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At a Four-Day NFT Conference in New York, Start-Up Wunderkinds and Art-World Elite Mingle

The four-day NFT.NYC conference that took place in New York last week brought together speakers to talk abut a range of subjects like gamefication, decentralized finances, fashion, and, of course, the metaverse. But it was the spinoff events that people really came for: the collector dinners, the Rare Pepe gallery, and the countless parties that may not have been an official part of the conference but were no less highly anticipated.

At these events, hedge fund managers mingled with start-up wunderkinds making six figures. One thing they had in common: they love trading in pictures of apes and ducks that now count among the most sought-after NFTs. Meanwhile, pop icons roamed the crowds or, at least, entertained at them.

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Friends With Benefits, a kind of crypto-social club, hosted a party on Monday with the NFT platform Zora. Singer Caroline Polachek was serving as a DJ, though you could only see her perform if you had at least five FWB tokens, totaling more than $600, according to the New York Times. At events like this one, some were left out in the cold. Many parties last week enjoyed this thrilling popularity, and it was at more than one event that ego-bruised bros could be seen turning away to try their luck elsewhere, shaking their heads and saying, “This is a bad look, man.”

Wednesday night’s party of choice, Mojitoverse, jointly hosted by Creative Artists Agency, Sotheby’s, and crypto marketing firm Serotonin, was among the festivities where people could expect a long wait to get in. Artist Lucien Smith abandoned hope and went back home as others frantically texted their connects inside (“I know the owner!” huffed one woman). Bouncers waved flashlights at the crowd which kept blocking the sidewalk despite their repeated insistence that the venue was at capacity.

However, a select few were ushered in. Against the backdrop of panoramic views of the city, there was a bumping party with an open bar and at least one celebrity. Jordan Belfort, best known as the Wolf of Wall Street, was in attendance, seemingly in an extreme state of inebriation. Nadya Tolokno, of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, which has begun minting its own NFTs, could be seen as well, and there were rumors that Meek Mill sat at a table in the VIP section. Dominating the crowd were NFT natives like Dillon Rosenblatt, CEO and cofounder (alongside Tom Brady) of Autograph, and NFT influencers like Coin Artist and GMoney.

At a party at Fotografiska that same night, another odd group came together, with actor Toby Maguire and artists Beeple and FEWOCiOUS—the latter recently sold his NFT Mr MiSUNDERSTOOD (2021) for $2.8 million at Sotheby’s—in attendance. Parties like this one are more than just places for art-world elite to mix with rich people from the tech world. Eileen Isagon Skyers, director of communications at the NFT platform Foundation, said that a DJ friend of hers was invited to perform a set at an NFT event for $5,000. “He was like, ‘What? I’m lucky if I get $200 sometimes,’” she recounted at Foundation’s casual party in Williamsburg last Thursday.

Amanda Cassatt, the cofounder of Serotonin and host of Wednesday’s party, explained that these parties are emblematic of a larger tectonic shift effecting the art and entertainment worlds right now. “[Netscape cofounder] Marc Andreessen once said that software is eating the world, and now crypto is the way that software is eating finance as every sector of the economy is evolving to become the crypto version of that sector or the Web 3.0 version of that sector,” Cassatt said. “One of the very first industries to make this update to Web 3.0 is entertainment. And that’s why we’re seeing so many entertainers, celebrities, and artists, getting into crypto. But soon we’re going to see the space populated by every industry that crypto intersects with.”

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