Inside the NFT Boom in the Southeast Asian Art World

NFTs are booming in Asia despite all the negatives surrounding the phenomenon. Crystal Lee examines the rise of this new blockchain-powered asset class in the region with art insiders Emi Eu, George Galanakis and David Tng.

2021 was undoubtedly the year of NFTs. Despite endemic controversies – climate irresponsibility, scams and thefts – the market for non-fungible tokens reached US$41 billion in December, with a range of industries from fashion to entertainment selling and using the technology for an assortment of products. digital (virtual props) and goals (club membership).

But nowhere are NFTs more prevalent than in the art world. Ever since Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days sold for a whopping $69 million at Christie’s in March last year, cryptoart has exploded online and permeated our consciousness like never before. In 2021, digital artists such as Pak, Tyler Hobbs and Xcopy have risen to fame with headline-grabbing NFT sales that rival the global fine art market.

Visitors engaging with artwork at SEA Focus

Museums, galleries and art fairs have also followed the trend: the British Museum has partnered with French startup LaCollection to create NFT versions of some of its works; Art Basel Miami hosted an exhibit that allowed visitors to mint their own NFTs; while the international mega-gallery Pace launched a dedicated NFT platform called Pace Verso in July 2021 to show and sell the works of blockchain artists.

Closer to home, Singapore saw its first large-scale physical NFT exhibition, Right Click + Save, in November 2021. Diving into the history of cryptoart, the show was presented by Coinhako, a wallet service provider of digital assets, and Appetite, a multi-concept space and research center. Works by artists such as Beeple, Andy Warhol and others in the digital and cryptoart world have been displayed on screens, monitors, projections and as framed prints.

This year, Singapore Art Week also got its dose of NFT through SEA Focus, an STPI flagship event that spotlights contemporary art in Southeast Asia. Beyond showcasing traditional art forms, the 2022 lineup includes an Asian-focused NFT exhibit titled Tezos NFTs: The New North Star. A collaboration between SEA Focus, TZ APAC (Asia’s leading energy-efficient Tezos blockchain adoption entity) and CAWA (Crypto Art Week Asia), it features around 15 digital artists, who have minted their art on the blockchain Tezos, including Indonesian comic book artist Arya Mularama, Brunei-based generative artist Yazid and Singapore-based abstract artist warrragwag. Visitors were also able to experience first-hand the process of minting an NFT at the exhibition.

Hyper trendy

Asia is a hotbed of non-fungible tokens, says Emi Eu, Project Director of SEA Focus and Executive Director of STPI, despite numerous scam schemes where artists’ works are bought and minted without permission. “Recently, the region has emerged as a leader in the NFT phenomenon, with Central and Southeast Asia accounting for 35% of global trade last year according to Asia Financial,” she adds.

Emi Eu, Project Director of SEA Focus and Executive Director of STPI

“As a platform and champion of contemporary Southeast Asian art, we always aim to introduce new discoveries across all mediums and we cannot ignore the rise of NFTs. We look forward to seeing what awaits us in a world where change is the only constant.

George Galanakis, award-winning crypto artist and founder of CAWA sees Tezos NFTs: The New North Star as an opportunity to spotlight creative talent across Asia and in the blockchain space. “These artists have achieved notoriety in a notoriously competitive space – a testament not only to their individual abilities, but also to the growing recognition of talent in this region,” he explains.

With established art institutions like Singapore Art Week and Art Basel validating the new digital asset class, NFTs are poised to spark growing interest in this part of the world. David Tng, head of growth at TZ APAC, is among many insiders with this view.

David Tng of TZ APAC

“The fact that our team was able to host a showcase at some of the world’s most prestigious art events is a testament to the growing legitimacy of NFT art.

Beyond that, the market demand is undeniable – according to a survey by Art Basel and UBS, millennial collectors drive demand for digital artworks, are most likely to spend more US$1 million for art and also has the greatest collections of any generation. Market trends also look promising for NFT creators: the younger the generation of collectors, like Gen Z, the bigger their collection of digital art. »

Eu echoed this sentiment: “I would like to think that technology assists and augments creativity rather than replacing it, especially in Asia where we are early adopters of new technologies. It’s interesting how NFTs appeal to a wider audience that doesn’t necessarily resonate with traditional art formats.

If you have two minds about the NFT landscape, Tng advises to research first, then buy art for art’s sake. “Art is subjective. As a collector in the traditional art world, I would say go with what you like. This means buying a piece that simply catches your eye or resonates deeply with you. Or you can also consider the popularity of the artist; if they have a strong community; how often they submit new works; as well as the activity of their works on the primary and secondary markets.

“Go to Twitter or Instagram and follow the artist, as most artists who hit their works as NFTs are actively engaging and connecting with their community. Remember, when you buy NFT artwork, it’s a powerful way to show your support. It’s a small but meaningful way to show that you appreciate what they put out into the world.

Header Image: Arya Mularama’s Galan’s Hunger hits the Tezos blockchain

This story first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: