The wacky rise of NFT art collectors

Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile is shaking things up. It’s not that he doesn’t like his current Miami home. It’s more that he needs a place where he can make the most of his art collection. “The new house is going to have 15 or 16 screens all around and projectors,” said Rodriguez-Fraile, a 33-year-old Spaniard with a background in finance. This is because his collection does not consist of sculptures, paintings or engravings, but non-fungible tokens – or NFTs – unique cryptographic files that collectors regard as proof of ownership of digital works of art such as coins. computer-designed videos, gifs or images.

Anyone can right-click and download the artwork with which an NFT is associated; but people who, like Rodriguez-Fraile, buy the tokens in online auctions for cryptocurrency sums are swinging, say they feel like the only ones real the owners. That’s why Rodriguez-Fraile looks forward to spending his days surrounded by screens constantly displaying his purchases.

Rodriguez-Fraile’s work as a patron of the cryptographic arts, however, extends beyond his living room: he is currently working on opening several digital art showrooms around the world (the first, says -it, will launch in Miami in the second half of 2021). And his efforts transcend even the physical realm, as he is one of the founders of MOCA (Museum of Crypto Art), an NFT-backed art gallery hosted on a virtual reality platform. “The best thing about these digital works of art is that we can travel with them, we can take them anywhere we want, we can present them to people all over the world,” he says. “If you own a very beautiful Picasso masterpiece, everyone knows you have it, but very few people will be able to see it.”

The NFT art scene has gotten blazingly fast: An NFT linked to a collage by American digital artist Beeple sold for $ 69,346,250 in cryptocurrency at a Christie’s auction in March 2021. Rodriguez- Fraile says he’s twice spent $ 1million on an NFT – on works by visual artists Pak and WhIsBe – and in March he made headlines after reselling one of his pieces, a Beeple video. of 38 seconds, for over $ 6 million. For many, this is just the usual boom and bust cycle of all modes adjacent to cryptocurrency – pointing out that almost all collectors are wealthy cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, and as of June 2021, NFT’s sales had slumped to less eye-catching levels. Others believe that regardless of the price swings and buzz, NFT art is here to stay. Vincent Harrison, a Los Angeles-based art gallery owner who has worked with artists and NFT platforms, says digital art collectors are no different from those who splurge on Tintorettos and Jeff Koons.

“It’s the same collector’s mentality. The beauty of digital art is that people don’t have to stop collecting because they never run out of space, ”he says. not to be put on the wall: they have it in reserve. But they still collect just because they love art.

Rodriguez-Fraile, in fact, defines himself as a collector at heart: he carefully chooses his pieces guided by his aesthetic sense and the artist’s mark, and he cultivates friendly relations with the creators whose work he loves. “It’s never, ever a monetary thought,” he says. He even says that while he could hardly qualify himself as an art collector before his trip to NFT space – he was familiar with cryptocurrency, on the other hand – the experience heightened his love of “l ‘traditional art’: In May, he bought a portrait of David Bowie by Elizabeth Peyton from Sotheby’s for $ 2 million. For others in this space, the NFT drive is either a nuanced undertaking imbued with revolutionary undertones or an unnecessary financial rat race.

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