Written by: 史中@浅黑科技
Translated by: Yesheng Xiaozu
Thanks to Morisen, 龙犄角, iguana, Shasha, Zoey, Da W, Chao, gychen, Henry for the translation, and Colin for the kind editing.
Yesheng Xiaozu is "Wild Squad" in Chinese Pinyin. It originated from a WeChat chat group. We chatted about this article in the group; everyone liked it and hoped that language would not become an obstacle to spreading it. So a group of volunteers showed up and completed the translation and proofreading. We are not an institution nor a DAO. We are just a group of people who love this article and want to help building a better web3 world with a diversity from another cultural and ethnical angle. Will we do more pieces of stuff like this? Who knows:)
0x00 #9527 and #7523
In a famous Chinese comedy film Flirting Scholar (1993), Stephen Chow played an iconic character code-named 9527. In the film, 9527 was a modest bonded house servant. But in a certain cyber world, 9527 is worth $340,000.
The avatar below, a guy in a melon hat smoking a cigarette, is THE No. 9527 of the 10,000 avatars of Cryptopunks, the world's most popular NFT project .
Its owner updated the listing price to 124 ETH on January 23, 2022, which equates to $340,000 at the time of writing.
If you're willing to pay this amount of money, the avatar is yours. Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?
Wait, you think it's crap? Well bruh, that's because you cannot recognize its rare attributes.
Did you notice that cigarette in his mouth? Only 961 of the 10,000 avatars smoke it. See his cute little hat? Only 419 wear it. The sexy mustache? Yes, the gray one on the mouth, only 288 have it.
Oh, even that doesn’t get you excited...
Totally fine, others see the value.
The world-renowned Sotheby's auction house recently auctioned #9527’s "brother", Cryptopunks No. 7523, on June 10, 2021.
However, it is an alien that wears the same kind of hat. Also, the cigarette is replaced by a mask- the cheapest kind.
Cutting to the chase, here is the price: It sold for $11.75 million. Yes, $11,750,000.
There are only 9 avatars with alien faces among the 10,000 Punks. This alien also happens to be one of the 175 figures wearing a mask.
One interesting detail: there was no COVID-19 when the 10,000 Cryptopunks avatars were crafted six years ago, but now a mask is a powerful symbol of today's world.
In 2017, 7523's first owner sold it at a low price (about $1646) to Sillytuna, the seller at Sotheby’s.
Four years later 7523 became a "Covid alien avatar," with a 7000x increase in sales price. Buying an avatar seems to be a better idea than buying a house.
Two days after the auction, Sillytuna tweeted and complained that he still does not have new shoes to wear... It's pretty punky.
There may already be many readers getting impatient….
“That's bullshit! If I like the avatar, why can't I just download it and make it mine? I can even add a cigarette on that mask - such simple edits that I can literally finish when you're talking this nonsense.”
Right. Why should I spend $10,000,000 on this stupid jpeg?
Well, given the question of "what is the value of NFT" has been answered by countless people. Let me show you an interesting story about the origin and development of NFTs.
0x01 Andy Warhol
"In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes."
In 1968, this sentence appeared on a flyer of Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet) in Stockholm. At that time, there was no internet, no iPhone, no TikTok, no bitcoin, and no Telegram. But the core script that shapes today's world has, now, fully emerged.
The man who said that sentence was the "Pope of Pop Art", Andy Warhol.
In 1961, Muriel Latow, a pornographer and gallery owner asked Andy Warhol, who was worried about what to paint, "How about painting the cans you eat for lunch every day?"
Andy Warhol thought the idea was excellent and gave her $50 for the creativity.
After that, he painted soup cans, coke bottles, Marilyn Monroe's face and even Chairman Mao Zedong (The $50 for inspiration was well worth it since his paintings can be sold for $100 million).
Whatever he painted, Andy Warhol always hid a mathematical logic behind it: repeated subjects + random variables.
Note! Although artistry often involves an element of "repetition", it is usually a "themed repetition". For example, many medieval painters painted Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and elementary school students draw "House-Tree-Person" at school. However, Andy Warhol literally cloned images in his painting.
Image repetition doesn't require a strong aesthetic sensibilities. When I was a 2nd year primary student and saw Andy's Marilyn Monroe for the first time, I could understand it and felt the rhythm.
It's a repetition produced only by machine. (In fact, his method of painting is just the industrial "silkscreen paining".)
I believe one of the reasons Andy Warhol's paintings are as expensive as Vincent van Gogh's is that these paintings precisely captured the most common mental status of the industrial age.
What was the common status at that time?
Here is a quote from Andy Warhol. Just let it sink in:
You know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too.
A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
You can replace "Coca Cola" with "iPhone", "TikTok", and replace Liz Taylor with Kylie Jenner, the statement still stands.
Gone are the days when a rich girl had a full wardrobe of evening gowns while a poor girl had nothing but patches. Even a vagabond can buy a pair of clean pants for $1.
But that may not be a good thing for human beings, a creature tends to seek "inequality" in nature.
Another important note! So far, I've quoted two sentences from Andy Warhol, which are contradictory.
If everyone, rich and poor, drinks coke, eats McDonald's, uses iPhone, browses TikTok, as the cans stand side by side in Andy's painting, then what makes you special to stand in the spotlight and enjoy the attention, even just for 15 minutes?
The trick is in that tiny "variable".
In the context of industrial production, the simplest and crudest way to control the variables is "limited production".
All kids wear Nike shoes, yours are the regular edition but mine are one of the 500 pairs of global limited edition. Then, when we meet in class, your attention will inevitably be "stepped on" by me. Therefore, I have my 15-minutes of being famous.
Even though we're legally equal, there's a variable of me that's more scarce than yours. Then I've created an inequality artificially.
It's a tried and true trick that even Andy Warhol pointed it out half a century ago , people still enjoy.
And it's getting even more violent.
0x02 Matt Furie and Pepe
It all started one day in 2005.
“Can you stand over there and bend over and make it look like you're pulling your pants down?”
Matt said to his girlfriend, Aiyana Udesen.
Don't get me wrong. Matt was not being horny. He is a cartoonist.
He was painting a scene in which a man had to take his pants all the way down to his ankles to pee. It was hard to draw, so he asked his girlfriend to be a model.
His comic book, "Boy's Club," features four laid-back young men doing nothing.
One of them had a frog's head and a wise face. His name was Pepe.
Pepe's image comes from Matt's cousin, David.
That's how David used to take off his pants and pee.
Young Matt stood outside the bathroom door and watched in amazement.
In a subsequent comic book story, he based Pepe on his cousin’s words: Feels Good Man!
Soon, the Boys' Club story became an internet sensation.
But then the story began to get out of control.
Someone posted their own gym photo on the internet, with the words "Feels good man," and then someone made all kinds of emojis and "Feels good man" memes.
A blogger even wrote a song called Feels Good to make fun of it.
Gradually people found that this frog is a reflection of themselves. For a moment when the screen goes dark, when you look at this loser-looking frog, showing a good-for-nothing-but-nothing-matters temperament…hmm, isn't that familiar?
Soon enough, people began dressing Pepe up in all kinds of clothes, turning him into every kind of professional, followed by an accompanying emojis.
Of course, we now know that this is a standard process of how meme pictures become iconic in pop culture.
If you ask the "advisor" sitting on the side, Mr. Andy Warhol, he might just shrug off. That's nothing new. It's just adding variables to a repeated subject.
So, you can think of it this way:
Although Andy Warhol died in 1987, the internet has created a "distributed Andy Warhol" of anonymous creators.
Andy Warhol is getting more resilient - even immortal.
0x03 Christopher Poole
In 2003, 14-year-old Christopher Poole started 4chan, an anonymous imageboard website, in his basement.
At first, 4chan had only one channel, where teenagers posted anime.
But soon, the "smell of freedom" spreaded. Thanks to its anonymity and lack of archiving, it became a place where people can speak freely, attracting a lot of meme lovers.
The timing of 4chan's meteoric rise coincided with the time Pepe appeared. So Pepe naturally became a popular resource for 4chan users.
Everyone can save interesting images and make their own use of it. Doing so only needs two mouse clicks. It is even easier than going to McDonald's and ordering a burger or buying a pair of socks online.
