Fintech, eCommerce, Insuretech and Blockchain and their ESG sustainability test.
The fourth edition of the MFDW focuses on everything that developed in the digital environment
during the pandemic and destined to remain and establish itself.
This is a panel of Milano Finanza Digital week dedicated to NFTs. Today we’re going to talk about non-fungible tokens, these digital ownership certificates that have practically revolutionized the world of collectibles and also the world of visual arts in the last six months. In order to try to put some order in this new and very interesting, but very complicated world, we have here a series of special guests that will help us to better understand what they are and how they work, if it is the case to spend money on them or not.
Our guests: Serena Tabacchi, co-founder and director of MoCDA, an exclusively online digital art museum;
Eleonora Brizi, you can find her Breezy Art profile on Instagram, she is a gallery owner and an expert in digital art and NFTs;
Cristiano De Lorenzo, managing director of Christie’s Italia who can tell us the point of view of an international Major;
Maria Grazia Mattei, founder and president of MEET – Digital cultural Center of Cariplo foundation in Milan in Porta Venezia, a beautiful space, a new museum;
Token Angels, a collector of digital art who has been collecting digital art for some years, so he can also tell us his experience: how it started and what he buys.
There are two different paths: one is that of native digital artists who produce exclusively digital artworks and sell them, the other, however, is that of traditional artists whose works, even physical ones, are tokenized, digitized into NFTs and then the NFT is sold.
C: For example, we will have in a few days at auction in London a magnificent drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci, a Renaissance drawing, and we have commissioned the Italian artists Hackatao a digital version of Leonardo’s “Head of a Bear”. Of this series of works, one piece will be donated to MoCDA, a museum of digital art, while the others can be purchased on SuperRare, so once again a particularly interesting case of interaction, especially when compared to the hyper-traditional market of Renaissance art.
Eleonora Brizi is also involved in the same auction. Eleonora is a gallery owner, she is an expert in digital art and comes from traditional contemporary art, but she changes skin over the years too and actively collaborates with this couple of artists, Hackatao, among the most famous in Italy because, for once, we Italians are not arriving later as interpreters of this new digital art. We are qualifying at a global level, aren’t we?
E: What blockchain does is just to cut boundaries and make everyone equal, through various measures including the ability to remain anonymous or show up through aliases or even there are collectors and artists that appear in the form of their digital wallet code, so we’re global.
We know that Hackatao are Italian and they started in 2018. Now I want to latch onto what Lorenzo was saying, this project, of which I am the curator, is a project that has excited me from the beginning because the real winner is art. We talk about contemporary art as it was at the time called Renaissance art and as it is today crypto art, so it’s really the story of the continuum of art. The Hackatao have acted on this drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci that will be auctioned in London on July 8 and have created this digital artwork that will be visible through augmented reality, in other words scanning through devices, iPads or phones just the original sketch. The tokenized work will be tokenized on SuperRare, this NFTs will be donated to MoCDA and the other NFTs will be available on SuperRare. That’s what we loved so much, these NFTs are not going to be auctioned at Christie’s, it’s really a project, it’s a process, an artistic gesture to start this dialogue, which has already started, maybe overbearingly and so we do it just through this narrative.
I entered the world of crypto art in 2018 in New York, actually with a crypto art project that seems to be the first of crypto art as we understand it today. And, as Token Angels said, there was a sense of community around it. The project goes back to 2016 and it’s Pepe’s project. This was all happening on the bitcoin blockchain and not the ethereum blockchain. It was just the first time that a community of people started experimenting with these digital figurines, tokenized them and sales started, that’s where it all started. So the movement, as it always happens, started before the moment when it was really possible to see or enjoy it.
TA: This is a digital card of Homer Pepe, which Eleonora knows very well because she has also published a book on Rare Pepe, The Rarest Book. The project is the first project on NFT Digital Collectibles, or real digital cards. In 2016, a community of artists with the passion for blockchain realized that digital assets could be created using blockchain. They created this project on the bitcoin blockchain and I bought the Homer Pepe there. I paid 205 Ethereum for it, which is about $300,000. On a historical level it is considered the most important NFT in the world. It is important because there are actually 1774 of which only 7 are unique and the other cards in the series are “edition” versions, including my Homer Pepe. It was previously sold in 2018 in an auction for $40,000.
Eleonora Brizi, I know that you have worked for several years in close contact with Ai Weiwei, the famous contemporary Chinese artist. How do older generation artists see this new wave? We have seen that some great artists haven’t wasted any time, in fact Damien Hirst himself started making his nfts right away, others instead are extremely wary of this world. Ai Weiwei, for example, what does he think about it? And, in your opinion, how do these two worlds dialogue?
E: I actually saw Ai Weiwei before the show I did in Rome in October 2020 where Matt Kane’s work, that Token Angels showed you, was also on display, I tried to explain this crypto art thing to him, he’s a really old school artist so he didn’t understand it very well. Nevertheless, when I talked to him about this stuff he had already done a project on blockchain. So he participated artistically in the process even though he didn’t fully understand this new world. Beyond Ai Weiwei, I believe that, as Cristiano said, anything new, especially artistic movements, are always rejected at the beginning by everyone, by the institutions, by the artists themselves, so it is obvious that there is some reticence about it.
So, it is widly different to reject a mode that you don’t understand, or to have doubts about taxation, about the jurisdiction of these assets, about copyright. It is still an undiscovered discipline, it seems like we are betting on it. What do you think about it?
E: There is a lot of work to do, and beyond new movements, these doubts are super legitimate. For example at the legislative level everyone says they are working on it, but there are no laws yet. Of course we all think that what is written on the token is law, but in the real world it doesn’t work like that. We have to work hard and I believe that the first bases have been laid because until a year ago we didn’t even know all this movement, while now there is the hype, there is the bubble. Laws will be written and everything will be regulated and I think it’s going in a very positive direction for the movement. Regarding the fact that these NTFs are a bubble, in my opinion that is true. We are in the moment of the speculation of this bubble, and like all other bubbles will pass, but I hope and I firmly believe that those who will remain from the point of view of artists, art projects, institutions, museums are those who have created a cultural background to the projects that they do, so there will be a great skimming and those who have really made art will remain.