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News24.com | When Art Collectors Chucked NFTs Worth Millions in the Garbage

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A digital artist, Robbie Barrat handed out NFT coupons four years ago, which some recipients threw away.The NFT market however has exploded since then, with sales in 2021 estimated at $44.2 billion.Barrat however does not plan to continue selling his work through the NFT market.

When digital artist Robbie Barrat handed out free NFT (non-fungible token) coupons at Christie’s four years ago, most guests dumped them in the bin, not realising they would soon be worth millions of dollars.

Barrat, then still in his teens, had been invited by the London auction house to talk about the rise of online art.

As part of the presentation, he gifted the crowd 300 cards, each with a code that gave them rights to a digital artwork he had created using artificial intelligence.

This was before the NFT market exploded last year, and so only about two dozen of the guests bothered holding on to their little cards.

Barrat later recovered many from garbage cans and the floor.

On March 2 this year, just one of those artworks, “Nude Portrait#7Frame#64”, was sold at Sotheby’s for 630,000 (R12 million).

Barrat, now 22, had been working with AI since high school in the United States.

He made his images by uploading 10 000 nude images from classical art into his computer and then using two competing AI programmes to distort them.

“My interest was: can I use this tool to make something that is not classical?” he told AFP in a video interview.

The method is known as “generative adversarial networks” (GANs): two neural networks that compete with each other using algorithms.

“(They) sort of fight between each other,” Barrat said, adding that he purposefully added glitches to the programmes to make the final results more interesting.

The result was a series of shapeless “nudes”, unsettling masses of reddish and brown tones that bear resemblance to paintings by Salvador Dali or Francis Bacon.

‘Don’t throw this away’

Barrat was invited to talk at Christie’s by art collector Jason Bailey, known in the crypto-art world as Artnome, one of the pioneers of the NFT market.

“Nobody knew what an NFT was back then,” Bailey told AFP.

He asked Barrat to create credit-card sized coupons for the presentation, each with a code that gave access to an NFT stored online using blockchain technology, which guarantees unique ownership rights to whoever has the code.

“I was telling everybody from the stage: ‘This is the future. Don’t throw this card away.'” Bailey recalled with a smile.

“But these people were traditional art collectors. They were just, like, ‘Who is this wacky guy on stage… nobody collects digital art.'”

‘I’m not interested’ 

Today, Robbie Barrat’s works are very rare, to the point of being nicknamed the “Lost Robbies”.

And the NFT market has gone wild, with total sales estimated at $44.2 billion in 2021 according to analysis firm Chainalysis.

But despite his financial success, Barrat has been left deeply disillusioned by the experience.

“Over the past few years what I’ve seen with my work is that nobody even really discusses the image itself. All they talk about is the price,” he said.

Barrat continues to experiment with AI, but says he no longer intends to sell work through the NFT market.

“I really do not like the NFT space right now. Unless it changes, I’m not interested. Also because of the environmental issues with it,” he said.

There are widespread concerns about the vast amounts of energy required to maintain the blockchain and operate crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin that are used for many NFT transactions.

Four years after the strange episode at Christie’s, Bailey still defends the validity of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, particularly since they allow artists to receive payments each time their work is resold – unlike the traditional art market.

But he added: “I totally understand and appreciate Robbie’s desire to distance himself from NFTs. NFTs are not for every artist at this stage. Particularly when they are so polarising that they overshadow the art itself.”

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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