NFT Artists Build Digital Communities in SE Asia

Malaysian rapper Namewee became an overnight millionaire in November 2021 by selling his new release ‘Fragile’ as aNon-Fungible Token (NFT). His collection sold for 209 ETH or roughly $845,000.

He was probably taking cues from the March NFT sale by digital artist Beeple where the art sold for a record $69 million at a Christie’s auction.

But Indonesia’s Ruanth Chrisley Thyssen wasn’t so fortunate. Thyssen wanted to raise funds for family members of a disaster-struck Indonesian submarine’s crew. He created an NFT artwork to be auctioned online, but it fell short of the $3,000 target. Instead of being disheartened over the incident, Thyssen went ahead and launched an educational community called MetaRupa. This metaverse community platform also runs NFT exhibitions.

The NFT craze has reached new heights globally. And Southeast Asia is at the forefront of the change. To ensure that seasoned and upcoming artists don’t miss out on the financial benefits of NFTs, artists are now creating communities to build the ecosystem together.

According to a report by research company Chainalysis, Central and Southeast Asia contributed 35% of the $22 billion in the global trade of NFTs last year. Data from Finder found that the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia had the largest number of NFT users.

And it is this user community that NFT artists are looking to harness. These unique digital assets encoded with smart contracts are tough to understand for artists who have been typically selling their work online. The community comes together to help create and sell these assets.

THE DIGITAL PITCH

Getting users to experience the NFT community is one way to build awareness. Blockchain adoption firm TZ APAC held an NFT Art exhibition with Southeast Asian artists during the Singapore Art Week in January 2022.

Local artists curated this event in collaboration with an art company S.E.A. Focus, a showcase of Southeast Asia contemporary art, and with CAWA (Crypto Art Week Asia).

Singapore is one of the pioneers in building the online NFT community. NFT Asia, an online art community
founded in Singapore in April 2021, has now grown to over 3,300 members in the span of a few months. Through their Discord channel, this community connects artists with collectors and also builds awareness about the digital art model.

Vietnam, too, is not far behind. It launched its exclusive NFT community Cong Troi, where buyers and sellers of art meet. Through Cong Troi, collectors cannot just buy artwork but also a portion from their favourite song curated by the local art community.

These communities run through their strong social network presence to form a guild of NFT artists and promote new artwork. NFT Philippines, for instance, encourages community buy-sell activity by nurturing artists.

Some artists stumble upon NFTs but are not sure of how to enter the space. To bridge the gap, non-profit organisations such as Malaysia NFT help artists not only understand the basics but also source funds for minting. It also features peer support to empower artists and make relevant pitches for clients. Exclusive funding initiatives such as the First Mint Fund for the artist community are also motivating more artists to take the NFT route.

As artists enter the digital realm and start making money, physical galleries have also taken notice. Indonesia’s Bali is now home to Southeast Asia’s first physical NFT art gallery. Pop-up shows such as Bangkok’s NFT Art Festival are also playing a role in helping artists come together to help each other.

With the region becoming the central focus for global NFT activity, it is the local communities that will make the switch to digital. Earning an artistic livelihood online is now a reality, thanks to the power of association.

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