What is an NFT? Billion Dollar Boom for the NFT Rainmakers – Vanity Fair


It feels like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) weren’t a thing a couple of years ago. Certainly not in the mainstream. If they were mentioned at dinner parties (were those allowed two years ago?), most around the table would likely remain blank-faced and glassy-eyed. You’d likely find yourself trying to grasp the concept while a shouty fellow guest attempted to explain it to you across the cheese board. You might then nod along, furiously Googling what “fungible” means under the table. Yet over the past two years, NFTs have suddenly become more prominent. Today there might be a flicker of recognition among many, while others have cottoned on and want a piece of this exciting market. The pandemic helped; what better time for a virtual concept to thrive than when physical contact is banned and digital communication is being nurtured?

Some have taken this to the extreme of course. Days into 2022, the first NFT billionaires were minted. Founders of Opensea, Alex Atallah and Devin Finzer, increased their New York-based company’s value by around $13.3 billion, each becoming worth $2.2 billion. With NFTs logged via blockchain, Opensea—a blockchain startup—has grown by allowing users to monitor asset ownership, as well as create and trade NFTS, taking 2.5 per cent from each transaction. Rainmakers indeed.

They’re not the only ones. Albeit buoyed by the fact their fathers are billionaires, Kiat Lim and Elroy Cheo launched ARC, an exclusive community that counts Asian entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, Web3 developers, cryptocurrency experts and social influencers among its members. Even the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Serena Williams have become NFT champions and collectors.

But while NFT sub-categories cover the likes of domain names, fashion tropes and memes, art lies at the core of this enterprise; and those creating and curating art are riding the wave, just like the NFT rainmakers making billions.


Woman #14

Take World of Women—or WoW—whose once-modestly priced $200 NFTs now sell for six figures and have attracted the interests of Ava Duvernay and Eva Longoria. This collective is one among several doing it for the girls, desaturating the male-dominated world of NFTs and moving things on quickly. It’s very no-nonsense. WoW—along with feminist art initiatives such as Rewind Collective and the Guerilla Girls—won’t stand for the market to follow in the global footsteps of misogyny.

WoW are signed to Madonna’s agent Guy O’Seary, an NFT rainmaker himself, locking in many of the big names in the industry under his management including the Bored Ape Yacht Club, whose creators, Yuga Labs, just were valued at $5 billion. WoW announced their deal with O’Seary in January, with Portuguese founder Yam Karkai now on his books. Karkai is a digital illustrator who focuses on bringing women into the spotlight and addressing certain aspects of their lives via her artwork. She champions kindness via “a touch of fantasy”, and has created “a universe that has its own halo”. Karkai says: “Guy has been instrumental in opening doors to the project and maximising our visibility. His vision and network make him a key asset for us. His expertise is truly generational.”

WoW has generated in excess of $120 million in trading to date and based on the floor price of roughly $30,000 per NFT, the project has a market capitalisation of $300 million. “Our goal is to bring WoW to the next level. We believe NFTs are going to become more and more mainstream,” Karkai adds. “With so many celebrities and role models joining the space, and educational content being put out there, it can only be beneficial to the growth of the community. We hope this will also bring more diversity and representation to the space, and we’re working hard on achieving that.”

At Christie’s, just one year prior, Mike Winkelmann (a.k.a. Beeple) made astounding traction in NFT dealing. The artist had previously sold his prints for $100, but made $69 million on one sale at the auction house in March 2021. Laying it out for us all at the time, Christie’s post-war and contemporary art specialist Noah Davis described it as “so monumental and so indicative of what NFTs can do”. Perhaps then this was the true moment NTFs went mainstream. In a simplistic and obvious (yet clearly genius) way, Beeple sapped his momentum from his digital following. How better to make $69 million on a digital item? Beeple boasts nearly 3 million combined followers across Twitter and Instagram and still won’t rest on his laurels. He publishes a new digital artwork a day (think fluorescent pink toadstools, metallic alien-like babies, and Mark Zuckerberg’s head steering Santa’s sleigh) and has been doing so for 15 years.

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