IT WAS AT A HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATE’S River Oaks home, filled with legendary paintings by Monet and Picasso, that Channel View native Brandon Buchanan became intrigued by rare and valuable art.
The now 37-year-old cryptocurrency investor says that getting lost in that classical artwork collection when he was a kid changed his life and influenced his pursuit of his own multimillion-dollar art collection.
But his collection is digital and exists on the volatile, but profitable, crypto art market.
Through NFTs (non-fungible tokens), Buchanan has been able to collect rare pieces of art.
In October, Buchanan, whose username is Rhincodon on the crypto market, purchased an extremely rare, one-of-a-kind Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. It was sold by Sotheby’s Metaverse, the NFT branch of the auction house, for $3.4 million.
#AuctionUpdate #BAYC #8817 sells for a RECORD $3,408,000 USD! This is the first time it has been made available since it was minted. Less than 1% of all Bored Apes have the gold fur trait. From the collection of @j1mmyeth #NativelyDigital pic.twitter.com/HfFTpEOIUh— Sotheby's Metaverse (@Sothebysverse) October 26, 2021
The pricey digitized golden ape graphic artwork is a hot commodity, with only 46 ever made. Sotheby's sold a lot of the NFTs featuring several variations of the ape character for more than $20 million (which included a cryptocurrency payment option).
Ethereum is a form of crypto currency used to purchase and sell NFTs, or digital files of artwork. With the price of Ethereum fluctuating all the time (at last count, the smallest unit of ETH, for ether, you can buy was hovering around $2,400), the crypto market is anything but steady. It starts at well above $150,000 to buy into the rare Bored Ape NFT collectibles market. Buchanan says NFTs are “investable assets,” meaning that they are investments that can be easily converted to cash. “I believe this year is going to be a big year for NFTs,” he says.
And the way the art market is shifting, digital art has climbed to become a $12.6 billion market, making it attractive to investors. The trend is most visible in the music and creative spaces. Popular NFTs have been created by Houston-area native DJ Premier (his Golden Era Future NFT), and the well-known local DJ collective, The Chopstars, developed a DJ Screw NFT. The legendary Houston rap album cover artist Mike Frost and rapper Tow Down developed the Dope Head’s NFT.
“The promise of cryptocurrency is to take out the middleman in every sense, and we’re going to see it weaved into other markets,” Buchanan says.
Christopher Clarke, University of Houston economics professor, tells Houstonia that he agrees that crypto and NFTs will become more ubiquitous, but there's a lot of skepticism of the virtual market. Clarke says herd mentality is what keeps cryptocurrency afloat.
“All you need for any asset, for money to work, is collective imagination,” Clarke says. "If enough people are willing to part with their dollars or their other assets, then it's always going to exist.”
Buchanan’s road to learning about the value of art — and investing in it — started when he was a student at the Awty International School, the private academy in Spring Branch where he graduated in 2003. As part of the school’s dual-language program, he learned fluent French. That introduced him to a world of art, literature and culture. But it was through a classmate that he was able to leverage the knowledge that books taught him into having a greater appreciation for luxury art.
Later, degrees from Brown University and Harvard Law School put him in a position to acquire art of his own. He started his career in finance, working in venture capital as a corporate associate at Gunderson Dettmer, advising startups. He’s also held titles as chief operating officer and general counsel of Metamorphic Ventures, a research-focused investment firm.
Wanting to use the knowledge gained from his work experience became the impetus to creating his own startup and his growing NFT portfolio. The classic art that he encountered at a young age stuck with him, and that translated into his passion for collecting contemporary, digital artwork bought and sold on the crypto market.
Cryptocurrency, by definition, is bank-free digital money that's found on different blockchains, the unchangeable registries that can track the buying and selling of tangible and intangible goods (especially graphic art), from virtual land and property to rare collectibles. NFTs are digital assets that serve as proof that you bought something that lives on the internet, and they come in several different formats, such as graphics like JPEG images, audio recordings, and video GIF files and short films.
NFTs piqued Buchanan’s interest in 2015, not long after the concept of cryptocurrency was introduced in 2009. Although he owns a multimillion-dollar NFT, he has a plan to own more. He also started his own company, Meta4 Capital, a cryptocurrency fund 一 an initiative to purchase digital work and trade other rare NFTs.
Buchanan is realizing his own art investing dream and taking further advantage of this growing NFT market. He's right on time to create his own collection, like the one that impressed him so much as a kid. He also wants his investments to pay off for the person who helped him get that high school education in the first place.
“With cryptocurrency and NFTs, I’ve been able to retire my mom, who was a single mom and a teacher, and that means a lot. My mom doesn’t have to work anymore,” Buchanan says with a smile.