One key fact is that in the internet era, the cost of copying something is so much lower than in the industrial era.
This leads to a serious problem: A picture can be used by anyone. The more people use it, the faster it depreciates in value.
This made the meme creators uncomfortable -- because the meme itself becomes a hit, but no one knew about its creator;
Same applies to those who first used it, because no one knows about them even if they are the ones who discovered a gold mine.
Well, in that case, is it possible to make a meme image rare? Like Nike Shoes, it's good to make them artificially rare.
Some smart people decided to give it a try.
Soon, some creators added a large watermark in the image: "Rare Pepe, do not save".
This "Rare Pepe" was posted on the/r9k/ channel.
By the way, /r9k/ is the creativity channel of 4chan. The rule is anything sent here must be original. Even if you repeat some words already said by others, you may be silenced for a period of time as punishment.
But how does the system know if you're posting something original?
Look at the name of this section, r9k, which is actually short for Robot9000.
The rule was written by comic book writer and programmer Randall Munroe.
At the time, Munro just had enough with people copy-n-pasting words that weren't his/her own idea, and he wanted to create a "utopia" -- a world in which if someone ever said a word, and no one else can ever say it again.
That's how we got the Robot9000 rules.
Back to rare Pepe.
The /r9k/ board's netizens immediately realized that intellectual property rights need to be protected! So, rare Pepes' authors should not post the original picture again. If anyone wants to use a rare Pepe, he/she has to spend money to buy it.
Let me remind you here: At this point, Pepe already has nothing to do with its original creator, Matt. Matt may like these Pepes or not, but since Matt doesn't hang out on 4chan, nobody cares what he thinks.
4chan is a closed universe -- no one outside the universe can influence the history inside.
Soon, authors were selling their own Pepes on eBay, rare and unwatermarked.
And people actually buy them because they're the hottest meme images on 4chan.
At that time, there was a sensation.
A pack of 1,200 rare Pepes was auctioned off on eBay, and the price was eventually bid up to $50k.
That's how bullshit pictures got linked with real money.
And everyone thought it made sense, or at least 4chan believed it.
0x04 Joe Looney
Joe Looney is a programmer. He was developing a digital wallet for a P2P site, Counterparty, in 2016.
One day, in the Telegram group of Counterparty, someone posted an image that looked like a card, on which Satoshi Nakamoto looked like a rare Pepe.
The poster said: I made a whole deck of cards of rare Pepe. I am selling it online. In the future, will this deck be worth one million dollars anyway?
Netizens echoed: This is fantastic! I wanna buy it.
Then people started to bid: $1, $5, $10. Then everyone started ordering...
Looney held up his cell phone for a long while...
"For a moment, I wanted to paint my own rare Pepe..." he recalled.
However, he quickly came up with a better idea than painting Pepe -- to make a platform to trade rare Pepes, and using his traditional arts skill to make a rare pepe storage "wallet system".
However, even if those Pepes look just like cards we play with, they are only pictures. Pictures can be copied.
How do you get everyone to agree that someone has ownership of an image?
He immediately thought of a clever way: to use bitcoin's accounting system.
One feature of bitcoin's accounting system is that it is distributed, with thousands of nodes all over the world to keep records for the same account. It means that if you have the code for your wallet, no matter how many coins are in it, they will always be yours, and everyone knows it.
That makes "cooking the books" impossible.
And this feature was used by Looney to make the rare Pepe Wallet.
In short, it works like this:
A rare Pepe card is tied to a bitcoin wallet, and only the owner has the password (the private key) for that wallet. If you want to transfer Pepe to someone else, all you have to do is to give him or her the code.
This business model actually worked.
Moreover, Looney had an interesting setup: creators who want to submit a Pepe Card to the website must send a certain amount of bitcoin to an empty address. Just like burning the coins -- Looney couldn't get them, and no one else could.
Why waste the money?
It's like when you join a gang, you have to show some proof of allegiance by killing someone. Who was killed does not matter. What's important is that it is a "threshold" to prevent someone from opening the drawing software, and drawing a fake Pepe to sell in five seconds.
It's a big deal.
