I spent hours waiting to find out what an NFT looks like IRL

This week, New York City was filled with NFTs. On Monday, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people have flitted among talks, galleries and hangouts to discuss the future of art and promote the space. It has resulted in an extraordinary number of hours spent at Times Square, one surprise Strokes concert and many dudes sporting crypto merch.
The culmination of the event was a two-part Dreamverse event, held at Terminal 5, a large music venue. It is located between the wedding dress shops and car dealerships that line Manhattan's western edge below Central Park. The event transformed Terminal 5 into an art gallery that showcased emerging NFT artists for most of the afternoon. It was transformed into a nightclub like Cinderella in the evening. Alesso, a well-known Swedish DJ, performed the headline performance. The event planners also promised that the inaugural showcase of Beeples $69 Million NFT would take place.

It's a gallery that looks very much like an art gallery but is filled with TVs and men wearing WAGMI hoodies.

Although I missed most of the programming, I felt the need to learn more about the authorized debut of a work I had already seen online. I can download the file in 21k69 x 21k69 resolution whenever I like. The file is 319MB. I was also assigned to cover this event, which was a good thing, as I had mentioned it during a meeting. My editor-in-chief asked that I report back on the party. So, I trekked up Terminal 5 twice to see it. (The party/unveiling and the gallery were separated by a 4-hour period during which I watched YouTube videos in The Verges office and ate a burrito.

The gallery was almost exactly like an art gallery except that it was filled with TVs, and WAGMI hoodies. It turns out that NFTs are not a good way to display art to the public, despite all the debate about what they mean for art. There were many pieces on display throughout the venue. They rotated in and out of the numerous TVs placed around the space to show the digital works. Some pieces were animated, others were static. It was mostly a place to show a type of art that is popular online, but would not be displayed in a traditional gallery.

Metapurse was responsible for the March $69 million Beeple NFT acquisition. The art they curated felt almost like it could exist in the same world as Beeple. Pussy Riot's one-man, pig-man hybrid, crawled toward a grave, with a large open vaginal area. A Guy Fawkes mask adorned a figure holding a glowing Bitcoin. The QR codes that were used to label the artworks pointed to Twitter accounts, not a blockchain address or NFT market.

Everyone believed everyone was more interested in NFTs than they were.

There were three floors with this occasional TV series, glowing tubes of lighting for decoration, and a VR installation in one place. You could walk through a virtual NFT Gallery inside the real NFT Gallery. Also, there was a roof space where you could see sunlight. Smoking was not allowed.

As I walked up to the roof, I saw a crowd gathered around a man with what looked like a deck of tarot card cards. As he displayed one card, I thought it was part of a magic trick.

I asked the man in front of me if he knew who this guy was. We didn't know who he was. Twobadour, who was one of the managers at Metapurse and a key figure in the event, turned out to be his true identity.

These were just a few of the many confusions. Many of the people I spoke to said they were interested in NFTs but not as much as the others or the NFT fiends they imagined were there. These gallery-goers were not holding Blue Chip NFTs. Twobadour and Metakovan, two leaders of Metapurse, were not recognized by them. (A few dozen people formed a line at one point to take selfies of Beeple, who was dressed in a neatly tailored blue sweater and white oxford.

One individual I spoke with said that he is more interested in Bitcoin than NFTs. However, he came to see how a digital art gallery would look like. He followed me as I left and made a suggestion for my article. He asked me to write something about the Emperors new clothes.

It's insane, bro, that we live in a fucking game.

Many of the art exhibits had disappeared by the time I returned to the party and unveiling of Beeple, and the venue was packed. Bored Ape Yacht Club hoodies were everywhere, as was someone in a space suit. There was also an abundance of women in berets.

A Bored Ape hoodie was worn by one man who told me that the Dreamverse event was too costly and that another NFT party was more popular. Although he didn't have an ape, he was invited to be a plus one to the Bored Ape party, the night before. Aziz Ansari introduced Beck's performance. Chris Rock then came on stage to introduce The Strokes. Ah, I wonder, these people have hundreds of thousands of dollars of NFTs they refuse to sell, and get to see my favorite band perform for free. It's so lovely.

Bored Ape Hoodie: Another man (who has a mutant ape, but not the actual ape) said to me that he received a free ticket to Dreamverse from a guy he had just met. He said that it was all about the NFT community. The ticket-giver had been on a scavenger hunt in the city the night before, which was related to Wagmi–san, a pseudonymous NFT figure.

He shouted at me, "It's crazy bro, we live inside a fucking game."

The NFT was not on display at the moment, which was unfortunate for me as a journalist who came primarily to see Beeples artwork in person. Beeple was sitting in a corner, drinking beer, and talking to some people. I decided to say hello. I had spoken to him earlier in the year and decided I should get a quote. However, a bouncer pulled me away from too close. Beeple left moments later.

The opening DJ then went out and played for quite a while. After a while, he left and played a few Kanye remixes. The Beeple was not yet on display.

I had a brief conversation with an artist and an employee from a major NFT exchange shortly afterward. They wanted to know my thoughts on NFTs. Before answering, I hesitated.

The artist stated that we won't be offended.

I stated that it was fascinating to see how vibrant communities have developed around NFTs and that I love the way they are directing money towards artists. NFTs, I believe, are a pyramid scheme.

The artist was offended. The other person claimed that the blockchain is eternal and that it imbues value.

Waiting to see a unique three-story tall hybrid physical and digital structure

The music finally stopped and the lights went up. An emcee then appeared on the stage. He was dressed in a floral jacket, and he held a large gavel which he never used. He explained to the crowd that everyone must download an app in order to participate in an AR experience. Do not activate the app. Simply download it. Please, he begged.

People began to chant for Alesso. He told them to wait and then download the app.

The Beeple had not yet appeared at this point. It was now 11:30 PM, and Terminal 5 is quite far from my home. I wanted to go to bed but was curious about how they would bring the Beeple out of Terminal 5. The presentation Dreamverse promised a three-story tall hybrid physical/digital structure. However, there wasn't an impressive and elaborate three-story-tall hybrid digital and physical structure.

This amazing feat of public relations turned out to be code for a screen. The screen that had been in the background of the opening act DJs all evening started flashing and the emcee issued an uninformed seizure warning. Finally, the Beeple appeared across the display. The animation consisted of zooming into the Beeple and panning. It lasts for a few minutes. The screen went black and people cheered.

Metakovan appeared on stage to say a few words. Thanks a lot, guys. We'll see you in the metaverse.

Alesso came on. The crowd cheered.

Although I was ready for the end, I needed to complete my professional duties and learn about AR apps. While everyone around me was recording the Beeple debut, they all had their phones out. However, no one was actually using it.

My internet connection was too slow for me to download the app on time so I asked the man beside me. The app wouldn't work for him either. I left.

Photograph by Jacob Kastrenakes/The Verge