“It’s actually a lot simpler than you think.” It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and somewhat to my surprise, I’m on the phone to Paris Hilton, who is graciously explaining the world of NFTs.
Hilton is many things – a reality star, an heiress, an unlikely lockdown fitness guru who uses designer handbags instead of weights. But until now, she has never been considered a significant player in the art world. When artists have acknowledged her, often they’ve done so to fetishise her image. In 2008, Damien Hirst bought a portrait of her by the artist Jonathan Yeo, in which her body is constructed from collaged images cut from porn magazines.
Yet in the past year she’s become a surreal figurehead in the NFT scene: a world flush with crypto dollars and high on a promise to transform the worlds of art and commerce. When we speak, Hilton has just returned from a bitcoin conference in Miami, where customers paid up to $25,000 for VIP tables at the opening party to watch her DJ in a pair of diamanté-encrusted headphones. “NFT stands for non-fungible token, a digital token that is redeemable for a digital piece of art,” she explains. “You can have it on your computer server or your phone. I have these screens in my house where I display them.”
Sure enough, at Hilton’s Beverly Hills mansion there are screens displaying NFTs she made in collaboration with the digital artist Blake Kathryn. These include a video of a chihuahua on top of a rotating ionic column (a tribute to her deceased pet Tinkerbell) and an animated self-portrait of Hilton as a sparkling CGI Barbie floating in the clouds, a piece she’s called Iconic Crypto Queen, and which she sold in April for more than $1m.
Paris Hilton worked with the artist Blake Kathryn to create a digital tribute to her chihuahua Tinkerbell. Photograph: Paris Hilton/Blake Kathryn
Hilton first started investing in cryptocurrency in 2016. “I became friends with the founders of Ethereum,” she says. (Ethereum produces ether, the currency in which the majority of NFTs are traded.) Since then she’s thrown herself into collecting crypto art, and owns more than 150 NFTs.
To advocates of the NFT, the technology offers a revolutionary new way of selling art, and of circumventing snooty cultural gatekeepers whose resistance to a crypto future seems as square as the 19th-century Parisian art world’s disdain for impressionism. In this context, the relevance of …….