Soon, there were a lot of creative fine paintings of Pepe put on the platform, which seems to be from people who have certain artistic accomplishments - creators began to take this seriously.
Later, the site also developed a O2O model - when buyers get a digital card, they will also get a paper one.
But all the buyers know: paper cards are worthless, the value is in the digital one.
At this point, while it may seem absurd, people became part of it to have fun, to make money, to express themselves freely. The story itself is a nice one in general.
But that's the thing about liberalism. When a lot of freedoms add up, they become too much for the world.
0x05 Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Liberals are free in every aspect. From 4chan's post, it's not hard to tell they are mostly free to say whatever they want. They are misogynistic, bigoted, and self-centered.
Some users of 4chan like to refer to themselves as "NEET" —— a group of people with no schooling, no job, and no skill.
You know, most of them are just keyboard warriors.
There is a section on 4chan called "Politically Incorrect," which is filled with white supremacist talks. To them, black people are criminals, and asians are evil. They want to build a wall to keep everyone else out of their beautiful country.
It's an anonymous community. No one is exposed, and no one gets in trouble.
Over time, this moist soil spawned a right-wing network of ideas, the Alt-Right.
In 2016, just the time for the US election. The Alt Right saw that Donald Trump's campaign slogan was to “build a wall” along the southern US border - “oh he's one of us, and he could even be a 4chan user!”
So the Alt Right made Pepe look like Donald Trump and encouraged people to vote for Donald Trump.
Innocent Pepe suddenly turned from an emoji into a political symbol.
The climax of the story took place in August 25,2016. In Hillary's campaign speech, she was criticizing the right-wing ideological trend severely. Someone in the crowd shouted: Pepe!
A word that most people didn't understand is seen by the alt-right as a battle song.
After that, the inexplicable appearance of the Pepe emoji started to make the situation worse and worse.
Some turned Pepe into KKK, some put Nazi symbols on Pepe, and some made Pepe rise the flag of the Crusades.
Someone even found a frog-head figure called Kek on an ancient Egyptian stone painting, insisting that was the apocalypse from the ancient Egyptians and their God is Kek.
"We should think about getting a good lawyer to help us build a 'free' nation for the white, the Kekistan!", said a heckler from the 4chan group.
Someone even drew a flag for Kekistan with a 4chan logo.
Guess who hates all these craps the most? Pepe's creator, Matt.
Pepe, who used to be just a guy who pulled down his pants to pee, became a symbol of hate.
He couldn't take it anymore, and decided to prosecute those who had publicly linked Pepe to politics.
But it didn't help.
Then, he had to write a sequel to Pepe's story in which Pepe died of racism and was given a funeral, aiming to end all the hate.
But it still didn't help.
Because since the day Pepe went on the Internet, it was under the control of the "distributed Andy Warhol". No one could decide where Pepe would end up being.
Some think Pepe is a success. Some think it's a failure. Pepe's persona is complex, as it's imbued with various meanings by different people.
But in blockchain, Pepe undoubtedly became a shining "Pioneer", since he has explored " the safe zone" and "the minefield" in the space of blockchain artwork.
0x06 Matt Hall and John Watkinson
In the spring of 2017, Looney was still running his up-and-coming rare Pepe website.
Unbeknownst to him, across the cable, another tech nerd was looking at him.
That guy was Matt Hall.
Hall and his best friend John graduated from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. They moved to New York City in 1999. They both liked to do silly things on the computer. Silly Hall met silly John, and they decided to form a silly team called Larva Labs.
In recent years, they have been working on a strange skill: creating avatars using computer algorithms.
In 2011, they released an app to help people create an android-like avatar. Like this.
By 2017, they had perfected the art of creating avatars. They created an "avatar engine" in a punky theme.
During a chat they discussed Watkinson's niece frantically collecting dolls, and they remembered that they had collected baseball cards and Magic cards as kids.
Collecting is a common trait of all humans across time and space.
"Well, is it possible that we could make a limited number of images say, 10000, and have people collect them?" Hall said.
So he went to gather information from the internet and came across the rare Pepe website.
But Rare Pepe has a problem: it uses the bitcoin network. The bitcoin network was designed to be used only for bitcoin bookkeeping, not for anything else. So when Looney designed it, he had to put a Pepe Wallet on the bitcoin ledger.
