Over the past few years, Singapore has welcomed blockchain technology with open hands. It comes as no surprise then that the country has witnessed some of the most exciting developments in the NFT space.
Although they’ve been floating around the internet since 2014, NFTs really took the world by storm at the start of 2021. They recorded a total sales volume of around US$20 billion over the course of the year. This was an increase of over 20,000 per cent as compared to 2020.
In fact, the single largest NFT purchase in 2021 — worth US$69.7 million — was worth more than half the sales of the previous year, combined.
This phenomenal growth saw investors pouring money into the industry. NFTs went from being perceived as a vehicle for internet memes to a goldmine of untapped potential.
As 2022 begins to find its footing, more and more businesses seem to be exploring this ever-changing space. Here are the key NFT developments from the past year, which signal what’s in store for Singapore’s future in the metaverse.
S’porean entrepreneur spends US$69.7 million on Beeple NFT
March 2021 marked a monumental occasion when NFTs finally broke through and took over mainstream media.
Digital artist Beeple auctioned an NFT collage made up of 5,000 of his artworks. He had started the project in 2007 and committed himself to creating a new piece of art every single day.
The final product, titled ‘Everydays — the first 5,000 days’ sold for US$69.7 million. This made it the most expensive piece of digital art ever sold.
Although anonymous at the time of purchase, the buyer chose to reveal himself soon after. Singapore-based entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan told CNBC that he’d purchased the NFT because it would go down as a significant piece of art history. He was prepared to bid even higher if it had been needed.
The sale of the Beeple NFT was reported around the world and paved the way for NFTs to become the worldwide phenomenon which they are today.
NFT marketplaces make up for shopping mall closures
Although the pandemic caused physical stores and shopping malls to shut down, NFT marketplaces had no issues getting off the ground.
In July 2021, Singapore-based NFT marketplace Mintable raised US$13 million in Series A funding. Investors included Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur and NBA team owner; Ripple Labs, the company behind the XRP cryptocurrency; and MetaPurse, an NFT investment fund backed by Vignesh Sundaresan (the one who bought the Beeple NFT).
Mintable has since launched NFTs in collaboration with companies such as BAPE and CNBC. The highest-selling NFT collection on the platform was released along with NFL quarterback Trevor Lawrence, which sold for around US$230,000.
Brytehall was another Singaporean NFT platform which came to fruition in 2021. It was created to bring luxury art and fashion into the metaverse.
The platform hosted its first auction in December in partnership with American bicycle company Specialized. ‘enishi-E: The Living Bicycle’ was sold for US$50,000.
Created by the founders of Media Publishares, Brytehall was also responsible for launching NFT collections by Vogue and Esquire in Singapore.
The newest edition to Singapore’s NFT scene is ARC, an exclusive digital community founded by Kiat Lin, the son of Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim. ARC has ambitions to launch its very own iteration of the metaverse in the near future.
Singapore’s first large-scale NFT exhibition is held at a Freeport
In November 2021, Singaporean crypto exchange Coinhako teamed up with research centre Appetite to put on the country’s first NFT exhibition.
It was titled Right Click + Save, a reference to everyone’s first skepticism when it comes to NFTs: “Buy a .jpeg? But I could just right-click and press save.”
The exhibition looked into the evolution of digital art and NFT culture through seminal works by creators such as Andy Warhol, Beeple, and Refik Anadol.
Out of intended irony, Right Click + Save was hosted at Le Freeport.
Freeport is an extremely private storage facility, which are used to facilitate trade in high-value goods such as art and jewellery. They exist as special economic zones where normal tax and customs rules don’t apply. These facilities have often been subject to money laundering allegations.
NFTs too, have faced similar criticisms. With their value being entirely subjective and their utility not always apparent, skeptics have often written NFTs off as tools for money laundering.
Print media ensures that it’ll live on forever
After all the time they spent writing about NFTs, Singaporean media outlets couldn’t help but capitalise on the trend themselves.
In August 2021, Vogue Singapore released a collection of 40,000 mystery boxes on Binance. Each box costs US$20 and contained one of 10 different artworks depicting an astronaut exploring a famous city.
The entire collection sold out overnight and was one of Binance’s fastest ever mystery box sales.
Later in the year, Vogue Singapore ventured into NFTs yet again, with a collection that featured works by renowned creatives such as Shavonne Wong and Chad Knight. The collection also featured an exclusive collaboration with luxury fashion house Balmain.
Separately, The Straits Times raised over US$15,000 in charity proceeds from its debut NFT collection. The highest price sale featured the image of a Straits Times column titled ‘Own a piece of the metaverse’.
Also included in the collection was an artwork called ‘The permanence of cats’ — a parody of Salvador Dali’s ‘The persistence of memory’, with all the watches replaced by cats.
Esquire Singapore hopped on the NFT wave at the end of the year in partnership with The Dematerialised. The lifestyle title released an NFT sneaker collection designed by Singaporean artist Tobyato. Exploring phygital concepts in the metaverse, the rarest of the NFT sneakers were sold along with physical replicas.
Local artists find a new creative outlet
2021 was a particularly tough year for artists in Singapore. At the height of the pandemic, a survey by Milieu Insight revealed just how much the country valued creative pursuits.
Not a lot, it turned out. 71 per cent of respondents felt that the job of an artist was the least essential of all. Those in creative roles were among the first to be laid off as businesses went through a period of downturn.
For some creators, NFTs provided an outlet to continue pursuing their passions.
Singaporean artist Chanel Lee quit the corporate world to release her own NFT collection featuring 7,600 artworks of toasted bread.
Alan Seng left a tech start-up and teamed up with art student Marc Yap to launch digital trading cards. Their ‘Dark Zodiac’ collection made over US$1 million within the first hour of launch.
Fashion photographer Shavonne Wong also began selling her 3D art as NFTs and made sales of over US$60,000 in 2021.
Are NFTs here to stay?
It’s tough to imagine an industry worth over US$40 billion vanishing overnight. Over the past year, NFTs have faced the wrath of skeptics and come out of it unscathed.
Today, the utility for these tokens has grown beyond just collectible art. NFTs are being used as vouchers, governance tools, and virtual real estate.
It’s tough to predict the future of a space so dynamic, or what form NFTs might take on next, but it feels safe to say that they’ll be around for quite some time to come.
Featured Image Credit: Reuters