Is the NFT bubble bursting?

Digital art and NFT are making their way to Art Basel, the great contemporary art fair, with art market stars such as American Jeff Koons joining this booming segment.

Pace gallery has unveiled the first piece in 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 named sculptures Moon phases with a photograph of their location, sold as NFT (non-fungible tokenor non-fungible token).

Buyers will also receive a life-sized sculpture, set with a precious stone to mark its position on the moon.

“We are also discovering it for the first time”Marc Glimcher, director of the gallery, enthusiastic about presenting this 39.4 cm moon-shaped statue, which has just arrived on his stand in Basel.

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

A peak, a fall

Highly speculative, their prices have skyrocketed after the sale of an NFT by American artist Beeple last year at Christie’s auction house for $ 69.3 million (€ 66.3 million at current exchange rates). .

But, since their peak in August 2021, NFTs have plummeted. While art-related NFT sales volumes soared to $ 945 million in August, they dropped 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 make the boss of the Pace gallery go back, convinced that NFTs are the sign of a nascent digital art market. He likens their excesses to the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s.

“Obviously it was a bubble. But we still have the internet today.”said Marc Glimcher during an interview with AFP, who sees a “new methodology for distributing digital art”.

40 million spiders and augmented reality

For this edition, the organizers of the fair have joined forces with the platform of blockchain (blockchain) Tezos, which features digital works by artists with new versions generated by machine learning in the form of NFT. The public could come and download one for free on his stand, even if someone was already putting it back on sale, barely leaving the fair.

Alongside it, the ViveArts platform offers a dip in digital art using augmented reality glasses, specifically by presenting an avatar of German artist Albert Oehlen in a 3D universe.

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

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

In the short term, the efforts that wealthy collectors can install in their living rooms have started to grow again: a spider by the 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 the German Georg Baselitz sold for 5.5 million.

“The climate – obviously despite the complicated global context with the war in Ukraine and the general economic situation – is excellent”welcomed the head of the fair.

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

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