I spent hours waiting to find out what an NFT IRL looks like

New York City was filled with NFT this week. Since Monday, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have sprung between conferences, galleries, hangouts, parties and other events brought together for and by the NFT community, usually entirely online, to talk about the future of art, create a buzz in space and discover new potentially explosive projects. The result was an exceptional number of hours spent in Times Square, a surprise Strokes gig, and lots of guys wearing crypto merch.

To top it off, a two-part event on Thursday called the Dreamverse, held in the sprawling Terminal 5 music hall. The venue is tucked away between the car dealerships and bridal gown stores that inexplicably line Manhattan’s western edge under Central Park. . For most of the afternoon, the event transformed Terminal 5 into a digital art gallery, showcasing emerging NFT artists. Like Cinderella, it went back to being a nightclub in the evening, drawing crowds with a flagship performance by Alesso, a popular Swedish DJ, and what event planners promised would be the ‘inaugural showcase’ of the $ 69 million NFT. of Beeple dollars.

I skipped most of the lineup for the week, but felt compelled to find out what it meant to see the so-called “allowed” debut of a work that I have seen numerous times online and which I can download in 21,069 x 21,069 resolution anytime. I would like (the file is 319MB in size for the browser). I was also, conveniently, assigned to cover the event after mentioning it in a meeting this week. Our editor asked me to debrief on the party, so I made my way to Terminal 5 not once but twice to check it out. (The gallery and the party / reveal that followed were separated by a 4 hour gap, during which I ate a burrito and watched YouTube videos in The edgethe office of.)

The gallery itself looked a lot like a normal art gallery, except it was filled with TVs and guys wearing WAGMI hoodies. For all the discussions around what NFTs mean for art, it turns out that they mean very little so far for art exhibition to the public. Dozens of pieces were on display around the room, spinning in and out of the many televisions that had been mounted throughout the space to showcase the fully digital works. Some were lively; some were still. More importantly, it was a space to showcase a style of popular art online – brilliant, with a sci-fi twist and an occasional grotesque element – but one that wouldn’t appear in a traditional gallery.

At the center of the Dreamverse gallery was a series of televisions mounted on color changing tubes of light.

The event was hosted by Metapurse, the group behind the $ 69 million acquisition of a Beeple NFT in March, and the art they curated largely resembled works that could live in the same world as Beeple. One piece, by Pussy Riot, showed a man / pig hybrid crawling towards a grave with a large vaginal opening. Another work showed a figure in a Guy Fawkes mask holding a shiny bitcoin. The works were tagged with QR codes, which all appeared to point to Twitter accounts rather than a blockchain address or NFT marketplace.

The place contained three floors of that – occasional sets of TVs, glowing light tubes for decoration, and a virtual reality setup all in one place, which you could walk around in a virtual NFT gallery inside this real NFT Gallery – plus a rooftop area where, among other things, there was sunlight and smoking was permitted.

When I walked around the roof I found a group of people crowded around a man holding what appeared to be a deck of tarot cards. People stood speechless and cameras stepped forward as he showed a single map in what I assumed was some sort of magic trick.

“Do you know who this guy is?” Asked a man next to me. None of us knew who he was. He turned out to be Twobadour, one of the managers of Metapurse and a central figure in the event.

There have been a lot of little confusions like this. So many people I spoke to told me they were interested in NFTs, but they were not like like the other people out there – or, at least, the NFT demons we all imagined to be around us. These gallery owners did not hold the NFT Blue Chips. They couldn’t recognize Twobadour or Metakovan, the two leaders of Metapurse. (Although a line of several dozen people formed at one point to take selfies with Beeple, who was neatly dressed in a blue sweater over a white oxford.)

One person I spoke to, who told me he was more interested in Bitcoin than NFTs, said he was skeptical of the value of NFTs, but came because he wanted to see what a digital art gallery looked like. As I was leaving, he followed me to make a suggestion for my item, imploring me to “put something on the Emperor’s new clothes”.

