFT works to the worthless prints of famous originals people buy.
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