Sure, Beeple’s $69 million non-fungible token (NFT) collage was impressive, but it only made him the third-most expensive living artist. Now No. 1, Jeff Koons has announced an NFT project that’s going to moon — literally.
Each piece in “Jeff Koons: Moon Phases” is a digital artwork housed on an NFT with a corresponding physical sculpture — which, in a nod to crypto’s “mooning” meme for a token whose price skyrockets, will go to the actual moon.
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According to Pace Gallery, Koons’ exclusive representative, the sculptures will be launched from Kennedy Space Center on an Intuitive Machines Nova-C Lunar Lander later this year.
The company’s vice president, former astronaut Jack Fischer, said it will be “housed in a transparent, thermally coated, sustainably built enclosed art cube, [and] will be the first authorized artworks to be placed on the surface of the Moon, where they will remain in perpetuity.”
Whether “Moon Phases” can top the $91.1 million paid for his stainless steel “Rabbit” sculpture in 2019 remains to be seen, although it’s probably not safe to bet against the combination of Koons and crypto whales.
Given the crypto community’s love of big names, big hype and big gestures — after all, Tron CEO Justin Sun paid $4.6 million for a lunch with Warren Buffet, only to postpone it due to food poisoning or Chinese government pressure, depending on who you believe — it seems a fair bet that sending NFT art to the 1.5 million-square-foot Oceanus Procellarum lunar “sea” will be a hit.
Regardless, it’s a huge step forward for NFTs in the art world. While the concept has been embraced from Art Basel to Christie’s — which sold Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann’s record-setting “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” collage — Damian Hirst is the only truly big-name artist to experiment with the new cryptocurrency-based medium.
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And really, he was experimenting, selling 10,000 of his pre-existing and well-known dots artworks as the buyers choice of a physical work or NFT — with the other one destroyed. Of course, he’d reportedly sold more than $25 million worth in the last year alone, with more in the offering.
Launching NFT Artwork
Koons, who started life as a commodities trader, is doing something new, however.
“I wanted to create a historically meaningful NFT project rooted in humanistic and philosophical thought,” Koons said. “Our achievements in space represent the limitless potential of humanity … These ideas are central to my NFT project, which can be understood as a continuation and celebration of humanity’s aspirational accomplishments within and beyond our own planet.”
“Moon Phases” is Koons’ “debut NFT collection,” which the gallery said “marks Koons’s highly anticipated entrance into the metaverse.” The same applies to Pace Gallery, as the works are being sold by Pace Verso, which is “Pace Gallery’s hub for Web3 innovation.”
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While getting an artist of Koons’ stature and fame in Pace Verso is a milestone — he only signed with Pace last year — the Web3-focused gallery has a number of other artists’ works for sale.
These include Zhang Huan, whose “Celestial Burial” NFT series is “informed by Zhang’s storied My New York (2002) performance in a suit made of meat.”
Then there’s “Block Universe (2021)” by DRIFT — artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta — and musician and digital artist Don Diablo, which debuted at Pace’s Art Basel Miami Beach booth last year. Others include Lucas Samaras, Leo Villareal, Glenn Kaino, Urs Fischer and Glenn Kaino.
But the first big splash by an artist experimenting with NFT-based digital art was London-based artist Ben Gentilli, whose 2020 “Portraits of a Mind” series encompassed 40 disks inscribed with the complete code for Bitcoin.
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Sold at Christie’s for than 10 times its estimated $12,000, each disk was accompanied by an NFT that not only contained an image of the work, but one that changed the way it is seen based on the time of day or night in whatever physical destination the hardware key is currently located.