But the "Pepe wallet" controlled by Looney is less open and transparent.
Is there a network that is open, transparent, and can handle more stuff than bitcoin?
They both immediately thought of the newly popular Ethereum (ETH).
There are many differences between the Ethereum and the Bitcoin network, let's just pick the most important one to this story: support for "Non-fungible tokens".
You may think of a bitcoin as a dollar bill, a dollar bill is a dollar bill. My dollar bill is a dollar bill, and your dollar bill is a dollar bill. If I trade a hundred dollar bill for one of your hundred dollar bills, we are exchanging nothing.
In other words, it is fungible.
But on Ethereum, I can create a strange kind of dollar bill, like a different picture on each hundred dollar bill, so that everyone gets a different dollar bill. For example, my $100 bill has a Pikachu on it, and your $100 bill has garlic on it.
In that case, if I'm going to give you a $100 Pikachu bill for your garlic bill, you might need to think about it because you might prefer garlic to Pikachu.
This is an example of a "non-fungible Token," or "NFT" for short.
OK, these two nerds came up with the whole process in their heads.
They started with a "generation engine" that produced 10000 beautifully pixelated avatars, called Cryptopunks.
Then put each avatar into a hashing algorithm called SHA-256 and cranked out a 64-digit signature.
Generated NFTs on Ethereum for each signature.
They decided to give these NFTs away for free. You read that right. It was free.
What's in it for them, giving it away for free?
Actually, they kept a secret: only 9,000 avatars were given away, and another 1,000 were left in their possession just in case it became a thing.
On June 9, 2017, Larva Labs tweeted the good news, then sat in the room waiting for the crowds to arrive.
However the crowd did not show up and only a few hundred were picked up over the course of 5 days.
CryptoPunks and Pepe are different. Although each has a rebellious face, no one knows what Cryptopunks is.
No one wants to show off about something that people don't know about.
Although it is free to claim, each claim cost a gas fee, at the time equivalent to 11 cents. People do not want to waste even that much time and money
Only people who genuinely thought they looked good, and were willing to spend a few cents, claiming the dubious punk heads.
Of course, everyone who liked those avatars started with the rarest, such as "aliens"(9 of 10,000) and "Apes"(24 of 10,000), and they were gone in the first five days.
One of the people in the crowd had been there and watching for a long time: Jason Abbruzzese.
Jason was a journalist at Tech website Mashable at the time.
He interviewed Halland wrote a detailed analysis of CryptoPunks "This ethereum-based project could change how we think about digital art"
"As more of life moves online, status symbols are bound to follow."
The article was published on June 19.
Within 24 hours, all the remaining heads were swept away. A guy alone grabbed 758 of them.
0x07 Anne Bracegirdle
Although most people were not yet aware of Cryptopunks in 2017, many have heard of CryptoKitties.
The beta version of CryptoKitties was launched on October 19, 2017, half a year later than Cryptopunks. However, CryptoKitties was obviously better known than CryptoPunks outside Crypto circles.
This was because Dapper Labs, the creative team of CryptoKitties, added many game elements into it. For example, two cats can mix genes to produce new kittens.
But a coin has two sides. Once "strategy" had been emphasized, CryptoKitties was clearly a game rather than a collectible.
The game will eventually enter gaming circles, and the collections will eventually enter collection circles.
If we look back into history, there was a bull market in cryptocurrencies at that time.
In early 2018, Bitcoin had just hit its ATH. Meanwhile in New York, an "epic meeting" took place at the same time.
At the Rare Digital Arts Festival on January 13th, Hall, founder of CryptoPunks, Mark, product curator of CryptoKitties, and Rooney, founder of Rare Pepe Wallet, came together.
This was a meeting of NFT maestros.
At that event, a rare Pepe was auctioned off for $39,000.
This is it: Homer Pepe.
Homer is a cartoon character in The Simpsons. Believe it or not, the reason this picture is so valuable is because it's a "wrong version". It spelled minute as Mintue. (WTF...)
There was a lady in the audience with her camera in her hand.
This was no ordinary lady. She was Christie's photography expert Anne Bracegirdle.
