How Art Basel Miami Has Been Permanently Changed by NFTs and Crypto

With NFT-centric VIP spaces and NFT bacteria art, it's clear things have changed.

An NFT piece by German artist Mario Klingemann on November 30, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

There’s long been a lot of evidence that cryptocurrency and NFTs haven’t just changed conceptual digital environments, but that they’ve also had a concerted impact on the physical layout of our art spaces: at Art Basel Miami this week, galleries and platforms are falling over each other to produce the most spectacular form of token art. Roddenberry Entertainment, the production and distribution company that co-produced the Star Trek series, is touting the release of an NFT thats coded into the DNA of a living bacterial organism, making it the “first living NFT.” Elsewhere, Open Earth Foundation is hosting a sale of holographic NFTs at Basel to raise funds for an ocean-saving platform.

Much noise has been made about the democratizing power of NFTs, and how their existence can play a huge role in the lives of artists looking to build livelihoods outside of the traditional gallery system, but NFTs are also undeniably institutionalized. At Basel this week, Christie’s is hosting an exclusive VIP event at a nondescript, 23,000 square foot building in Miami that will serve as an uninhibited playground for 34 different NFT artists. Also this week, the interdisciplinary art initiative Aorist opened “Crossroads,” a decentralized set of AR experiences and artworks set in both virtual and physical spaces that makes use of “cryptographic acupuncture and creative place-making.”

If NFTs are already having such a huge effect on what the fair has always been like, it stands to reason that fairs in the future will embrace crypto in increasingly overt ways. If there are VIP gallery spaces devoted to NFTs in 2021, in 2022, don’t be surprised if an entire wing of the convention center is dedicated to the blockchain tokens. And as always, sales are the biggest concern: NFT auctions at huge platforms have already proven to be extremely competitive.

How Art Basel Miami Has Been Permanently Changed by NFTs and Crypto