Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have skyrocketed into mainstream attention as the hottest new musthave. These one-of-a kind assets exist only in the digital world with no tangible form of their own, but MoScrypto is changing that. Founder MAI TANG speaks to NATASHA GILLESPIE-WONG about her inspirations, understanding blockchains and the changing art landscape.
There’s nothing like a profusion of news about blockchain to leave you thinking, “Um… what’s going on here?” And those are my exact thoughts as I arrive for an interview with Mai Tang, founder of non-fungible token intermediary MoScrypto. A man in an astronaut suit, complete with helmet and boots, is lounging on a Chesterfield sofa while a Pomeranian looks on. This, apparently, is the new world of digital art.
In February, an artwork by Beeple was minted and sold by Christie’s auction house for an eye-watering US$69 million. The winning bidder did not receive a sculpture, painting or even a print. Instead, they got a digital collage made up of daily digital pictures created over 13 and a half years and bearing a unique non-fungible token (NFT).
Where Bitcoin was hailed as the digital answer to currency, NFTs are now being touted as the digital answer to collectibles. They allow pictures, videos, music or anything else that can be digitally represented, to be wrapped up in a format that can be traded, stored or authenticated without needing to turn to an authority.
Mai Tang is challenging the lay of the land by creating interactive experiences and lifestyle products alongside NFTs via MoScrypto. Using her experience as owner of cashmere brand Tse, Tang aims to build a bridge between the digital and the physical world. Her debut collection revolves around her beloved Pomeranian Calvin in Calvin #1.
Can you describe what an NFT is and what makes it unique?
I’m actually very new to this. So I’ve read up on it a lot, but basically it is a one-time digital collectible. And it’s governed by a blockchain code so that it remains authentic. Like Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, this is crypto art. One of the unique qualities is that it can be tracked after it has been traded and it cannot be faked.
What do you aim to contribute to the current art landscape via MoScrypto?
It’s really about just bringing the digital art back into the product. Instead of just curating the NFT from an existing artist, we can make our own as well. We’ve created an AR [augmented reality] app based on the NFT. We want to use the blockchain technology to authenticate the products, and then, ultimately, when we create art and we start working with artists, we aim to create some kind of film gallery or platform. So, through videos, we are displaying digital art.
What sets MoScrypto apart from other NFT intermediaries?
The pieces don’t only exist in the digital space, they’re also a physical thing. We will have everything made to order. So that’s why we call it a virtual reality experience, and we also have AR interactions. We play in between the digital and physical. We are the artisans in that sense – everything’s made to order. So if people have cats or dogs or babies or whatever, they can make them into art if they want to and then send it to family and friends. It’s a new way of sharing and interacting with others.
What were some of the challenges involved in starting a business in a very new industry?
We’ve been talking about it for a very long time and then this idea of NFTs came about, because it provides access to millions of inspirations that I can potentially work with. The hardest thing was just trying to break out of the mould. Like most things, it will proliferate for a while but creating something completely new takes a bit of time, so you have to be patient.
How has your prior experience with Tse helped this new venture?
I’ve been working at Tse for over 30 years and I’ve always wanted to branch out and do lifestyle. But I didn’t want to do it under the same umbrella, because Tse has an established aesthetic and that would put a limit on what I can do. I want things to be more fun and move with the times.
What do you think is the appeal of art that only exists online to both the artists and consumers?
Well, the thing that makes it really authentic is that it’s computer language, which means it’s not debatable. So if you start with the smart contract, on the business side, you can have exchanges of data without two bodies physically seeing the data. So there’s a lot of privacy that way.
On the artist’s side, the really important thing is that they stay in the loop – from the moment they have the authentication, whatever happens to the art they will know about it. They may even earn money whenever the artwork is sold to a new owner, so it’s very transparent.
It’s rare for an artist to know where their art is at all times, but now they will. We want to collaborate with emerging artists and really help them get exposure. For us with MoScrypto, we can create games and physical products out of the artworks so it’s more than just one-dimensional.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, recently sold his first tweet as an NFT for over US$2.9 million, but millions of people already have access to this tweet. What makes ownership of it special?
To be honest, I absolutely do not understand that! Maybe it was a trial, I’m not sure. I don’t really see the appeal of that.
How sustainable do you think the NFT business model is?
The more we look at all the opportunities, the more we realise how much fun it’s going to be, how cool it is. I think the interest will fall slightly when the next craze comes along, but it will definitely always be here. NFTs are not going away.