the two faces of crypto-art collectors

Erin, who prefers to keep her surname quiet, is no geek. This affable 51-year-old brunette lives in an opulent 19th century houseand century in Westchester County, a popular New York suburb. In real life, she watches over the historic buildings of Bronxville.

But his passion is now more virtual. Like so many others, Erin got sucked into digital ownership certificates whose authenticity is verified by blockchain technology, better known as “NFT” (non-fungible tokens, “non-fungible tokens”). Three little letters that have been turning heads for a year. The Chainalysis platform values ​​this crypto craze around 41 billion dollars (38 billion euros). Yes, you read “billions” correctly!

For Erin – who actually prefers to be called “Elsie”, her nickname in the crypto world – it all started with the sale, in March 2021, of an NFT by crypto-artist Beeple for 69 .3 million. An earthquake. “I thought it would cost 10,000 dollars to break everything”, she rewinds, startled by the price, but enticed by the prospect of added value. Since then, everything has gone very quickly. In one year, Erin-Elsie bought no less than one hundred NFTs, with a unit value between $1,000 and $40,000. The investment? She must think about it. “I am happy that my collection has already tripled in value”she admits, while assuring that she “don’t look at these works as a stock of assets”.

“These collectors have a real passion, a desire for evangelization mixed with that of profit”, defends the specialist Fanny Lakoubay, who advises Elsie, as well as about fifteen other amateurs. In his eyes, buyers fall into two categories. On the one hand, fans of “collectibles”these NFTs based on a generative model, without originality, such as the “Bored Apes Yacht Club”, “Pudgy Penguins” or “CryptoPunks”. “They buy NFTs like shares, which they resell at a high or at a loss, if the mayonnaise does not take”, says Fanny Lakoubay.

On the other, a community of enthusiasts, that of crypto-art buyers. Eyes riveted on Twitter, they favor word-of-mouth, exchange information on Discord messaging and feverishly monitor each drop (“putting up for sale”) of prominent artists as if their lives were at stake. Their gods are not named Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons, but Hackatao, an Italian duo already legendary in the crypto planet, Pak, the French collective Obvious or Pascal Boyart (aka PBOY), known for his modern take on the Sistine Chapel.

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