By any standard, $500,000 should net the buyer one hell of a nice home in most places. The Mars House, designed by digital artist Krista Kim, is an otherworldly modern construction that would easily be worth more than that dollar amount if it were real and located on Mars.
It's not. It's an NFT—aka "Non-Fungible Token"—and someone bought the place from Kim for more than most people pay for their actual homes anyway.
The new owner paid digital artist Krista Kim 288 Ether -- a cryptocurrency that is equivalent to $514,557.79 -- for the virtual property.
In exchange, the buyer will receive 3D files to upload to his or her "Metaverse."
Metaverse is a virtual extension of our world, Kim told CNN Tuesday, where plots of virtual land are purchased and traded, and digital homes and business are built.
Now to the real question: What the hell is a Non-Fungible Token? The Verge delivers about as plain-spoken a definition as you'll find for NFTs, writing that "'Non-fungible" more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else."
NFTs, however, are more like "one-of-a-kind trading [cards]," each possessing a totally unique and encrypted ID. So it isn't fungible, but you can trade it for another unique item.
Just about anything digital could be an NFT, and up till now most purchases have been of digital art, like the piece sold by artist "Beeple" (AKA Mike Winkelmann) for a mind-boggling $69 million.
This is the first known NFT piece of real estate. In a post on her Instagram, Krista Kim offered this quote from an Architectural Digest article about the work:
Kim ventured into NFTs while exploring meditative design during quarantine; her hope was to use the influx of digital life as an opportunity to promote wellbeing. Comprised entirely of light, the visual effects of her crypto-home are meant to emit a zen, healing atmosphere.
The artist also partnered with musician Jeff Schroeder of The Smashing Pumpkins to create a calming musical accompaniment.
So what makes the file a compelling purchase? Beyond the promise of buying into the lucrative NFT market, the home and all of the furniture in it can be built in real life by glass furniture-makers in Italy, as well as through MicroLED screen technology. Kim also has a strong visions the art being projected, as well. “Everyone should install an LED wall in their house for NFT art.” says the artist. “ This is the future, and Mars House demonstrates the beauty of that possibility.
It's great that the furniture is all designed so it could be turned into real objects but that doesn't settle the problem of putting the Mars House on Mars one day.
"Beeple," who collected such a huge windfall for his digital art, told Fox News he "absolutely" thinks NFT art is in "a bubble, to be quite honest. I go back to the analogy of the beginning of the internet. There was a bubble. And the bubble burst."
He may be right, but there are likely to be several more houses on Mars—and for all we know, bridges in Brooklyn—sold before the bubble pops.