The initial frenzy over NFTs proved to be infatuation rather than obsession. Sales that rack up over $60m may have been a flash in the pan, but the NFTs are far from gone. In fact, some still believe in the power of the non-fungible token to, if not upend, then become a valuable addition to the art market. The NFT advocate Kenny Schachter in April said the digital works do not disrupt anything (as so many tech advances aim to do) but “rather present a market alternative to the traditional gallery system.”
But what about when the establishment gallery system involves itself in NFTs. Vito Schnabel is taking his eponymous gallery into the non-fungible space by launching ArtOfficial, the first online auction platform created and run by a commercial gallery. Schnabel partnered with Gary Vaynerchuck to develop the project, which they hope will “broaden the experience of digital art and make its acquisition more accessible and transparent for the public.”
“When I became interested in NFTs I browsed a few platforms, but each time there was so much content it was hard for me to navigate through and find something I would respond to,” Schnabel says. ArtOfficial, like a gallery, will be a place buyers can find a curated selection of NFTs, chosen by Schnabel in the same way he chooses art for his gallery. “Quality over quantity”, Schnabel says.
The first auction, which opens today and runs through 4 October, will feature four unique NFTs created by the artist Francesco Clemente. One of the works, Milarepa’s Dream, comes with a live portrait session with the artist for a watercolour painting. Another Clemente work, Our Backs to The Sea Far From Our Native Lands, includes music by the composer Philip Glass—according to a press release each NFT auctioned will come with a live experience of some sort.
In the next few months, ArtOfficial will exhibit and auction NFTs for new works by Vito Schnabel Gallery artists Jordan Kerwick, Spencer Lewis, Robert Nava, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Julian Schnabel and Gus Van Sant, but the project is not solely for artists represented by Schnabel’s gallery. “It’s really an extension of the gallery and a new platform to show art,” Schnabel says, “I’m trying to find work that speaks to me, to bring new a flavour to that world and hopefully push the conversation, visually as well.”