Fly me to the moon: Futuristic Art Basel fair to send art to moon

By June 19, 2022NFT
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A visitor looks at a Wu Tsang virtual artwork "A mighty mass emerges" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)
A visitor looks at a Wu Tsang virtual artwork "A mighty mass emerges" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are all the rage at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, where the world of digital assets is taking off, as the world's leading contemporary art fair has taken a futuristic turn this year, even offering buyers the chance to see their sculptures placed on the moon.

Artist Jeff Koons plans to send 125 miniature sculptures to the moon with multibillionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

The sculptures – set to be installed 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles) apart from their owners – will be sold as NFTs, which work like certificates of ownership.

A man looks at Huang Yong Ping's artwork "American kitchen and Chinese" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)
Visitors pass by a Folkert de Jong's artwork "The shooting… 1st July 2006" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)

The "Moon Phases" statues come with a photo of their lunar location, and buyers will also be able to take home a sculpture with a gemstone marking their extraterrestrial counterpart's place on the moon.

"We're also seeing it for the first time," said Pace gallery director Marc Glimcher as he unveiled a moon-shaped statue about the size of a beach ball at his stand in Basel.

Elsewhere at Art Basel, Turkish artist Özgür Kar's LCD display of a man surrounded by skeletons is being sold by the French gallery Edouard Montassut.

The Vive Arts platform, meanwhile, offers a dive into digital art with the help of augmented reality glasses, presenting an avatar of the German artist Albert Oehlen in a 3D universe.

Cameroonian artist Barthelemy Togo poses by his artwork "Bilongue" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)
A visitor passes by a Jeff Koons artwork "moonfaces, Leonardo da Vinci" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)

The fair, which runs from June 16 to 19, also features a host of nondigital works – from an installation by Franco-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping depicting a kitchen strewn with giant cockroaches, to a series of portraits carved in wood by Franco-Cameroonian artist Barthelemy Toguo.

A spider sculpture by the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois fetched $40 million.

Along with sales of yachts, luxury cars, watches and jewelry, the art market recovered strongly in 2021 after the shock of the pandemic in 2020.

The stock market rebounded sharply last year, swelling the coffers of the ultrarich – and inflation is giving wealthy collectors yet another reason to splash out on a multimillion-dollar painting.

A visitor walks past Leonardo Drew’s artwork "number 341"  during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)
Visitors pass by a Jeff Koons artwork "moonfaces, Leonardo da Vinci" during a preview day of Art Basel, the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, June 14, 2022. (AFP Photo)

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

Since peaking in August 2021, NFTs have plummeted. While art-related NFT sales volumes soared to $945 million in August, they fell to $366 million in January and then to $101 million in May, according to McAndrew's records.

These ups and downs don't faze the owner of the Pace gallery though, who believes that NFTs represent a "new methodology for distributing digital art."

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