Five autumn NFT art auctions in Hong Kong, from Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood For Love footage to Shawn Yue’s CryptoPunks and a feature film co-produced by ATV
- NFTs backed by blockchain, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies, have caught the imagination and auctions in Hong Kong will test art collectors’ appetite
- Autumn sale highlights include actor Shawn Yue’s sale of CryptoPunks minted in 2017, and first-day footage from the In the Mood For Love film shoot
New NFT projects continue to be launched at a furious pace in Hong Kong, as celebrities join artists in getting behind technology that’s changing the way digital art (and now movies) can be bought and sold.
Before we look in detail at recent projects, here is a quick reminder of what NFT means.
The term stands for “non-fungible token”, a unit of data or code that is publicly listed in a decentralised (across many computers) digital ledger called a blockchain – in the same way that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are held.
NFTs are, in short, digital certificates that serve as proof of ownership of whatever asset (in this case, art or film) they are linked to. “Non-fungible” means each is unique and cannot be replaced by another – unlike money, which is fungible.
NFTs solve the problem that people used to face when claiming ownership of digital work – that it can be shared around and copied, thus diluting the value of owning an “original” version of a piece.
The earliest NFT art series was “CryptoPunks”, a collection of 10,000 24 x 24 pixel cartoon head images, which was launched in 2017 and which are now trading for up to several million US dollars each. Since then, NFT art has grown in range and complexity, as the following examples of upcoming sales in Hong Kong show:
Wong Kar-wai’s first NFT
In October, Sotheby’s will be auctioning an NFT of never-seen-before, behind-the-scene footage from day one of shooting In the Mood For Love. This 2000 movie is one of Wong’s most critically acclaimed works, and stars award-winning actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung Man-yuk.
“Today, we are able to eternalise this first day in a brand-new form,” Wong says.
The highest bidder for the NFT (minted on the Ethereum blockchain) will become the exclusive owner of a 91-second-long clip featuring both lead actors warming up before become fully immersed in their characters. (Leung’s performance as journalist Chow Mo-wan would earn him the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, making him the first Hong Kong actor to be so honoured.)
“In the Mood for Love – Day One” will be auctioned during Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Art Evening Sale on October 9.
Refik Anadol’s ‘Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse’
Turkish media artist Anadol has made a series of eight digital artworks (including a 3D sculpture) based on images captured in outer space by satellites and spacecraft. The resulting visuals are what he imagines machines are dreaming about the universe.
They are made from over two million raw images from space, and processed through advanced machine learning algorithms, as if the telescopes that captured the original images could actually think for themselves.
What make these stand out as NFTs is that they are designed to be seen in the metaverse – a virtual-reality environment that allows for an immersive experience.
Shawn Yue Man-lok’s NFT auction
The highlights of the sale include six CryptoPunks which, as mentioned earlier, are seen as seen as a landmark series. At the time of writing, the highest bid for CryptoPunk #9997 in the sale is HK$5.5 million (US$706,500), while the other five, less rare, CryptoPunks are all going for more than HK$1 million.
The online sale also includes a painting by George Condo and a rare Rolex watch (these are not NFTs), with portions of the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Hong Kong Foundation. The auction ends on September 28.
Jacky Tsai’s NFT art
Jacky Tsai, an artist from Shanghai who is based in London, the UK, first gained international recognition in 2008 when he created a flower skull emblem for fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
“So many NFT arts are absolutely c**p,” he says. “They are too cheap, and the criteria are too low. I want to add quality. With my NFT flower skull, it will change according to the location of the purchaser, just as flowers change according to the season and the weather.”
Lockdown, Asia’s first NFT feature film
Lockdown is a suspense thriller shot in Hong Kong and Britain, with a cast that includes The Walking Dead’s Xander Berkeley and Hong Kong actress Anita Chui Pik-ka.
The movie tells the story of an actor at an audition who is forced by the casting director to go through a series of tests that could prove deadly to those around him should he fail. The movie will premiere in London in October and in Hong Kong in November.
The film will be sold as five NFTs (which means the film has a limited edition of five copies) via cryptocurrency exchange OKEx.
The purchasers of the five NFTs will be given an encrypted key to access the full movie (with extra material), along with “legal documentation that grants the purchaser a non-exclusive and non-commercial licence to view the film in private premises”.
Lockdown is a collaboration between Tong’s own production house and ATV, the former Hong Kong broadcaster that is now an internet-only media company.
It is not possible to list every NFT art project in detail because new ones are announced or made every day.
The Chinese auction house Poly Auction, for example, is holding two NFT selling exhibitions at its Hong Kong galleries in October. Pearl Lam Galleries is also continuing its NFT project with the graffiti artist known as Mr Doodle, with a September 27 drop on SuperRare, the digital art market on Ethereum.