An island with a unique history of political and cultural influences, Taiwan is known for its strong purchasing power in the art market. The tradition of collection building is so ingrained that even 30 years after its peak as Asia’s premier art market hub, the island still boasts some of the most powerful collection groups in the world.
As Robin Peckham, co-director of the Taipei Dangdai Fair, observed: “It has long been evident that Taiwanese collectors are a major force in the Asian art market in general and are responsible for much of the volume in the auction market in particular. But what has changed in recent years is the emergence of a new generation that is taking over their family collections and is very focused on collaborating with artists and galleries in the primary market. As these new players mature and take solid positions in the art world through museums, foundations and other forms of public access to their collections, there is real potential for contemporary art to become an important part of Taipei life.”
Nothing is more contemporary in art today than NFTs. In 2021, as JPEG collections like CryptoPunks and Bored Apes competed for auction records at major auction houses, these young scions of elite Taiwanese families enthusiastically entered the blockchain collectors market. To find out more, we spoke to father-and-son collector duo Simon and Raymond Wu. Simon Wu is the founder and director of iDA Workplace, a design agency that boasts a range of international corporate clients, from Chanel to Tiktok’s parent company ByteDance. Simon’s son, Raymond Wu, is a professional poker player, podcaster, and a full-time cryptocurrency and NFT investor.
We spoke to Simon and Raymond Wu about their respective journeys into art and NFTs and how they envision the future of this new frontier.
Jiayin Chen: Simon, tell us about your collection. What attracted you to contemporary art?
Simon Wu: It is a long and ongoing journey! I have lived in Shanghai for 22 years, running an interior design practice and working with multinationals, Chinese state-owned companies and the private sector. Professionally, I am constantly involved in design and art. My interest in photography leads me to see from different perspectives.
A little over a decade ago, on the recommendation of a good friend, I attended the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel, which really opened my eyes to the art world. I was fascinated by the expressive possibilities of contemporary art and it inspired my philosophy on design and life after.
In 2012 I started buying a few pieces of art: mostly those I just liked without thinking much about their potential value. Through visiting galleries, museums and art events and gaining expertise through many readings, I finally ended up with Asian and Chinese contemporary art as my main interest. My collection includes everything from paintings and photographs to video art, sculpture and installation art. The works themselves range from mature artists from the 1970s and 1980s to young, up-and-coming talent. What’s exciting is seeing people I’ve collected, like Japanese artist Teppei Kaneuji, move into the NFT space. I was immediately interested in his drop on the SOYL platform.
JC: Raymond, you had an interesting career path before crypto and NFTs. tell me about your story
Raymond Wu: I’ve been a professional poker player for the last 16 years. I’ve traveled the world playing tournaments and playing the best cash games online on a daily basis. I was also the Greater China Ambassador for the world’s largest poker site, Pokerstars, for six years. With many of my fellow players involved in crypto, I ventured into space casually in 2017 and more seriously in 2020. I started a community-based NFT project, FOMO Dog Club, with a fellow poker player, Ryan. I am now a full-time investor and entrepreneur in the crypto space.
JC: Do you see any similarities between poker and crypto trading?
RW: Definitive. It’s similar in that both are about understanding human behavior and psychology, and both are about constant and instantaneous decision-making. When you day trade, every decision you make has immediate consequences. Both poker and crypto trading are online-based activities, so the setup was familiar to me as well.
JC: How did you two make the jump from collecting art to collecting NFTs? How do you see NFTs in the long term?
SW: Raymond and I are always sharing ideas and values to learn from each other. Whenever he has a challenge or an idea, he always comes to talk to me. In 2020 he came to me quite curious about NFTs but confused about the concept. This immediately rang my bell as one of my friends has been working in this space for the last few years. I connected them in a chat room and through my friend’s explanation it opened our eyes to new territory.
As I delved further into the ecosystem, I realized that NFTs, expressed as art, are just one of many possible iterations. NFTs could apply to anything in the future to prove digital scarcity. All data can be recorded and all information becomes transparent for collectors. That is definitely a positive point from my point of view.
RW: I first heard about NFTs in late 2020 but dismissed it as just another short-term hype. It wasn’t until I spoke to Simon’s friend that I became more curious. I started researching more on the subject and quickly realized that it was a technological innovation, with digital art simply being the first format. People confuse NFTs with digital art, but an NFT is actually a technology that solves the problem of digital scarcity. I think that in five to ten years it will be widely used in many use cases beyond digital art.
They are both involved in the metaverse and recently bought land in Sandbox and Decentraland. How do you see the idea of the virtual world?
RW: I think we’re still some time away from introducing the true open-world Metaverse. I always like to have some skin involved when I’m trying to learn about a new room. Metaverse lands could certainly flop, but the concept is intriguing. I find the idea of holding remote meetings in non-physically bound geographic locations exciting. Simon is at the forefront of this by designing the first FOMO Dog Club sandbox theme park!
SW: I was initially excited about the concept of the metaverse, and it took me several months of learning and understanding before I finally accepted the concept. People of my generation don’t have it easy. After understanding the ideas of the metaverse, NFTs and cryptocurrency, I agreed that anything can happen in the virtual world.
Through my research, I’ve learned that some of my clients are buying virtual lands and exploring opportunities in the metaverse. I don’t know what will happen next, but I am currently working with a team to construct the Raymond’s FOMO Dog Club building.
JC: We are essentially in a bear market right now, which means crypto prices are falling, which is driving sales. what do you have to say
RW: Bear markets are inherently normal in all forms of investment, but crypto bears are harder to swallow due to their uncertainty, greater length, and sharper price action. Trying to time the market to buy at the lowest point or sell at the high end is fool’s play. One should draw their attention to how exposed they are in terms of their personal wealth and risk appetite. Having a diversified real-world asset portfolio that also includes real estate, stocks, and cash will greatly aid your mental game in times of uncertainty. Staying alive in the cryptocurrency game will be the key factor in long-term success.
SW: If you firmly believe that the new ecosystem has value and potential, you should view the current situation as an opportunity. Judging by history, we learn that every groundbreaking concept always faces tremendous challenges along the way. I’d suggest sticking with the goal once it’s set, regardless of the turbulence that will most likely occur.
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