When the winning $78.4 million bid came in for Giacometti’s Le Nez (1947) at Sotheby’s record-breaking sale of the Macklowe Collection earlier this month, inquiring minds immediately began to speculate who the buyer was. Perhaps it was hedge-funder Steve Cohen, a longtime collector of the artist’s work? Or maybe the Qatari royal family?
Mere days after the sale, the true buyer revealed himself: Justin Sun, the Chinese-born, 31-year-old tech billionaire founder of the cryptocurrency platform TRON. The news served as proof positive that at least some of the new crypto rich were pouring their money into art. So far this year, Sun has spent more than $100 million at auction.
Now, the entrepreneur says he is just getting started building his art collection—and his appetite spans installation, video, classic contemporary, and more. Although he was unable to attend Art Basel Miami Beach due to travel restrictions, he does plan to begin buying through galleries and on the primary market soon, he said, with an eye toward emerging talent. These acquisitions will be displayed in the metaverse while the IRL objects go on loan to institutions around the globe.
“As our aim is to build the finest and most diverse contemporary art collection, we are interested in a variety of art forms and categories such as video, music, installation and A.I. art, which we don’t yet have,” Sun said. “Most of the artworks we own are static and we are eager to diversify our collections to enrich our museum in the metaverse… Art for everyone to see and participate in the interesting conversation to spark creativity.”
In addition to Le Nez, Sun has picked up a £14.6 million ($20 million) Picasso portrait of Marie-Thérese; a triptych of “fright wig” portraits by Andy Warhol for £1.4 million ($2 million); KAWS’s Untitled (Kimpsons) (2001) for HK$2.5 million ($323,647); and Cube by top NFT artist Murat Pak.
Many of these works, purchased through Sun’s APENFT Foundation, are now being digitally assimilated to go “on view” at the APENFT Virtual Museum on Cryptovoxels in the metaverse, a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Those with the appropriate technology—Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive—will be able to explore them up “close.”
“The traditional art world is supremely opaque and buying art is perceived to be only for the privileged,” Sun said. “Just like how blockchain democratizes finance like never before, we want to democratize the art market by registering blue-chip art as NFTs on the blockchain and facilitating a creator economy.”
Sun hopes to help bridge the divide between the metaverse and the art-world universe by loaning some of the physical works to institutions. “We look forward to collaborating with some of the top-tier museums worldwide to explore this concept further and more importantly bring its real application to the art world,” he said.
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