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The Art Issue 2022

True Life: My Partner Is Obsessed With NFTs

Three women on what happens when non-fungible tokens become a very tangible passion at home.

by Nolan Feeney

Over the past few years, the NFT market has exploded, upending the digital art world — with museums, auction houses, and Art Basel all getting in on the action — and minting a new generation of collectors and entrepreneurs (even as overall excitement now cools). Standing right by them, of course, are plenty of wives and girlfriends who are… just excited that you’re excited, babe! What happens when Bored Apes and CryptoPunks become household names to only half your household? Or when planning around new drops becomes as important as planning date nights? To find out, NYLON spoke to three women about how non-fungible tokens became a very tangible obsession for their other half.

“Do you know what I had to do to get this?”

Ally, 30, New York City

About five years ago, my now-fiancé was working at a big fancy hedge fund. We were new in the relationship and doing long distance. He calls me in a panic: “I'm leaving this hedge fund to go work in crypto at a startup!” I was like, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” And then about a year and a half ago, he realized NFTs were taking off, so he was like, “I gotta jump into that space as much as I can.”

I had no clue what a non-fungible token was. I understood what a crypto token was — it's like going to Dave & Buster’s and getting your tickets you can buy things with. I'm a nurse, so I work with tangible objects. We like to joke that he works up in the clouds and I'm the realistic one in the relationship.

One year, his company was involved in the NFT.NYC conference, so he was at all of the events and would come home all excited and charged up about things I had no idea about: “I have a Lazy Lion!” One night, he comes home like, “I got you some swag!” It was a couple nice sweatshirts. And then he gave me this cloth grocery bag, like the kind you’d get at Trader Joe’s that they charge 10 cents for. It had just a drawing on it. I was like, “Oh cool, thanks so much!” and threw it to the side and put my sweatshirts on it. He was like, “What are you doing?” I said, “...With the bag?” He was like, “That's not just any grocery bag, that is a Bored Ape bag!” I'm like, “OK? And? You gotta help me out here.”

He starts telling me: “Do you know what I had to do to get this? I was invited by someone who had a Bored Ape to this party that was exclusive to only Bored Ape owners!” And I said, “OK! That's so cool!” I wanted to be supportive, of course, but in my head I was like, “What the f*ck is a Bored Ape?!” And then I started doing my own research. I came to find out these Bored Ape things were all upwards of $100,000 each! And then I started noticing it on everybody's Twitter, people had their Bored Ape as their picture. I’m like, “If football players are putting it as their Twitter handle and they're getting excited about it, then the rest of the world will.” It was quite a learning experience.

I'm not totally sold on NFTs yet, but I can see the value in my fiancé wanting to buy something like that. But now that we're planning a wedding, I don't think a Space Lion is really the most appropriate thing to be spending a couple grand on.

“It was a lost night sitting in the queue”

Lauren, 33, San Francisco

My husband was an early follower of crypto. He’s the ultimate teacher — he’s always trying to take a real-world thing I comprehend and tie them together. But I still think of crypto as Monopoly money — I cannot fathom what it is or how it works. Because of that, I don’t think he was ready to try explaining NFTs to me when he got into them in 2020. I’d walk past his laptop like, “What’s this dancing astronaut on your screen?”

His tastes are… I don’t want to say weird, because art is a very personal thing, but he likes a lot of space imagery, which is interesting, because I’ve never really known him to be fascinated by space or astronauts any more than the next person. So I guess via NFTs I’ve learned something about what is aesthetically interesting to him and how his brain works.

With NFTs, there are a lot of hidden Easter eggs. For him, it’s almost like Where’s Waldo — he’ll sit and stare and look for all of them, usually late at night. The way some of these drops go is you have to grab what’s available; you don’t have the option to be selective. So he’ll get what he can and crack it open to look for all those Easter eggs. A lot of them tie into each other, so it's almost like a puzzle you can map out the more pieces you own.

There certainly have been times when NFT drops have dictated his life. About a year ago, he was at a bachelor party where everybody was going to this concert 20 minutes away from where they were staying. He stayed back to procure a piece and was going to join them later, but the drop went sideways and the virtual queue was for three or four hours. Everybody else went to the concert, got drunk, came back and continued to hang out and drink, but the piece was never actually procured. It was a lost night sitting in the queue. That one was definitely a bummer.

We have a rule when we’re out with our families or our friends: If somebody else brings up crypto or NFTs, he can go on a tear about it, but not before then. It was self-imposed by him, but there were absolutely no objections from me. It actually came up at Thanksgiving this year. I looked at him across the table like, “Sh*t, you have your opening, say what you need to say.” Everybody around the table was laughing, like, “Oh no, was it me? Did I open the door?”

I can say confidently that I’ve never had any interest in wading into the NFT waters myself, but I’m very supportive when he wants an opinion on the price of a piece or whether he should sell one. And now that we’re married I guess some of them are mine now? Circle back with me in a year.

“I feel like their mom”

Mohar, 36, New York City

It was Art Basel that triggered my husband to get into NFTs exactly a year ago. There was just something about seeing these works of art fully framed on a screen right in front of you, in a beautiful room curated with these other artists, that clicked. It just elevates the experience. You’re like, “Oh I get it now.”

When we got home, my husband went into a total and complete rabbit hole. I remember sitting in our living room with his friend who was helping us set up our NFT wallets. Whenever those two get together, it’s like watching two teenage boys have slumber parties. They're just sitting there having a little cocktail with their laptops out, showing each other stuff like, “Hey, check out this project!” And then at some point they just go silent, because they’re just going hardcore on Discord [an instant-messaging app which hosts many NFT communities]. I have multiple photos of these two just nerding out on the couch with one another. I feel like their mom — I’m cooking, I’m making dinner. I can't say anything remotely negative about this space because it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

In the beginning, my husband purchased around $3,000 worth of ETH [Ethereum cryptocurrency] to start buying some projects and see where it goes. At some point, he didn’t purchase them anymore, he just started trading them and doing it so well. When I asked how he got so good at this, he referenced Pokémon: “I was so good at Pokémon cards when I was a little, and I never thought that that knowledge would carry on into my adult life.”

When I was starting to build my portfolio, there was an artist I followed for a long time named Paul Milinski. I love his work, it’s very surreal, Dalí-like stuff. I saw that he was releasing a collection on Nifty Gateway [an auction platform for NFT art] and was like, “Cool, I’m going to try to bid and get one.” I remember my husband had to run to a meeting at that point; he was hopping on a ferry like, “I hope you get your NFT!” He leaves, I’m sitting there trying to get it, and someone outbid me. But suddenly, within a few minutes, my husband is like, “I have a present for you.” He was the one who outbid me — it was so romantic. I was like, “Oh my God, this is a weird NFT love story right now!”

These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.