After listening to the speeches of this group of people, she couldn't wait to make an appointment with two technical nerds at Larva Labs to talk about life.
As a photographer, Anne has always been perplexed by a "bug":
A photographer's work is only valuable after death. Because when you're alive, you make new pictures all the time.
The more works you have created, the less valuable they are. Only when it is certain that you are dead through, collectors are willing to pay high prices for your works. But at that point, you will no longer be able to enjoy the money...
When she saw Cryptopunks, Anne had an epiphany.
It turns out that the scarcity of an artwork can be guaranteed by cryptography through technologies afforded by blockchain:
Once the artifact is on the chain, it's protected by massive computation power. Even the two nerds at Larva Lab couldn't change a single pixel.
She was quick to point out that for your art to reach the wider public, you had to go to galleries and auction houses.
So Hall and Watkinson began attending art forums and meeting gallery owners.
Their first stop was a gallery in Zurich.
To suit the taste of the rich, they decided to "demote" the presentation of digital art to traditional art. They printed 12 portraits and framed them magnificently; and the code for the corresponding Ethereum Wallet was printed on a piece of paper and stuffed into an envelope, which is sealed with medieval-style wax.
A few days before the exhibition, the gallery owner invited Watkinson and some of the biggest names in finance to a dinner. 2 NFTs were sold on the occasion.
Watkinson immediately flew back to New York and printed out 12 new NFTs, which were also swept away.
Everything looked great.
But the dream of digital art, embraced only by outsiders, is only a Tulip mania.
The hysteria was in full swing. But before they knew it, the winter of cryptocurrency came unexpectedly. All NFT prices plummeted. Even Cryptopunks prices fell off a cliff.
A wildfire swept through, leaving only the ashes to be seen.
But just before the heat, a small incident occurred somewhere in the United States.
0x08 Claire Silver
In 2017, Gen Z female artist Claire and cryptographer Mr. 703 met on the internet.
Claire was a username. So was Mr. 703.
But they shared a common belief that encrypted art has a bright future.
At the time, Mr. 703 presented Claire with three Cryptopunks and made Claire swear that she would not sell them, no matter how valuable they might be in the future. Because he believed that art like Cryptopunks is supposed to be in the Museum of Modern Art.
Why was Mr. 703 be so generous to give such a gift to a girl he had never met before?
Because Mr. 703 was the guy we've talked about before, the one who got 758 Cryptopunks. After selling 55 of them (including three for Claire), he called himself "Mr. 703", as there were 703 left in his bag.
But Claire clearly didn't have faith as strong as Mr. 703 did.
In 2018, after seeing the value of all NFT portraits drop by 90%, Claire looked at herself in the mirror. She was still the frail artist with depression, who struggled to make ends meet.
She quit the NFT groups she was in and stopped talking to Mr. 703. After buying a used iPad and a $10 drawing app, she tried to make a living by doodling.
The life of making ends meet didn't allow her much time to look back.
Under the unseen ashes, a new bud sprouted quietly.
Back in 2017, the year Claire and Mr. 703 met, a website called Opensea was launched. It was founded by Alex Atallah and Devin Finzer.
Unlike code heroes who have to "fight" alone, Opensea has been raising money and growing as a formal company since the very beginning.
In 2018, the accelerator Y Combinator invested $120,000 in Opensea. The power of capital helped Opensea survive the cold winter in the crypto world.
2021 saw the once-every-four-years craze in the crypto world re-emerge. Opensea raised $1 billion and grew from a baby to a giant in the crypto art industry overnight.
Now, the NFT world is no longer at the mercy of the tycoons at auction houses and galleries. It is calling the shots in its native market.
Cryptopunks had also become a hit on Opensea without a doubt.
It was only then that the impoverished Claire remembered that she still owned the three NFT portraits.
She chose her favorite #1629, the girl with pink hair, as her Twitter profile picture.
With this profile, she was getting 1,000 followers per month on Twitter. The massive influx of fans not only brought popularity but also real purchasing power.
Claire put her work on Opensea for sale, and someone actually placed an order. Shesold several paintings, making more than $6,000 worth of ETH. One of the buyers was Mr. 703.
