Why This 31-Year-Old Gallerist Is Partnering With Christie's To Auction NFTs

Alexandra Sternlicht, Forbes, May 13, 2021
Amar Singh built a career, and his eponymous London art gallery, with one goal in mind: to uplift women and LGBTQ+ post-war and contemporary artists. 

After four years spent quietly investing in non-fungible tokens (NFTs), on Friday Singh partners with anonymous feminist art group Rewind Collective and Christie’s to auction off 11 original paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Yvonne Thomas and Lynne Mapp Drexler, among others. Each work will be sold with an NFT accompaniment by Rewind Collective. Bidding starts at $100 per work, though Singh expects each piece will fetch at least six-figures. 


“There’s a lot of rubbish out there, to be completely blunt,” says Singh, 31, of NFTs. “But the reality is, at the high end of the spectrum, there are some really powerful NFTs. What’s most interesting is using NFTs as another layer to champion important causes: women, minority and LGBTQ communities.” 


Singh, who was featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Europe list in 2019, believes NFTs have the power to dismantle systemic inequities in the art world. He is quick to point out that the 100 most expensive artworks ever sold were made by male artists, and says lauded female talents, like Frankenthaler, de Kooning and Hartigan, have never truly been given the chance to shine at the prestigious auction houses. But as celebrities have taken a greater interest in turning works by female artists into NFTs, he thinks the blockchain could help promote gender parity.


The cryptocurrency market is currently worth $2 trillion, and it’s growing exponentially. Conversely, the art market decreased 22% to a $50 billion market cap in 2020, according to Statista. Singh believes that the NFT market could outsize the traditional art economy in the next year. 


“People like Elon Musk and Mark Cuban were never interested in art,” he says. “Now, they’re interested in NFTs. This is a merger of both worlds—cryptocurrency and digital assets. I absolutely think it will overtake the traditional art market.”


A direct descendant of India’s Sikh ruler Maharaja Nihal Singh, he has tried to use his status as a member of the royal family for activism. It’s in his blood: Indian politician and feminist Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who worked alongside Mahatma Gandhi, is his ancestor. For his own part, Singh advocated for the legalization of homosexuality in India by campaigning to overturn section 377 of Indian Penal Code, which criminalized homosexual relations. He has also donated more than $5 million worth of art by Black, women and LGBTQ+ artists to museums. 


While Singh says NFTs are democratic, others believe they simply create digital barriers to the art world. “NFTs are not democratizing art; they’re making a very few artists very rich,” writes Marion Maneker, ARTnews’ president and editorial director, who argues that NFTs just replace old school elites with new ones. 


Rewind Collective, which features works by esteemed mid-century female artists, sees it differently. “These collaborations highlight the marginalized because auction houses such as Christie's and activist galleries such as Amar Singh Gallery have significant platforms,” says a representative from the art collective. “If organizations follow such examples and bring attention to more women and minorities, it is not only the art world, but industries and communities throughout the world that will benefit.”


To prospective investors wondering if NFTs will retain their value, Singh maintains that investing diligently will pay off dividends. “NFTs of quality, NFTs that stand for something and are meaningful will absolutely retain value but there's a lot of irrelevant doodles being minted as NFTs as well and those will absolutely fade away.” 

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