Panellists on Wednesday’s opening keynote highlighted a shift in behaviour from younger people as a major factor for the growing hype around Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse, resulting in a shake-up at one of the world’s oldest and most-renowned companies.

Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart (pictured) took the stage to explain that even though the auction house was now 277 years old and traditionally focussed on auctioning physical high-end items, it had a strong pipeline of NFT activity, a term he conceded “no-one was familiar with” even a year ago.

Emphasising how big NFTs are becoming, Stewart noted 8 million tokens had been exchanged on trading platform Opensea in 2021 compared with 50,000 items sold by Sotheby’s.

Art is a major play for Sotheby’s and Stewart explained this segment was “no exception” to becoming digital, with the company selling one art-based NFT in 2021 for $11.8 million.

“We have seen the shift in behaviour and we have all become digital in ways that are perhaps unexpected. Art is no exception to the way we access, consume and discover art. Some of the ways people purchase and collect art has changed significantly, so maybe it’s not surprising that art itself has migrated into the digital arena as well,” he said.

Democratise content
Neeraj Roy, founder of Indian player Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, put focus on the metaverse, explaining the company’s vision of creating a digital world combining its library of music, art, films, gaming and more.

Roy (pictured, right) said the idea of its metaverse play was to enable fans to go beyond simply consuming films, music and games, but actually gain more access to this content and “democratise the entire space”.

Specifically, it would integrate NFTs with the metaverse, allowing users to gain rights to exclusive content by purchasing tokens and other digital assets, all of which would be secured on the blockchain.

Roy added India was “embracing blockchain meaningfully”, estimating 500 million consumers from the country will join the metaverse.