A photographer named Justin Aversano's reached out to Claire and asked if he could borrow the #1629 avatar. He had the opportunity to put this avatar on a video display board on the streets of New York.
Claire quickly agreed.
In May 2021, #1629 appeared on a digital screen near the New York Museum of Art.
MR 703's prediction seemingly became true. Even though it was not yet in the Museum of Modern Art, but just three blocks away...
Claire felt her heart pounding. She wanted to see it for herself.
The drive from her town to New York took three days and three nights. She tucked a mattress into her back seat and started the car. At night, she would find a Walmart parking lot to park her car and sleep. In the morning she went to the toilet in Walmart and then drove on.
Just like that, she finally arrived at this dizzying cosmopolitan city on June 5, 2021.
She parked her car and walked quickly to the tall electronic screen, where the pixel girl with pink hair and black hat sat behind the screen, squinting at the world, without saying a word.
This is fucking punky.
Claire pulled a piece of soft paper out of her bag, wrote her name, and then solemnly drew a small flower next to it, exactly like the flower behind her Twitter name. She held it up in front of her, and took a picture with her mobile phone.
She posted the picture on Twitter with the sentence: Slept in my car a few nights to get here. Worth it.
Claire took a special detour to the coast of Connecticut, which is rich in seafood, and bought herself a banquet of lobster roll.
But Claire didn't keep her promise to Mr. 703.
In the summer of 2021, her mother was hospitalized and needed surgery. She had to rent a room near the hospital to stay by her bed. So she sold two CryptoPunks avatars, one for $68k and one for $18k.
All she had left was # 1629.
After hesitating for a long time, she bought a pink wig. It's hard to say whether #1629 became her or if she became #1629.
The NFT is just an illusory image. But in Claire's life, this "illusory picture" accompanied her years in strange ways. In an uneventful life, she had her own heroic moments.
Nothing could be more real than this.
One of the first claimants of Cryptopunks was a man named Erick Calderon.
He was a businessman, and a part-time artist.
He also started his own NFT website, Art Blocks, after the NFT craze.
His site is interesting in that all the artists on it don’t draw their own work. They have to use automated art generation techniques like CryptoPunks.
As a result, the art on Art Blocks has an abstract style.
Such as the following artwork named Ringers by artist Dmitri Cherniak.
In 2021, a work generated by Ringers was sold for $5.8 million at auction. People called this painting "Goose".
Money no longer gave Dmitri any special feeling. In 2022, he decided to do something more like performance art. Every day in January, he used Ringers to generate a piece and sent it to a random Ethereum wallet.
Of course, it is very likely that the wallet is not used at all. Or even if it is used, its owner may not notice the pie falling from the sky.
But Dmitri just wanted to do this. "Consider it a celebration of birth, life, and death." He tweeted.
In fact, this trick had been played by another person before.
Picasso once deliberately "forgot" his paintings on the bus.
There are also other famous art projects on Art Blocks, such as Anna Carreras's Trossets.
And Ento's Heavenly Bodies.
Of course, the stars of this NFT movement, the two tech nerds of Larvae Labs, are even less likely to be idle. They launched a new 3D-style NFT collection called Meebits.
The 3D style actually shows their ambition to enter the metaverse.
In the era of web pages, a person's avatar is a picture. But in the metaverse, a person's image is three-dimensional. The image has a head, a face, a butt, and can even move like a gymnast.
Therefore, CryptoPunks are pixel style, and Meebits are voxel style. The two are in the same vein.
However, now it seems that these stories can only be regarded as a prologue in the NFT world.
Any field will experience a historic moment when a "pioneer" gives way to a "guru"
In this deep blue sea, real whales began to emerge slowly.
On March 11, 2021, Christie's auction house auctioned an NFT - Beeple's Everydays: the First 5000 Days.
Unlike other electronically algorithm-generated artworks, Beeple is a hard worker. He insisted on making one painting a day since May Day 2007. By 2021, he had finally reached 5,000 works.
He put these 5,000 paintings together into one. The painting sold for $69.3 million.
This number breaks the record for the most expensive work in NFT history. Moreover, since it is said that it is the "first 5,000 days", there surely will be "5,000 days in the middle" and "5,000 days after", which is probably around 2035.
