Yes, that’s for sure, “it’s a change from what we’re used to seeing…”, advance cautiously Marine. The 19-year-old film student hangs out in a somewhat peculiar gallery. Here, no tables, but screens. Some are hung on the wall, others placed on trolleys with wheels. Above, we cross Elon Musk that plays a gun in space, a giant rabbit that comes down from the sky, or a black and white striped eye that spins and makes you feel like you’re on acid if you stare at it for too long.
Welcome to the NFT Factory. A gallery accessible free of charge, inaugurated on October 22, 2022. 400 m2 offices included, a dozen employees, and even a mini-shop of t-shirts and caps at the entrance. If we omit the apple green decor, there is like a coworking atmosphere, with the lights on the ceiling and the desks on which to work. Like Marine, 2,000 visitors stroll there every week.
Among them, many had never seen an NFT, non-fungible tokena digital good authenticated using a transparent and irreversible register of transactions: the blockchain. But the NFT Factory has a dream location: opposite the Pompidou Center and its largest collection of modern art in Europe, in the heart of the 4th arrondissement of Paris. And we notice her, with her tagged glass doors from the name of their fourth exhibition, “It smells of crypto-fir”. “I left Beaubourg, it attracted me,” admits Marine.
Fifty crypto-artists from around the world deliver their vision of the excesses and excesses of their world. If you like, you can flash the QR code of a work with your smartphone to buy it. Prices range from 50 to 3000 euros. Marine particularly likes “works that seem buggy”, but not sure that she invests. Because what really bugs is the NFT market.
It all went too fast, too hard. In March 2021, mike winkelman, says Beeple, 39, an as-yet-unknown American digital artist, is a game-changer. His work Everydays: the First 5000 Daysa digital collage, is auctioned by Christie’s and sold for $69.3 million. Beeple becomes one of the three most expensive artists in their lifetime, behind David Hockney ($90.3 million) and Jeff Koons ($91 million).
So everyone wants to be there. Small geniuses (or opportunists, it depends) cobble together images in jpeg or gif, quickly published on a market place like OpenSea, and break the bank. Benjamin Ahmed, a 12-year-old Briton, becomes a millionaire selling pixelated whales; same for Ghozali Ghozalu, a 22-year-old student from India, with a collection of 1,000 selfies. In short, speculation is rife.
Until, like any bubble, it burst. The cryptocurrency market, with which NFTs are bought, is collapsing. In November 2021, one Bitcoin is worth more than $68,000; in January 2023, it painfully rises to 20,000. This crash is precipitated in November 2022 by the fall of FTXthe second largest crypto exchange, went from a valuation of $32 billion to bankruptcy due to disastrous management.