Hong Kong’s K11 malls in Kowloon call themselves a “revolutionary” idea in blending art museum with shopping complex, so it seems the obvious place for the city’s residents to get up close with exhibitions of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as art.
Across its two malls — K11 and K11 MUSEA — located near the bronze statue of Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars, the three exhibitions of Bored Apes, Moonbirds and more are attracting the fascinated, the puzzled and the oblivious to the current NFT craze.
While the debate bounces back and forth (is this art and why does it cost so much?), Hong Konger Cherry Hui is definitely among the excited. “I wanted to come here and check out NFTs, it’s very hot right now,” said the 18-year-old, in front of the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection. She said she first came across NFTs in a video by her favorite Youtuber.
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More than 200 NFT pieces by over 30 artists and projects are on display across the nine floors of the K11 MUSEA mall under the title, Metavision. The collection – valued at about 26,000 of the Ether cryptocurrency (or US$71 million at time of writing) – includes some of the hottest NFT projects. Beside the mentioned Bored Ape Yacht Club and Moonbirds, Cryptopunks, Azuki and more are in town.
The lineup carries established artists such as Catalan cartoonist Joan Cornellà, who has turned his art into a digital token, while introducing local Hong Kong artists such as Felix Ip and 8-year-old NFT artist Arthus Ng.
Hong Kong-based visual artist The French Girl, whose signature “Double Heart” is inspired by the Chinese symbol of double happiness, told Forkast that she became curious about digital NFT art after hearing about Beeple’s massive US$69 million NFT sale last year.
“NFTs, the digital world, digital art, and the metaverses will offer a lot more opportunities to be creative,” said The French Girl. “You don’t have the same law of physics, right? Your artwork could be flying, flipping, moving, it could be giant-sized, underwater, no limit to creativity.”
About a ten-minute walk away from K11 MUSEA in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, two offbeat NFT experiences are on show at the old K11 mall until May.
An installation by Tokyo-based art tech company Startbahn comes with futuristic flash – sparkling silver silver lights and eye-catching art that resembles a run-of-the-mill art exhibition. However, the exhibition uses NFTs to curate the ownership and history of each artwork presented by Japanese contemporary artists.
“We’re trying to showcase to the audience in Hong Kong that NFT is not just about pixel art, it could also be used as a utility to prove the ownership authenticity,” Daniel Lui of Startbahn told Forkast. “And also the provenance of a physical art, just like the land registry.”
The believers say NFT technology is an innovative force that is pushing the boundaries of art, while skeptics insist the sky-high prices for the pieces show it’s all a speculative bubble that could pop any minute.
See related article: Is there a future for the NFT beyond digital art?
Ben Caselin, head of research and strategy at global crypto exchange AAX, had his view, speaking at the AAX NFT pop-up event at K11 under the theme “Apes, Pixels and Gods.”
The bigger picture in NFTs is actually focusing on the small picture — the technology, he said.
“The technology around it allows us to pinpoint a unique asset to a particular address (…) and that idea of something not being replicable in terms of ownership — that in itself is innovation.”
As for price tags? “I really have no idea if 20 years from now Cryptopunks are anything interesting, or whether they’re a solid investment product,” he said. “I don’t know, nobody knows.”