Every generation has its ‘rock and roll’; The Baby Boomers, of course, had Rock and Roll as their ‘rock and roll’; as did Generation X, with the Punks and the New Romantics clinging on to the dying embers.
The ‘rock and roll’ of the Millennials, born from 1981-1996, was computing, with home computers and game consoles as their all-embracing media. Generation Z has the internet as its ‘rock and roll’ and these digital natives were wielding iPads and mobiles in their pushchairs, leading a frenetic social media life from the moment they were allowed. For Generation Alpha, their ‘rock and roll’ is TikTok, and for the ‘alpha’ Alphas, their rebellious new wave is Crypto.
While the B, X, and Zers are catching on to Bitcoin, Generation A has zoomed ahead, and their art form is NFT. When ‘Beeple’ sold his ‘First 5000 Days’ collection for $69.3 million, nearly four times the last Van Gogh to sell at Sotheby’s, Jardin devant le Mas Debray at 18 million euros, not just the art world gasped; the whole world sat up and took notice.
WTF was invented by Millennials, but it was attached to ‘pixel art’ by Generation A, who began buying crude pixel art heads for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What, How, Why?
Untold thousands of kids have made fortunes riding Crypto from a market worth a few million to an industry worth a couple of trillion. What would you buy if you were a millionaire with no bank account and a lot of explaining to do to mum and dad? Why wouldn’t you buy a monkey head for $400,000 to stick on your chat avatar? For one thing, you might have a couple of million in your crypto wallet on your mobile in your school bag, and how else can you show your status in the school yard or an online game, or at your first programmer job interview?
Then again, why would anyone pay $7 million for a grubby old stamp, chopped out with scissors in some obscure South American territory, or buy a piece of old small change for hundreds of thousands just because it has a minute letter under the bust of a long-forgotten monarch? No one questions paying $100 million for a gaudy, potentially fake picture by an initially utterly unsuccessful, rude, smelly drunk. So why not $50,000 for a ‘Bored Ape?’ I know I want one, but as a boomer, I yearn instead for a ‘piccie’ by the beatified one-eared painter we are all mesmerised by.
So, the ‘crypto winter’ has crushed many an NFT project, but even so, the NFT ‘The Goose’ sold in June, in the deep NFT deep freeze, for $5.4 million. Remember those Pokémon cards your now-grown kids bugged you to death to get? Remember how they were selling for hundreds of dollars only for the fad to collapse and their value go to nothing a couple of years later? Now they are once again selling for huge sums, with the best ones selling for hundreds of thousands and the best for millions.
What, How, Why?
You can see the trend here. What the kids dream of at nine years old, they buy for any amount of money when they are 35. Meanwhile, NFTs are not going to vanish and rise again. Even at the current nadir, ‘Crypto Punks’ are fetching close to $100,000, and ‘Apes’ for $40,000, and unlike a unique painting or a stamp, coin, or Pokémon with less than 10 around in perfect condition, there are 10,000 Apes or Punks in supply. This is a robust market.
So this week, from October 17 to November 17, the Gallery ‘La Vitrine contemporaine de Monaco’ in Palais Las Scala, 1 Rue Av. Henri Dunant, run by my co-columnist, opens a Rocky Horror Show NFT exhibition. Rocky Horror was part of the Rock and Roll experience for Boomers and Generation Xers and is the granddaddy of inclusion and diversity. Its been a sensation for 50 years and its now absorbing the NFT phenomena.
This exhibition closes the loop of generational WTF. The shock, confusion, and delight felt along the generations as the world morphs in wild ways, is all here. With only nine pieces, it’s sure to be rare, and you have to brave the strange world of Opensea’ to actually own one. You can stay where you are, then go back to the car, or you can do the Time Warp again. The choice is yours, and if NFTs disappear for a while, you can rest assured that when this year’s 12-year-olds get to be 40, they will be searching out those lost NFTs to add to their collections, and with inflation, who knows how many trillions they will be prepared to pay. After all, historically, there are only three asset classes: Gold, Property, and Art, the rest is just confetti.