How China’s Art Market Embraced NFTs

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Despite China’s readiness for new tech, which encompasses the ubiquitous usage of QR code, mobile payment, and livestreaming, cryptocurrencies remain a gray area in China’s regulatory environment. In 2017, China deemed crypto-based fundraising processes involving initial coin offerings (or ICOs) illegal, and crypto-related businesses have operated on tiptoes since.

But in the first few months of 2021, the country has been making bullish steps on the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, and appears less concerned with their perceived threats to the central bank. This March, blockchain was mentioned in a draft of China’s national five-year plan, the South China Morning Post reported—the first time the technology appeared in any official document. And then in mid-April, shortly after China launched the digital yuan, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a press briefing that blockchain will be used in managing the flow of information along with other emerging technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence. “China will find its own way for NFTs to grow, and policies and regulations will follow,” He said.

Described as the first major NFT exhibition in the world, “Virtual Niche: Have You Ever Seen Memes in the Mirror?” was organized by BCA and hosted by Beijing’s UCCA Lab from March 26th through April 4th, and by Shanghai’s JinArt Institute from April 9th ​​through 11th. The exhibition showcased works by Beeple, Pak, and others, and attracted over 10,000 visitors in total, according to He.

Kang Song, who oversees exhibitions at JinArt Institute, said “Virtual Niche” was more popular than its usual exhibitions (most of which focus on traditional Chinese art). “There were about 2,000 visitors and many of whom were very enthusiastic,” he said. “It was a [non-selling] exhibition, but we received a lot of price inquiries.”

On the collector side, Asia’s crypto professionals are jumping on the NFT bandwagon. BCA’s founder Bohan Sun graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, a top-tier art school, and he was one of the earliest crypto investors in China. Sundaresan, who won the historic Beeple auction, is the founder of crypto-based fund Metapurse.
For Sun, the Beeple underbidder and outspoken founder of the blockchain platform Tron, NFTs are a new way to generate buzz. After founding his own NFT investment fund, Just NFT, at the end of March, he won a collection of Pak’s work at Sotheby’s first NFT auction. The fund is only acquiring artworks priced at or above $1 million, and has purchased works by blue-chip artists including and , in addition to NFT artists, according to a statement from Tron.
“Asian buyers and collectors are ahead of the market, and they are very open and receptive to new art mediums,” said Ho of Christie’s. “A lot of discussions on NFTs are going strong in the region, which extends beyond art to other fields including music and watches.” In mid-April , the acclaimed Hong Kong photographer, launched Asia’s first NFT art collaboration with singer Eric Chou for the latter’s music video.

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