A Look at Key Developments and the Rise of NFTs in Singapore

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Over the past few years, Singapore has welcomed blockchain technology with open arms. So it’s no surprise that the country has witnessed some of the most exciting developments in the NFT space.

Although circulating on the Internet since 2014, NFTs really took the world by storm in early 2021. They had a total sales volume of around US$20 billion during the year. This is an increase of more than 20,000% compared to 2020.

In fact, the biggest NFT buy in 2021 – worth US$69.7 million – was worth more than half of the previous year’s sales, combined.

This phenomenal growth has seen investors pour money into the industry. NFTs have gone from being seen as a vehicle for internet memes to a goldmine of untapped potential.

As 2022 begins to find its footing, more and more companies seem to be exploring this ever-changing space. Here are the major NFT developments of the past year, which signal what awaits Singapore’s future in the metaverse.

S’porian entrepreneur spends $69.7 million on Beeple NFT

March 2021 marked a monumental occasion when NFTs finally broke through and took over mainstream media.

Digital artist Beeple has auctioned off an NFT collage made up of 5,000 of his works. He started the project in 2007 and was committed to creating a new work of art every day.

The final product, titled “Everydays – the first 5,000 days”, sold for $69.7 million. This made it the most expensive piece of digital art ever sold.

beep every day for the first 5000 days
Everyday – the first 5,000 days by Beeple

Although anonymous at the time of purchase, the buyer chose to come forward soon after. Singapore-based entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan told CNBC he bought the NFT because it would become an important piece of art history. He was ready to bid even more if necessary.

The sale of the Beeple NFT was reported around the world and paved the way for NFTs to become the global phenomenon they are today.

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NFT Marketplaces Compensate for Mall Closures

Although the pandemic caused the closure of physical stores and shopping malls, NFT markets had no problem getting started.

In July 2021, Singapore-based NFT marketplace Mintable raised US$13 million in Series A funding. Investors included Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur and NBA team owner; Ripple Labs, the company behind the XRP cryptocurrency; and MetaPurse, an NFT investment fund backed by Vignesh Sundaresan (the one who bought the Beeple NFT).

Mintable has since launched NFTs in conjunction with companies such as BAPE and CNBC. The best-selling NFT collection on the platform was released featuring NFL quarterback Trevor Lawrence, which sold for around US$230,000.

trevor lawrence redeemable
NFT from the Trevor Lawrence collection launched on Mintable

Brytehall was another Singaporean NFT platform that came to fruition in 2021. It was created to bring luxury art and fashion into the metaverse.

The platform held its first auction in December in partnership with American bicycle company Specialized. ‘enishi-E: The Living Bicycle’ was sold for US$50,000.

Created by the founders of Media Publishares, Brytehall was also responsible for launching Vogue and Esquire’s NFT collections in Singapore.

The latest edition to Singapore’s NFT scene is ARC, an exclusive digital community founded by Kiat Lin, the son of Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim. ARC has ambitions to launch its own iteration of the metaverse in the near future.

Singapore’s first large-scale NFT exhibition is held in a Freeport

In November 2021, Singaporean crypto exchange Coinhako partnered with research center Appetite to host the country’s first NFT Expo.

It was titled Right click + Save, a reference to everyone’s early skepticism of NFTs: “Buy a .jpeg? But I could just right-click and hit save.

The exhibition looked at the evolution of digital art and NFT culture through landmark works by creators such as Andy Warhol, Beeple and Refik Anadol.

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right click plus save refik anadol
A projection of Machine Hallucinations by Refik Anadol, exhibited at Right click + Save / Image credits: Timeout

By intended irony, Right click + Save was hosted at the Freeport.

Freeport is an extremely private storage facility, used to facilitate the trade of high-value goods such as art and jewelry. They exist as special economic zones where normal tax and customs rules do not apply. These facilities have often been the subject of money laundering allegations.

NFTs have also come under similar criticism. Because their value is entirely subjective and their usefulness not always apparent, skeptics have often viewed NFTs as tools for money laundering.

Print media guarantee they will live forever

After all the time they’ve spent writing about NFTs, Singaporean media couldn’t help but capitalize on the trend themselves.

In August 2021, Vogue Singapore published a collection of 40,000 mystery boxes on Binance. Each box costs US$20 and contained one of 10 different artworks depicting an astronaut exploring a famous city.

vogue singapore nfts
Vogue Singapore launched a Mystery Box with exclusive Sunrise NFTs / Image credit: Vogue Singapore

The entire collection sold out overnight and was one of Binance’s fastest mystery box sales ever.

Later in the year, Vogue Singapore ventured into NFTs again, with a collection that featured works by renowned designers such as Shavonne Wong and Chad Knight. The collection also featured an exclusive collaboration with luxury fashion house Balmain.

Separately, The Straits Times has raised over US$15,000 in charity proceeds through its first NFT collection. The highest-priced sale featured an image from a Straits Times column titled “Own a Piece of the Metaverse.”

The collection also included a work called “The Permanence of Cats” – a parody of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, with all watches replaced by cats.

Esquire Singapore jumped on the NFT wave at the end of the year in partnership with The Dematerialised. The lifestyle title has released a collection of NFT sneakers designed by Singaporean artist Tobyato. Exploring phygital concepts in the metaverse, the rarest NFT sneakers have been sold with physical replicas.

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Local artists find new creative outlet

2021 has been a particularly difficult year for artists in Singapore. At the height of the pandemic, a survey by Milieu Insight revealed how much the country valued creative pursuits.

Not many, it turned out. 71% of respondents felt that the work of an artist was the least essential of all. Those in creative roles were among the first to be laid off as businesses struggled.

For some creators, NFTs have provided an outlet to continue pursuing their passions.

Singaporean artist Chanel Lee left the corporate world to release her own NFT collection comprising 7,600 pieces of toast art.

Tasty toast
Tasty Toastys by Chanel Lee

Alan Seng left a tech start-up and teamed up with art student Marc Yap to launch digital trading cards. Their “Dark Zodiac” collection grossed over US$1 million within the first hour of launch.

Fashion photographer Shavonne Wong also started selling her 3D art as NFTs and achieved sales of over US$60,000 in 2021.

Are NFTs here to stay?

It’s hard to imagine an industry worth over US$40 billion disappearing overnight. Over the past year, NFTs have faced the wrath of skeptics and emerged unscathed.

Today, the utility of these tokens has expanded beyond collectible art. NFTs are used as vouchers, governance tools and virtual real estate.

It’s hard to predict the future of such a dynamic space, or what form NFTs might take next, but it’s safe to say they’ll be around for quite some time to come.

Featured Image Credit: Reuters

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