The first official NFT (Non-Fungible Token) collection of the Dalai Lama is launching today to raise money for charity.
The series of 10 NFTs of His Holiness – created by artist Alex Echo and authorised by the office of the Dalai Lama, The Gaden Phodrang Foundation – each has 108 limited editions and will be released over the next 10 weeks exclusively on Hyprr, a new digital art platform.
NFTs are one-of-a-kind assets in the digital world (e.g. images or video) that can be bought and sold like any other property but have no tangible form of their own. These digital tokens are like certificates of ownership for virtual assets and are logged on the blockchain (as with crypto currency). Earlier this year a GIF of Nyan Cat (a 2011 meme) sold for more than £365,000, while musician Grimes sold digital artwork for more than £4M and leading DJ Don Diablo’s hour-long NFT concert reached almost £875,000.
The artworks comprising the ‘We Can Shape the Future’ collection of NFTs were created by gentle digital manipulation of photographs into original works of art, with each displaying a quote from the Dalai Lama. The first release is ‘We must learn that humanity is one big family’, followed by ‘Time is always moving on. Nothing can stop it. We can’t change the past. But we can shape the future’ released in week two. Each of the 10 NFTs will have a gentle vocal intonement of the quote by Tenzin Lodoe, the nephew of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The set of 10 originals come with a physical print, signed by the artist, on sustainable bamboo paper and are priced at $3,500 each (approx. £2,500). The 108 limited edition NFTs of each of the 10 originals are priced at $750 each (approx. £550) with all profits going to charity. The aim is to raise nearly $845,000 (approx. £613,000) for the following causes:
· The Gaden Phodrang Foundation (The Dalai Lama Foundation) – which promotes basic human values, mutual understanding among religions, peace and non-violence, and the protection of the environment
· Tibet Relief Fund – which works to empower Tibetans to build sustainable communities and better futures through education and innovative practical grassroots initiatives
Artist Alex Echo, 63 and currently living in Hampshire, created the collection to celebrate the wisdom, compassion, and humanitarian thinking of the Dalai Lama, having been aware of his teachings since 1969 (when Alex was 10) and then more recently being inspired by his “cheery images” and powerful quotes during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The artworks were then authorised by the office of the Dalai Lama, The Gaden Phodrang Foundation.
Echo was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago at which point he embraced digital art to overcome his physical limitations. Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurological condition in the world and affects 10 million people globally (approximately 145,000 in the UK). Sadly, there is currently no cure and continued research into its cause and treatments is essential.
Echo’s recent projects include permanently installing 89 large digital artworks into London’s newest hospital, the NHS/UCLH Grafton Way Building, with artworks in 81 rooms over five floors (the largest digital art commission in Europe), while earlier this month he was among 15 artists (including Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk) to create a personal artwork on a life-sized 3D human brain, with all profits going to Parkinson’s UK. He has already raised over £1.1m for various charities through sales of his art.
The ‘We Can Shape the Future/ collection has launched on Hyprr, a social NFT platform designed to empower creators and enable genuine connections between artists and fans. Creators and charities can earn more for digital work, on a platform that is conscious about its environmental impact. Hyprr is built on a Proof of Stake blockchain, not a Proof of Work blockchain, which dramatically decreases the network’s carbon footprint.
In a joint statement, Kelsang Gyaltsen and Tenzin Sewo of the Gaden Phodrang Foundation office of the Dalai Lama said: “We express our heartfelt appreciation to Alex for creating this collection which we have authorised, with the images included helping to bring the message of peace, harmony, the oneness of humanity and the need to care for our environment to a new audience using innovative technology. In the year of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 86th birthday, it is a wonderful celebration of 86 years of compassion.”
Comforting and inspiring
Echo said: “This project was born from the pandemic, during which time I found imagery of the Dalai Lama comforting and inspiring; his cheery face and quotes about love, compassion and tolerance really helped me through lockdown. Then I connected the dots and realised the new world of crypto art and NFTs was a perfect way to share the message with others, while also raising money for important causes. I hope these artworks will help share His Holiness’ message of peace, harmony, the oneness of humanity and the need to care for the environment to a new audience via new social technology.
“I’ve been an artist for 43 years, but seven years ago I felt my body failing, and two years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I fell in love with digital art as a way to adapt into a new creative force even as my body continued to shut down. Now, thanks to NFTs, the artworld has caught up and ‘digital’ is no longer a dirty word.”
David Brierley, CEO and Founder of social NFT platform Hyprr said: “We exist to help inspiring digital creators share their incredible content with the world. We’re honoured to work with Alex and His Holiness the Dalai Lama on this truly unique project, raising money for important causes with our first NFT sale.
“NFTs are an exciting new technology that allow people to own digital art just as they can physical paintings and sculptures, and this first project allows people to own a piece of history with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s very first official collection.”
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