When I returned around 8 p.m. for the Beeple party and unveiling, many art exhibits were gone and the room was packed. There was a group of guys in Bored Ape Yacht Club hoodies, someone walking around in a spacesuit, and an inordinate number of women wearing berets.

A guy wearing a Bored Ape hoodie told me the Dreamverse event was too expensive, and another NFT party was more pop. He did not own a monkey, but he was invited as a plus-one to bored monkey party the day before, where Aziz Ansari took the stage to present a performance by Beck. After that, Chris Rock took the stage to present a performance of The Strokes. Ah, I think so, so these people have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of NFT that they refuse to sell and see my favorite band play for free? So pretty.

The opening DJ, PLS & TY, plays for the room which is not yet full.

Another guy in a Bored Ape hoodie (who owns a mutant monkey but not a proper monkey) told me he got a free ticket to Dreamverse from a guy he just met who couldn’t not do it. This is the NFT community element, he said. He and the ticket giver had spent the previous night on a scavenger hunt through town that was somehow related to a pseudonymous NFT character named Wagmi-san.

“It’s crazy bro, we live in a fucking video game,” he yelled at me.

Unfortunately for me, a reporter who had come primarily to report in person what Beeple’s works looked like, the NFT was not yet on display at this point. Beeple himself was hanging out in a corner with beer and chatting with people, so I thought I’d say hello. I had spoken to him earlier this year, and thought I should get a quote for this item – but a bouncer pushed me away when I got too close. Beeple left a few moments later.

Eventually an opening DJ came out and played for a while. Then he left, and a bunch of Kanye remixes played for a while. The Beeple was still not on display.

Some time later, I found myself in a conversation with an artist and a employee of a large NFT stock exchange. They asked me for my honest feelings about DTV. I hesitated before answering.

“We will not be offended,” said the artist.

I said it’s fascinating to see how many vibrant communities have formed around them and that I love the way they direct money to artists. I too said I think DTV is a pyramid scheme.

The artist was offended. The other person said blockchain is forever and it permeates value.

Finally, the music stopped, the lights came on, and a master of ceremonies took the stage. He wore a floral jacket and held a large hammer that he never used. He told the audience that they need to download an app so that we can all participate in a common AR experience. “Do not activate the app. Just download it. Please, “he pleaded.

People started singing for Alesso. He said they had to wait and please download the app.

At this point, the Beeple still had not appeared. It was 11:30 p.m. and Terminal 5 is very far from where I live. I wanted to go to bed, but I was also curious as to how they were going to make the Beeple stand out since the presentation Dreamverse promised – “a bespoke three-story hybrid physical and digital structure” – sounded elaborate and impressive, and there was no elaborate and impressive three-story hybrid physical and digital structure in sight.

As it turned out, this exquisite PR work was just the code for a screen. The screen, which had been behind the first party DJs all night, started flashing – the emcee gave a half-hearted crisis warning – and eventually the Beeple appeared stretched across the screen. A short animation played, zooming in on the Beeple, panning, zooming out, panning, zooming in, showing details then aggregate, repeating. It lasts a few minutes. Then the screen went black and people cheered.

A cropped section of the Beeple is displayed on stage.  Stage equipment is in front of the screen.

The $ 69 million Beeple, seen from the back of the room, from an angle, because who knew this thing would only be on display for a few minutes? A partially enlarged view of the artwork is shown above.

Metakovan took the stage and said a few words. “Thanks a lot, guys. Go to the metaverse.

Alesso has come. People applauded.

I was ready to go, but to fulfill my professional obligations I had to understand what the AR app was all about. Everyone around me had their phones out, but they were all recording a video of Beeple’s early days – no one was actually using the app.

My own internet connection had been too slow to download the app on time, so I asked the guy next to me how it was. He also couldn’t get the app to work. I left.

Photograph by Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge

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