It is, by any measure, landmark news.
Interviewed by Bloomberg Markets: The Close on May 24, Guggenheim Partners co-founder Todd Morley announced plans to create the world’s biggest museum dedicated to NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, the digital art ownership tokens that have exploded in the news in recent months. The new attraction is set to be located within a 1,428-foot-tall skyscraper located at 111 West 57th Street, just four blocks from the Museum of Modern Art.
The 82-floor building, also hyped as the world’s “skinniest tower,” has been in development for years by JDS Development Group, though its completion was pushed back due to the pandemic. Designed by SHoP Architects, it is set to be clad in Art Deco-inspired terra cotta, glass, and bronze ornament, with 77 ultra-luxury units priced up to $100 million.
On Bloomberg Markets, Morley revealed that the new luxury perch would have a few other amenities not currently listed on the building’s official site. For one, it will also serve as an antennae for his company, Overline, which is pushing a protocol that allows trading between different blockchain networks.
“It’s the perfect place, sort of a symbol of technology, to announce new technology,” Morley claimed. “This one building will be able to connect—sort of like a ham radio operator—connect everybody in New York City to wireless trading, wireless crypto trading, wireless communication.”
Morley also promised a related NFT museum—though his explanation for what it might offer was difficult to parse. “Part of the building at 111 is to create world’s largest NFT museum,” he explained. “So that’s kind of the utility function inside the building rather than just owning the bricks and mortar, so to speak. So we think that Overline will be the progenitor of many projects that people can own.”
Bloomberg Markets host Caroline Hyde pressed Morley on the obvious question: “Why do you need museums for that when these are inherently digital assets?”
In response, the investment kingpin seemed to suggest—albeit via more garbled business-speak—that the proposed NFT museum was explicitly intended as a promotion, for both the real-estate development at 111 West 57th itself and for his own company’s cryptocurrency protocol and digital trading operations:
Depends on what you mean by museum, right? The Guggenheim Museum has had phenomenal success at becoming a real estate development tool using culture to develop assets and convene people. So we think there’s that. But we are also very interested in global infrastructure— technology-driven infrastructure. So it gives the ability to not only allow investment into those areas but to sort of capture the culture of those areas. So it becomes a global ambassador, a digital ambassador, if you will—so why not in the tallest building in New York?
(Guggenheim Partners, the investment group Morley co-founded, and Guggenheim Museum are related to the same family fortune, but not directly connected.)
The news comes amid a large-scale price plunge in cryptocurrency, triggered after billionaire svengali Elon Musk expressed concern over its ecological impact, which, between Bitcoin and Etherium, currently pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as a mid-sized European nation. Some have credited the general-public interest stimulated by NFTs and the digital art boom with drawing greater scrutiny to the immoral ecological toll of the technology.
The tower at 111 West 57th is set to literally cast a shadow over Central Park when it opens later this year.