Art Basel, the leading global platform connecting collectors, galleries, and artists was on hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic. So this year was bigger, flashier, and more innovative than ever.
This was the year for digital art and the formal introduction of NFTs to the masses.
My NFTs and digital art journey started on Sunday, Nov. 28, at the private, invite-only Empress Jet and Cube Art Fair event at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport.
Upstairs, I got a VR glimpse of Empress Jets’ Metaverse and their “Crypto Runway Airport,” with Empress Jets’ founder, Nicole Garcia, which was brilliantly conceptualized by a local Miami company, XR Labs in collaboration with Lilas Studios.
Empress Jets is also revolutionizing the private aviation industry by launching the first NFT jet charter marketplace and jet membership club on the blockchain. Nicole’s ultimate goal is to allow aircraft owners and brokers to mint and auction jet charter flights to Empress members. Members themselves can also resell flights or seats on their booked trips and interact in the Metaverse through VR worlds which will include the Crypto Runway Airport, Grand Prix Racetrack, and more.
Downstairs, while sipping on Reinart champagne, I was hosted by Cube Art Fair founder Gregoire Vogelsang, who was explaining the infamous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, a unique digital collectibles of Apes images, stored as ERC-721 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, four of which were on display. All were accessible for purchase through scanning of a unique QR code. Interestingly, these Bored Ape NFTs doubled as a Yacht Club membership card, and grants access to members-only benefits.
On Dec. 1-2, Cube Art Fair continued to feature NFT artists to the public on 50 billboards and kiosks in the streets of Design District, Wynwood, and Downtown Miami. On Dec.1-2, a giant 400-foot-tall art mural projection was mapped on the Intercontinental Hotel, illuminating the skyline in place of the hotel’s infamous 9-story digital canvas of the “Dancing Lady.”
Chanel hosted a private and public drone viewing event at the Faena Hotel’s beach on Dec. 1, which was seen above the glorious sculpture, “Hall of Visions,” by Pilar Zeta. A spectacular 1,000 drone light show (produced by a collaboration between my friends at WPP and Intel) rang in the 100th anniversary of Chanel’s iconic N°5.
VIP guests were catered by food trays and beverages in a gorgeous beach lounge area, produced by Prodject, while the public spectators were gifted with star-shaped cookies and caramelized popcorn in plastic bags, with hanging customized tags with the N°5 logo, handed out from a large, silver Airstream camper that parked adjacent to the Chanel’s beach lounge.
The loud, deep house music muffled the sound of the crowd that gathered at 7 pm for the VIP viewing, as we cheered on the sea of drones to the beach, which then created art images, an impressive 3-D N°5 cologne bottle, and TM symbols of the Chanel House, including the double C logo and the Camellia flower.
Just steps north of Chanel’s drone show, another crowd gathered to view Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol’s brilliant creation, projected on a huge monolithic screen in front of the ocean. A pioneer in the aesthetics of machine learning, his “’Machine Hallucinations: Coral’ was based on millions of photographs of underwater corals. Inspired by the ocean environment, Anadol’s dream-like, abstract, immersive experience, created from data-driven machine learning algorithms, approximated the natural world and provided spectators with a new way to see forms, colors, shapes, and movements. The corresponding NFT by Anadol was released on Aorist on November 30, 2021.
I viewed Anadol’s digital art masterpiece during the daytime and I will say it was just as stunning to view in the day as at night. “Machine Hallucination: Coral” and “The Hall of Vision” art installations at the Faena Hotel emerged as the “must-see” public art installations during Art Basel and personally, these installations were my favorites as well.