Yes, that’s for sure, “it’s a change from what we’re used to seeing…”, he advances cautiously Marine. The 19-year-old film student frequents a somewhat peculiar gallery. No tables here, just screens. Some are hung on the wall, others placed on trolleys with wheels. Above, we cross Elon Musk that sounds a gun in space, a giant rabbit that descends 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 too long.
Welcome to the NFT factory. A free accessible gallery, inaugurated on 22 October 2022. 400 m2 including offices, a dozen employees, and even a mini-shop selling T-shirts and caps at the entrance. Aside from the apple-green decor, there’s a coworking vibe, with overhead lights and desks to work from. Like Marine, 2,000 visitors stroll through it every week.
Among these, many had never seen an NFT, non-fungible token, a digital asset authenticated using a transparent and irreversible transaction ledger: the blockchain. But the NFT Factory has a dream location: in front of the Pompidou Center and its largest collection of modern art in Europe, in the heart of the 4th arrondissement of Paris. And we notice it, with her labeled glass doors from the name of their fourth exhibition, “It smells like crypto-fir”. “I left Beaubourg, she attracted me,” Marine admits.
Fifty crypto-artists from around the world offer their insight into the excesses and excesses of their world. If you want, 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 “jobs that look bad,” but she’s not sure about investing. Because what really bugs is the NFT market.
It all went too fast, too hard. In March 2021, Mike Winkelmannsays Beeple, 39, a still-unknown American digital artist, is a game changer. His work Every day: the first 5000 days, a digital collage, was auctioned at Christie’s and sold for $69.3 million. Beeple becomes one of the three most expensive artists of their life, behind David Hockney ($90.3 million) and Jeff Koon ($91 million).
So everyone wants to be there. Little geniuses (or opportunists, it depends) put together images in jpeg or gif, quickly published on a marketplace like OpenSea, and break the bank. Benjamin Ahmed, a 12-year-old British boy, becomes a millionaire by selling pixelated whales; the same for Ghozali Ghozalu, a 22-year-old Indian student, 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. As of November 2021, one Bitcoin is worth more than $68,000; in January 2023 it painfully climbed back to 20,000, plummeting in November 2022 with the fall of FTX, the second largest cryptocurrency exchange, which went from a valuation of $32 billion to bankruptcy due to disastrous management.