Who does what in this digital “soup”?
Ça va sans dire that this universe has already been swamped by a number of different players. Let’s start from the beginning. NFTs became technically possible thanks to Ethereum’s (one of the most popular cryptocurrencies) blockchain. They were first used in the online game CryptoKitties, which allows users to create, exchange and sell virtual cats. Clearly the best-loved pets on the web. Certainly adored by whoever paid more than 170,000 dollars for the first.
Since then, their popularity has grown and grown. Among the NFT content put up for sale over the last few months, there’s Jack Dorsey’s first post on Twitter (sold for 2.9 million dollars) Trevor Andrew’s Gucci Ghost (which made 3,600 dollars) and the videorecording of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James’ slam (hammer price 208,000 dollars). Digitised sets from Pulp Fiction will soon be sold on Opensea.com, the best-known NFT marketplace: fans of this cult movie will be able to purchase various excerpts with previously unseen passages. Following the success of its official NFT licensed digital collectibles based on Spider-Man and Captain America, Marvel has launched an inaugural series of classic Marvel Comics. In July, the NFT version of Banksy’s Spike was also put up for auction. The physical version of the work remains the property of the tenor Vittorio Grigolo: whoever purchased the digital work for 150,000 dollars acquired the authentic NFT digital work, but not the ownership of the original physical work. To put in physical art collection terms, anyone can buy a Monet print but only one person can possess the original. The NFT work currently holding the record for the highest sale is Beeple’s The Last 5000 Days, which sold at Christie’s for 69.3 million dollars. On the subject of auction houses, Sotheby’s has just launched its own metaverse, a virtual space that allows its users to explore and familiarise themselves with available works of art in an immersive digital world. In this way, it expects to expand its services with dynamic auctions, open editions and the creation of generative works of art. In Italy, Cambi set up the country’s very first NFT auction, entitled Dystopian Visions which saw 18 artists upload their digital artworks on the RuperRare marketplace, alternating imaginary utopias with real dystopias - apocalyptic and certainly disorientating. A digital art veteran is curating the metaverse: Serena Tabacchi, director and co-founder of MoCDA, the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art launched in London in 2019. The latest, and no less spectacular, is Coral Arena, an NFT produced by the 3D artists and interior decorators Charlotte Taylor and Nicholas Préaud based on a sculpture designed by Shohei Shigematsu, head of OMA’s New York office, with an imposing but sustainable underwater park at The ReefLine, with an actual artificial coral reef accessible along a snorkel trail.
Should you happen to ask yourself whether anybody would be prepared to spend a figure ending with six zeros on clothes or shoes only wearable in the digital sphere, the answer is a resounding yes! In September, a gold Haute Couture outfit from Dolce&Gabbana’s Genesis Collection (a selection of nine NFT pieces) went for over a million dollars at auction. 620 pairs of sneakers produced by RTFKT Studios and designed by Fewocious generated sales worth 3 million dollars. The Baby Birkin by Mason Rothschild and Eric Ramirez sold for 23,500. Nike has patented its CryptoKicks NFT sneaker. Gucci has created an exclusive NFT Gucci Collection, which includes bags, glasses and hats used by the avatars of the users playing Roblox. While Aria, a short loop video on three channels, directed by Alessandro Michele and the photographer and filmmaker Floria Sigismondi, inspired by the AI Collection 2021, was sold by Christie’s in an online auction for 25,000 dollars. Burberry designed a suite of NFT characters and accessories for Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party. Louis Vuitton launched the videogame Louis The Game with integrated NFTs to mark its bicentenary. Even Guerlain couldn’t hold out for long, inviting a number of artists to produce art and matter-themed NFT-certified original digital works.
But it’s not just art and fashion. As of now, you can also dance to the rythm of NFTs. Kingship is the first band to play in the metaverse. It’s made up of four digital monkeys and has signed a contract with the Universal record company. The monkeys are part of one of the most successful NFT collections, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, launched in April on the OpenSea platform; the least expensive image is worth around 200,000 dollars and the most expensive have even hit 3 million dollars. American VIPs such as Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Curry, Snoop Dog have scooped them up and used them as images on their Twitter profiles. These musical monkeys have signed a deal with 10:22 Pm, Universal Music’s new web brand. In March, the Kings of Leon issued When You See Yourself, the first music album also sold via NFT. Again in March, the Italian group Belladonna were the first artistes in Italy to sell a single copy NFT song and the first in the world to include the rights to the piece in the NFT, followed by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Furthermore, NFT parties are now the order of the day.
In China, Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplace was the first to jump onto the bandwagon. For Singles’ Day 2021 (China’s version of Black Friday), the brand launched its Metaverse Art Exhibition, presented and managed by AYAYI, the first virtual employee, taken on as digital manager. NFT artist, digital curator, fashion brand manager, AYAYI will helm the launch of Alibaba’s metaverse. The Metaverse Art Exhibition is showing NFT artworks sponsored by brands such as Burberry, Coach and Longines.
Again in Asia, on 3rd November, Seoul officially made its entrance into the metaverse. What this means in practice is that it will be the first city in the world to export events and public services into a virtual universe. The project is due to end in 2026. By 2023, however, the Metaverse 120 Center, a space citizens’ avatars can visit and make use of services or report non-functioning services, will be operational. It is also possible that events such as the Lantern Festival will take place in “virtual twin” locations and that the leading tourist attractions will be visitable within the Virtual Tourist Zone.