But what's really scary is that the record set by Beeple didn't even hold up for a year.
On December 2, 2021, a 48-hour sale began in a mysterious corner of the Internet, selling something called "mass".
You can buy as much as you want within these 48 hours, but after the deadline, the amount of "mass" is fixed and no one can increase it.
As long as you own "mass", the system on the blockchain will generate a "m" for you in real-time, an NFT that belongs to you.
The more "mass" you have, the bigger "m" you have.
Interestingly "mass" can be traded. If you have 10 "mass", and I have 20, and I buy yours, I have 30 "mass" now, and at the moment the transaction is completed, my "m" NFT becomes larger.
As the mass is passed into the hands of different people, the matter in this space will start to move and collide. Just like our universe, no one can accurately predict how these stars will evolve and merge.
It can be said that this is a dynamically changing NFT set and also performance artwork.
The name of this artwork is "The Merge".
A total of 28,983 buyers bought the "mass" in that auction, for a total of $91.8 million.
This number is significant, not only because it once again set the highest price for an NFT, but also set another all-time record: the highest price for a work by a living artist.
The previous record was set in 2019 by Jeff Koons' 1986 sculpture "The Rabbit," $91.1 million.
It was like a declaration: The peak of digital art has surpassed physical art.
What's more interesting is that the artist behind "The Merge" is called Pak, which is a pseudonym, and no one knows Pak's real name, face, male or female.
No one even knows if Pak is a person or an organization.
But Pak's creativity is recognized.
As early as March 2021, Pak, who had just debuted, was noticed by Sotheby's auction house. Pak's two works "The Pixel" and "The Switch" were sold for $1.36 Million and $1.4 Million
On September 30, 2021, he released his first social experiment game "Lost Poets".
65,536 AI-generated poet avatars sold for a total of $70 million for that game.
Let's go back to the story of "The Merge".
On December 4, 2021, Pak launched a mysterious website - mass.black.
The site is only one page, and behind it apparently hides a deeper meaning of The Merge that Pak doesn't reveal. And from here, that auction appears to be just the beginning of a great narration.
As a result, Pak is more recognized, and he is called "Satoshi Nakamoto of the NFT world".
Pak has 330K followers on Twitter. In a way, these people are not blindly following Pak. He wants to prove that NFTs are far from being a jpeg picture, and everyone wants to see how he does it.
At the very least, The Merge has proved that NFTs can rely on programming, code, and philosophical design to create more possibilities than traditional art, and reach the soul point that traditional art cannot reach.
Nifty Gateway, the NFT marketplace where "The Merge" choose to launch, lists a sentence at the bottom of its website:
We will not rest until 1 billion people are collecting NFTs.
0x10 The Rebels
Many fervently question the legitimacy of NFTs as art, as much as people questioned Andy Warhol's Campell cans.
The argument is that these pieces do not possess aesthetic properties in the traditional sense.
But please note that the Everest of human arts has never been reached by "aesthetic properties" alone, but by the criticalness and skepticism they carry.
The ravishing beauty of Mona Lisa stems from the gentle human eyes that peer through the eternal darkness with contempt.
The eternity of Starry Night came from the brush-clenching soul, attempting to break the confinement of life's miseries with all his courage.
Art is no longer art when it is a flattery to power.
Frogs and Pepes, as insignificant as they seem, and CryptoPunks, as shabby as they may look, are observing this era in a decentralized way. They attempt to interact with this era as well.
When feeling irritated, they will give the middle finger to this era without hesitation. A decentralized, immutable middle finger under the protection of technology.
Every life, trivial as it may be, has the urge to respond to the time it lives in as evidence of living, indecent or blossoming.
For every joke told and every emoji sent are all evidence of your life. Everyone of us aspires to have unique evidence just like the one being picked from those cans on the shelf.
Such as it is, we use codes to space out our mini-universe. In the mini-universe, dreams are priced as NFTs for your picking.
At least in your own universe, there is always a chance of being a hero, even for 15 minutes.
Maybe this is the best endowment our time can bestow to its minions in this machine-crowded and code-flooded era.