Paris (AFP) – Sports, movie, and music stars have all flocked to the NFT marketplace to buy monkey paintings, support corporate partners, or even open their own art collections.
Even as the crypto sector suffers a beating with plummeting sales and values and rising scams, celebrities continue to sign up for the craze for so-called non-fungible tokens.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club is ground zero of NFT “collectibles”.
It contains cartoon images that have been replicated thousands of times with algorithm-generated variations.
The initial collection of 10,000 computer-generated images was followed by several more generations and many millions of counterfeits.
For fans, they are a status symbol, a key to an exclusive club where ordinary people can mingle with the famous and rich.
Brazilian footballer Neymar and tennis legend Serena Williams tweeted their monkey pictures on the same day in January.
US talk show host Jimmy Fallon and socialite Paris Hilton showed off their monkeys on TV.
Madonna explained on Instagram in March that she “entered the MetaVerse” with the purchase of a monkey reportedly for more than $500,000.
She followed musicians like Justin Bieber, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, basketball luminaries Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry and actors like Gwyneth Paltrow.
For NFT critics, these monkeys symbolize everything that is wrong in the crypto world – basically worthless but sold for huge sums with valuations based on hype.
And finally, these celebrities don’t own the monkey pictures in the traditional sense – anyone can download and use the pictures.
What they possess is essentially a digital receipt linked to the image.
But celebrity support is crucial.
The monkeys, along with animated collections like CryptoPunks, appear to be weathering the crash better than other parts of the crypto sector.
Celebrity NFT enthusiasts have delved much deeper into the industry than just buying monkey images — many have created their own NFT collections, with mixed results.
US musician Grimes got in early and last year managed to rake in nearly $6 million for fantasy-inspired art.
However, many of these NFTs are now all but worthless, selling for fractions of their original price – if they sell at all.
Other collections have not even got off the ground. Wrestler John Cena sold just a handful of NFTs from a collection he assembled with WWE last year.
He admitted it was a “disastrous failure.”
Skateboarder Tony Hawk was more successful with sales, but at the expense of the admiration of some of his fans.
He announced on Twitter last year that he would be selling versions of his famous tricks as NFTs, prompting reactions ranging from “Stop this Tony” to “Tony, no, not you too.”
Hawk has not mentioned the project on Twitter since, although he continues to trade NFTs.
One of the mainstays of the relationship between celebrities and NFT is old-fashioned brand support.
This week, megastar French footballer Kylian Mbappe became the latest star to sign up as an ‘ambassador’ and invest in French start-up Sorare.
The company operates a fantasy football game that allows players to purchase sports card-style NFTs.
Serena Williams has already invested in the game along with footballers Gerard Pique and Rio Ferdinand.
And not to be outdone, the world’s most famous footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, announced a partnership with Binance, the world’s largest crypto firm, last week.
The offerings will appear to include designs created in collaboration with Ronaldo, who said in a statement he looks forward to “bringing unparalleled experiences and access through this NFT platform.”
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