Is the NFT bubble burst?

Digital art and NFTs are making inroads at Art Basel, the big trade show for contemporary art, where art market stars like American Jeff Koons are launching themselves into this booming segment.

The Pace Gallery unveiled the first piece of a series of sculptures that the artist known for his balloon dog and tulips intends to send to the moon with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration company.

Jeff Koons, one of the most expensive living artists in the world, plans to install 125 miniature versions of these sculptures called Moon phases with a photograph of their location, sold as an NFT (non-fungible tokenor non-fungible token).

Buyers will also receive a life-size sculpture, set with a gemstone to mark its location on the moon.

“We also discover it for the first time”enthusiastic Marc Glimcher, the director of the gallery, presented this statue in the form of a moon of 39.4 centimeters, freshly arrived at its stand in Basel.

Pace is one of the few large galleries that has ventured into NFT territory. According to Clare McAndrew, author of an art market report for Art Basel, only 6% of galleries sold NFTs by 2021.

A highlight, a fall

Very speculative, their prices have risen since the sale last year at Christie’s auction house of an NFT by American artist Beeple to $ 69.3 million (66.3 million euros at current prices).

But since their peak in August 2021, NFTs have been diving. While art-related NFT sales volumes rose to $ 945 million in August, they fell back to $ 366 million in January and then to $ 101 million in May, according to statements by Clare McAndrew.

“A bubble”?

However, these ups and downs do not get the head of the Pace Gallery to return, convinced that NFTs are drawn in an emerging market for digital art. He compares their excesses to the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s.

“Of course it was a bubble. But we still have the internet today”argued Marc Glimcher during an interview with AFP, which sees one “new method of distributing digital art”.

40 million spider and augmented reality

For this edition, the organizers of the fair have teamed up with the platform for blockchain (blockchain) Tezos, which offers digital works by artists with new versions generated by machine learning in the form of NFTs. The public could come and download one for free at their booth, though some people already put them back up for sale and barely left the fair.

Alongside this, the ViveArts platform offers a dive into digital art using augmented reality glasses, and in particular presents an avatar of the German artist Albert Oehlen in a 3D universe.

In the hallways of the fair, the French gallery Édouard Montassut put up for sale a digital creation by Turkish artist Özgür Kar, representing a man surrounded by three skeletons reminiscent of bas-reliefs from churches but on a floating crystal display.

“I think NFTs will have a place in the market in the future”told AFP Marc Spiegler, director of Art Basel, even though their prices have “recently collapsed” at a time when artists are experimenting with digital tools.

In the short term, the hard works that wealthy collectors can install in their living rooms have returned in large numbers: A spider by French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois snatched $ 40 million, a work by conceptual artist Félix Gonzalez-Torres went to 12 , 5 million, an oil on canvas by German Georg Baselitz sold for 5.5 million.

“The atmosphere – of course, despite the complicated global context of the war in Ukraine and the general economic situation – is excellent”welcomed the head of the fair.

The fair, held from June 16 to 19, brought together a wealth of very real works, ranging from a giant bronze statue of British Thomas J. Price to an installation by French-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, representing a kitchen dotted with huge cockroaches or a series of portraits carved in wood by French-Cameroonian Barthélémy Toguo.

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