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This month, artist Yusuke Hanai drops his first NFT collection, “People In The Place They Love,” with FWENCLUB, part of AllRightsReserved (ARR). The announcement last month fueled exponential growth in membership on FWENCLUB’s Discord, seeing names like KAWS, Jay Chou, Lauren Tsai, FUTURA, and others join.
It also coincides with the opening of Yusuke’s “Facing The Current” solo show at Powerlong Museum in Shanghai, on view through February 2022, and organized by ARR. Hanai is known for his paintings, drawings, and sculptures inspired by the lives of everyday people, his surfing community, and the quirks of countercultures. That exploration and celebration of characters are behind his new NFT collection, featuring 1,000 limited-edition NFTs. Rolling out over three phases, Hanai is “recreating the good old days” in the metaverse via 1,000 unique avatars with over 75 hand-drawn attributes and 20 legendary artworks.
Whitewall spoke with the artist about taking on the challenge of an NFT collection, and how it's inspired by the bar where he used to work, patroned by seemingly ordinary people with fascinating lives.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for "People In The Place They Love"?
YUSUKE HANAI: For the opening of my solo exhibition “Facing The Current” at the Powerlong Museum in Shanghai, I sought out a new challenge, to create an NFT. I was discussing with All Rights Reserved (The parent company of FWENCLUB) about what format of digital art the release should be. The release this time is in 2D avatars. We thought, why not turn these avatars into 3D avatars, which could be used in the metaverse? I believe this would be very interesting to the collectors.
WW: Can you tell us about the story behind the bar, Road and Sky, which is a place at the heart of this collection?
YH: The bar is based on one I used to work at in my early 20s. I learned a lot from the various people I met there, my observations, the experience, and even the failures I encountered there. From the bar, I learned the spirit of DIY. People gather in the bar. The later at night as it gets, the more real personalities the people revealed.
Everybody has one or two special habits or features that make them different from the rest. Everybody is just as funny as everyone else. This marks the starting point of my work “Ordinary people.” It is a pity that this bar no longer exists. When we were talking about what I would like to achieve in the metaverse, I had the idea of reviving the bar in virtual reality. I hope to create a place like that bar which is loved by many people.
WW: What was the process like, from idea to sketch, to digital work?
YH: I came up with the sketches. I used a pen to draw them in real life, scan them and color them in photoshop.
WW: Why did you want the avatars to have hand-drawn qualities?
YH: I hoped the images could be developed into 3D from 2D images hand-drawn by me, so they feel really “me.”
WW: You said you're hoping to express each of our own individualities through the 1000 characters. Why is that important for you?
YH: The characters that appeared in my works have some special similarities: strange and annoying. However, none of them are the same. Each of them is an individual, different from the other.
I want to express every individual differently.
WW: How are you hoping the community of FWENCLUB will engage with the collection over its three phases?
YH: I hope my 2D characters can be used eventually as 3D avatars in the metaverse. This transition step is important. I hope more and more people can join this FWENCLUB community over the three phases—chatting, communicating, exchanging thoughts, playing games on it, having fun in this community for creators and fans.
WW: As an artist newly engaged with the NFT space, what excites you about creating work here?
YH: I believe NFT will keep on having essential importance towards the authentication of actual works. I am not sure whether NFT art itself will become more interesting. I think it is important to consider the application of avatars and the sales of goods on the metaverse via NFT. I believe NFT art used in this way would be much more interesting.