Behind the Scenes at Art Basel Miami: The Biggest IRL Metaverse Party Yet

A version of this article was published in TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse. Receive a weekly update on the Internet’s future by signing up

NFTs are on the rise The pandemic was overThis community has had very few meetings in person. However, last weekend thousands of crypto and NFT enthusiasts flocked to Miami for Art Basel, an annual festival that has grown into a significant sandbox for NFT arts. These people attended interactive experiences, gallery shows, concert, panels, parties, and many other events. One of those attendees was TIME’s own Raisa Bruner, who has beenNFT culture and art covered over the past yearAlso, Last month, NFT.NYC attended. She published Wednesday’s dispatch on the Art Basel collectors.
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Raisa was a great source of information about the festival. I found myself envious of Raisa’s time at the beach. These are extracts from our conversation edited to make it more clear.

Could you please tell me about Art Basel Miami? And why did you decide to attend it?

As someone who has started reporting more on the crypto and NFT worlds, and the intersection of those and the culture community, it quickly became clear this was a really unique week—because they were really meeting in a big way for the first time.

Art Basel embraced NFTs this year in a big way.

I get the sense that people who are interested in emerging art and the people who are interested in crypto or digital art are actually quite overlapping—and the people who have money to spend, especially in the younger generations of those two worlds, are pretty much the same. So while you do have a distinction between collectors who only have NFT works and those who are pretty married to their traditional works, I think that you’re only going to see those differences dissolve going forward.

How was your weekend? How many events did you attend?

It’s a never-ending party, truly. It’s an endless party that every company, brand, artist, and gallery organizes. It is possible to do five different things simultaneously, and at any time of the day.

But the events I thought were the most interesting were the ones indicative of the intersection of the art and crypto worlds and how they’re growing together. I attended a party hosted by OneOfA music NFT platform that allows you to listen to your favorite songs. Rae Sremmurd performed. They even changed some of the lyrics of their songs from “money” to “crypto. ”

On Thursday, I went to an event put on by Christie’s and the website NFTNowThey were able display NFT artworks in an attractive way, which really helped them stand out. For me, it was a turning point, like, “Oh, OK, here’s how we can view this work in a way that is visually arresting and makes sense to a traditional art consumer.”

What’s the relationship between the NFT community and the traditional art communities there?

Most of the larger, more conventional art events were in Miami Beach. The NFT and crypto events occurred across the water at Downtown Miami or Wynwood. These two worlds were physically separated. That shows how they’re not quite one and the same just yet.

I went to the main convention of Art Basel itself—and inside, you wouldn’t necessarily know about NFT stuff because almost everything was focused on traditional artworks. One exception is TezosThe booth of, a Blockchain platform, was very popular with many waiting for their entry. There were interactive displays and even on-site minting [the process of uploading an NFT to the blockchain]. This was one example of NFTs making an entrance to the traditional art space.

How did you learn the most from speaking with NFT collectors in Miami

What’s interesting about NFT art collectors is they don’t really see a distinction between the experience of collecting art and the experience of using art as an investment and a speculative play. But between the collectors, artists, crypto engineers and architects, there’s a definite community vibe. They’re there to party, but the party is not distinct from the work itself.

At a pool party I spoke to one collector. Jake RogersThe average NFT count for this man was just below 500. Clubhouse was his primary source of education. Art Basel was his first major event. He attended about 10 events each day in order to view the people and artists he’d met online. That’s what gave him great joy. This is the joy of connecting to like-minded individuals.

So much of this space has been built virtually—on Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter—that the opportunities to meet in real life and hang out are really meaningful for these people, and that’s why there’s such a sense of hedonism to it all. And there’s no distinction between work and play, because those connections and networking will carry them forward into new projects.

What was the significance of the metaverse throughout this festival?

Metaverses are everything. Art NFTs can be used to create metaverses.

Aku World’s popup was an event of great interest. It was created by ex-MLB players. Micah JohnsonHe created the narrative about a young black boy, who also happens to be an astronaut. For this universe, he sold movie and TV rights. It’s this early new IP that is primarily virtual. Art Basel featured 4D body mapping that allows people to design their own avatars, which will be available in the metaverse.

What is body mapping?

The scanner looked a lot like the TSA’s body scanner but was cooler. It allowed people to enter it and get their bodies mapped. Then they could turn this into an avatar. You could modify the clothing and other components of your physical attributes, just like in the Sims. Sometimes, that required them to add another NFT on a piece they’d purchased.

There was a collector there and an Aku investor. Cooper Turley. After entering the scanner, he began to scroll through the various options. He could, for example, choose a set sneakers that had been designed by. FewociousNFT Artist -. They are both real and virtual sneakers that can be bought and added to any character in the metaverse. So there’s an interesting process happening now where certain parts of the NFT world are making sense together within the virtual context.

Other conversations covered property speculation in metaverse realms, and the relationship between crypto and gaming. People are bracing themselves for crypto winter but soon they will be looking at how the metaverse is evolving and what opportunities there are.

It’s funny; I had almost the exact opposite weekend from you. I had lunch with my partner’s 90-year-old grandmother, and was telling her about this metaverse newsletter and NFTs. She asked me what these were and I told her it would take half an hours to explain them. It also didn’t matter in her daily life.

Absolutely. I think it’s going to be a real generation-definer in terms of who’s willing to become comfortable with metaverses and virtual experiences and who decides to reject it. Gen Z will become native adopters and I believe Millennials will find themselves in the middle of this. It’s going to be a very confusing time.

Clint Kisker is co-founder and one of the businesses that helped to create Aku World. He was discussing how his 9-year old son, Clint Kisker, is naturally drawn to the idea of having a virtual avatar and what it means for social relations in light of the virtual learning pandemic. There’s an entire generation where the metaverse is already reality in a way it’s never been for those of us who are just a little older. I think that’s only going to grow. Yet, life is not limited to these two worlds. It’s going to be complicated for brands and businesses to bridge those generational gaps.

Are there any final thoughts on your Art Basel weekend?

Every subculture has its die-hard enthusiast early adopters and communities that are all about the conferences and the parties—and it may seem self-aggrandizing or silly to outsiders at first. This is the way culture is created, and it happens in many ways. The sooner we can all accept that virtual reality is not always dumb for lack of better words, the easier it will be to comprehend how culture evolves.

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