Non-Fungible Conference 2022 is the European Conference focusing on blockchain technology; it took place in the historic Pavilhão Carlos Lopes in a large park on 4 and 5 April 2022.

It was a two day event filled with talks, panels, workshops, and experiences that brought together artists, projects, platforms, collectors, and investors from the global NFT community.

“Blockchain is about art and preserving the time of today,” said Carlos Marcial, a passionate and successful NFT artist, “I am from Mexico, and there is absolutely no way I could have my art in a gallery, anywhere, without NFTs. I would have had to somehow get to New York. Get a job as a dishwasher. Save enough money to somehow get my art in a gallery, on a wall. It would be impossible. But when I saw my art in a gallery online, in the metaverse I cried. I cried. NFT blockchain technology gives artists like me a voice, a chance to express themselves and be rewarded.”

Innovation

“We want innovation,” the conference organiser John Karp said on the main stage during the opening comments. There were five stages spread throughout the venue where all types of industry insiders spoke. There was even a ring for artists to battle by each creating a digital art piece.

“We minted the ticket to this conference,” John continued. “It was not easy to integrate this NFT ticket into a large conference! I promise you. But, we practice what we preach. You need to take risks! We want you all to look back and remember this event like Woodstock. Yes, you will fail. But we need to keep trying! We need to keep the pioneer spirit.”

SandBox

John then introduced Sebastian Borges from the leading metaverse SandBox.

“How many of you heard of Sandbox one year ago?” he asked the packed auditorium.

A few people in the auditorium raised their hands. “How many of you are working with Sandbox now somehow?” All 300 of us in the main hall raised a hand.

Recent multi-million dollar digital land sales in Sandbox, along with Snoop Dogg and other celebrities diving into the space, have propelled Sandbox to the forefront of metaverse experiences.

The move from reality into the metaverse wasn’t supported by everyone, though.

Justin Aversano is one of the top-selling Photographers in the world. His collection, Twin Flames, a project inspired by his twin lost in utero, has more than $19million in sales. The cheapest, or “floor price,” of the 100 piece collection is now $1.2million. His piece Twin Flames #83 “Bahareh & Farzaneh,” was the lone NFT featured alongside physical pieces by storied photographers like Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, and Hiroshi Sugimoto at a recent Christie’s auction. The NFT Photo sold for $1.1million.

“We want IRL spaces, not the metaverse,” he said.

“IRL spaces?” I asked, a little embarrassed.

“In real spaces,” he said, “human interaction and community.”

Minted as Ethereum-based NFTs in February. Snoop Dogg, and Gary Vaynerchuk both own Twin Flames NFTs. The portrait collection has yielded nearly $13 million worth of trading volume, per OpenSea.

“What is the biggest challenge for people trying to enter the NFT community?” I asked.

“It’s so dynamic,” Justin said, “Every day, I start over like I’m fresh. You have to come to the space with grace. You have to be humble and adaptive. It’s about being a part of the community, about showing up and engaging.”

Justin’s project stands out in another way. Every other project I talked with had a positive, if cautious, view on the coming metaverse. Justin, on the other hand, is going the other direction, and he is betting big.

Betting big

“We are already living in some metaverse. Why are we humans creating another metaverse to get lost? Where does it all go?”, he said.

“We are building IRL Spaces where people can go to connect with artists, collectors, and investors. It allows co-work spaces in cities worldwide where we can airdrop NFT artwork from locally incubated artists. We plan to have 50 IRL spaces open by 2023.”

Getting the opportunity to meet movers or shakers in the industry, known as “Alpha”, at the coffee bar was the draw for Nico and Micah, two Slovenian NFT investors in their 30’s.

“The talks are interesting, sure, but you can find all that info online. For me, the draw is meeting the people in person.”

“What do you think of the metaverse?” I asked Tor Hedendahl and Daniel Wakeham, founders of Swedish-based Non-Profit Art Scape. They aim to inspire people and promote public art for everyone.

“Street art became famous through the internet and social media. It allowed street artists to reach a global community,” Daniel said.

“The metaverse is for sure going to happen. It’s only a matter of time,” Tor said. We’re open to it for sure. We don’t want to put it on our roadmap and not deliver.”

21,350%

That unfathomable number is the increase in NFT sales from 2020 to 2021, according to Gauthier Zuppinger from NonFungible.com, a prime supporter of the conference.

Whether you understand NFTs, they are coming, and the metaverse is coming with them.

What do you guys think? Is the metaverse the right way to go? Will it lead us to further addiction to our devices? Or will it inspire humanity towards a creative economy where artists can create from any place with an internet connection?

We love to hear from you at The Portugal News!