Moon sculptures and NFTs at futuristic Art Basel fair

The world's leading contemporary art fair hosted in Swtizerland has taken a futuristic turn this year, offering buyers the chance to see their sculptures placed on the moon.

A picture taken in 2019 in Geneva.
A picture taken in 2019 in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are all the rage at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, where the world of digital assets is taking off.

Artist Jeff Koons plans to send 125 miniature sculptures to the moon with multi-billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The sculptures — set to be installed 384,400 kilometres (238,855 miles) apart from their owners — will be sold as NFTs, which work like certificates of ownership.

The “Moon Phases” statues come with a photo of their lunar location, and buyers will also be able to take home a sculpture with a gemstone marking their extra-terrestrial counterpart’s place on the moon.

“We’re also seeing it for the first time,” said Pace gallery director Marc Glimcher as he unveiled a moon-shaped statue about the size of a beach ball at his stand in Basel.

Elsewhere at Art Basel, Turkish artist Ozgur Kar’s LCD display of a man surrounded by skeletons is being sold by the French gallery Edouard Montassut.

The Vive Arts platform, meanwhile, offers a dive into digital art with the help of augmented reality glasses, presenting an avatar of the German artist Albert Oehlen in a 3D universe.

The fair, which runs from June 16-19, also features a host of non-digital works — from an installation by Franco-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping depicting a kitchen strewn with giant cockroaches, to a series of portraits carved in wood by Franco-Cameroonian artist Barthelemy Toguo.

A spider sculpture by the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois fetched $40 million.

Along with sales of yachts, luxury cars, watches, and jewellery, the art market recovered strongly in 2021 after the shock of the pandemic in 2020.

The stock market rebounded sharply last year, swelling the coffers of the ultra-rich — and inflation is giving wealthy collectors yet another reason to splash out on a multi-million-dollar painting.

Pace is one of the few major galleries to have ventured into the field of NFTs. According to Clare McAndrew, author of an art market report for Art Basel, only six percent of galleries sold NFTs in 2021.

Since peaking in August 2021, NFTs have plummeted. While art-related NFT sales volumes soared to $945 million in August, they fell to $366 million in January and then to $101 million in May, according to McAndrew’s records.

These ups and downs don’t faze the owner of the Pace gallery though, who believes that NFTs represent a “new methodology for distributing digital art”.

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Switzerland: How can artists and musicians apply for coronavirus assistance?

As part of its coronavirus stimulus package, the Swiss government has made money available for people working in the arts and cultural sectors. Here’s how much is available - and how to apply.

Switzerland: How can artists and musicians apply for coronavirus assistance?

On March 20th, the Swiss government announced a rescue and stimulus package to businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

This fund, initially CHF42 million but later increased to CHF62 million, covers a range of sectors of the Swiss economy – including culture and the arts. 

READ: Who can apply for coronavirus financial assistance in Switzerland?

The Swiss cultural sector – which is defined as including performing arts, design, film, visual art, literature, music and museums – is to be supported by CHF280 in emergency aid.

As reported by Swiss daily Watson on Monday, April 6th, this money has just now been made available to the public. 

The CHF280 million is broken down into CHF100 million for non profits, CHF25 million in emergency aid for workers in the cultural sector, along with CHF145 million in non-emergency compensation. 

Read on to see who is eligible and how much funds are available. Applications can be made at the following website in English, German, French and Italian. 

Companies in the cultural sector

Companies in the cultural sector can apply for financial aid to cover the cost of lost earnings due to cancelled/postponed events or projects. 

This is calculated at a max of 80 percent of the total loss – companies cannot apply for assistance regarding lost profits. 

Profit-based companies facing liquidity problems can apply for a loan to cover a maximum of ten percent of annual turnover. 

In addition, non-profit companies can apply for interest-free loans to a maximum of 30 percent of the company’s annual income. 

The loans must be paid back within five years. 

Employees in the cultural sector

Employees who are out of work will receive compensation of 80 percent of their wage. 

This is not just for permanent employees – it has also been extended to fixed-term and temporary employees.

Freelancers and self-employed persons in the cultural sector

Freelancers and the self employed also qualify for the financial assistance made available as per the stimulus payments. 

As with employees, this will again be calculated at 80 percent of their usual wage – up to CHF196 per day, calculated as a portion of a total of CHF40,000 per annum. 

For married persons the amount is set higher at CHF60,000, with an additional CHF10,000 added for every extra dependent. 

Freelancers and the self-employed will also be able to apply for compensation for events which were cancelled due to the coronavirus (scheduled between February 28th and May 20th). 

What exactly is the ‘cultural sector’?

The government has provided a fairly extensive list of who fits into the cultural sector – and who does not. 

Anyone fitting broadly into the categories of artist or musician – including DJs – are considered to be a valid part of the cultural sector. Graphic designers and jewellers are also considered to be a valid part of the cultural sector. 

Those who are not considered as artists include publishers, architects, manufacturers of musical instruments, photo laboratories and art dealers. 

Owners of nightclubs and discos also do not qualify. 

More information can be found here (in German).