A cartoon of a man with one screw eye, wearing a multicoloured jacket, a gold necklace and blonde braids
red and black swirl background with a cartoon of a man with one screw eye, wearing a multicoloured jacket, a gold necklace and blonde braids

Special cover created by LUX for The Futures, Summer 2022.

A new NFT project is promising to help offset the environmental impact caused by these digital assets, by creating a carbon-neutral collection in collaboration with sustainability charities. The artist behind The Futures, Kensho Kenji, talks us through the project. By Chris Stokel-Walker

Despite being one of the most in-vogue investments, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are being lambasted for their carbon footprint. The average NFT has a voracious impact on the environment, which means investing in them can often cause a crisis of conscience, as well as a question of how much you’re willing to risk financially. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

A cartoon head of a man wearing a red hat and a man with a head of a bear leaning on a piano in a room

Kensho Kenji and Moses Open Sea

A new NFT collection promises to be carbon neutral, while helping educate people about our planet, making difficult decisions that help ensure a sustainable and transparent future.

The Futures is the brainchild of a contemporary artist who goes by the pseudonym Kensho Kenji. He has operated in the NFT space since 2020, and worked with some of the world’s biggest artistic institutions over the past 15 years. “I always had the thought of creating a new hybrid brand that operates in the real world and in the metaverse, which can further the understanding of the real potential behind an NFT project,” he says.

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The Futures began about six months ago when Kenji took a notepad and jotted down three words: earth, education and community. These three pillars are the building blocks of The Futures project, which has now ballooned to a staff of 12. It provides profile pictures (PFPs) – a core part of the NFT landscape – to users, but couples it with a crash course on how the NFT space operates, and what it means for our world.

A cartoon of a man with one screw eye, wearing a multicoloured jacket, a gold necklace and blonde braids

The first real life Futures event will be taking place in September 2022 in Monaco

“The idea was to really focus on the planet,” Kenji explains. “The most important thing for me was how to link the digital and physical worlds together.” The Futures is using its digital arm to help the physical world, by starting with a collection of 5,000, one-of-a-kind 2D avatars. The art is disruptive and each Futures avatar has a unique sense of style and set of traits: characters who represent a new generation of our physical-digital (or ‘phygital’) culture. They also double as a membership card to this members-only world. The co-founder, known as Moses OpenSea, comments: “We will be the first iconic phygital brand seamlessly merging our physical and digital lives.”

Each NFT that’s created – or ‘minted’ – will be offset environmentally by the planting of two real trees. The project, meanwhile, has a three-year goal of spending cash on reforestation with the charity Tree-Nation, alongside boosting marine life sustainably via planned donations to the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco.

Blue and black swirl background with a cartoon of a man in a brown jacket and wearing an earing

Special cover created by LUX for The Futures, Summer 2022.

Those who own an NFT from The Futures will receive ownership of an FTRS capsule, accessed from the FTRS Tower, a metaverse-based experience designed by a renowned architect who uses the pseudonym Vasco Pomerol, that will also act as a digital meeting space. The tower includes a meditation garden, an amphitheatre, and a retail environment. But it’s not just in the digital space that members will interact: real-world meet-ups will begin this year. “We’ve expanded this whole concept into building a brand that is active in both the digital and real world,” says Kenji. “We want to have a strong identity in the real world; and a strong identity in the metaverse.”

Read more: Marina Abramović: The Artist As Survivalist

It’s all focused on making sure that, in the pursuit of NFTs as the next big thing, we don’t lose track of the big picture. “A project of this nature focuses on bringing a positive effect to our planet,” says Kenji. “At the end of the day, if our planet is messed up, what’s the point of doing these NFT projects to begin with?

Find out more: ftrs.io

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

Reading time: 3 min
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A woman in a black dress standing by a glass table with two Andy Warhol's above it.

Shanyan Koder is the founder of HUA gallery and Shanyan Koder Fine Art

From a very young age, art has been a fundamental part of Shanyan Koder’s life. Here, the founder of Shanyan Koder Fine Art and Hua gallery speaks to LUX Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, about how technology has changed the art world and her charitable efforts beyond art.

LUX: How did your upbringing give you an insight into art and collecting?
Shanyan Koder: My family instilled my passion in fine art. I grew up attending auctions with my parents at Sotheby’s and Christie’s and bid on works from the Impressionist and Modern art sales.  It was very organic and natural.

LUX: What brought about the change of career plan?
SK: I graduated with a law degree from Cambridge, worked at Goldman Sachs, then moved to Sotheby’s in New York, London and Hong Kong. After several years, as I took a more prominent role in representing my family’s art collection, I decided to pursue my passion in fine art. After my time at Sotheby’s London, I left to set up my own private art advisory business, Shanyan Koder Fine Art and my Chinese contemporary art business HUA, a platform celebrating a combination of my Chinese heritage and my passion for contemporary art.

A painting of scribbles in blue black white and red on a brown and beige background

In collaboration with various artists, Mango is creating five digital artworks in NFT format based on five works including those of Miró

LUX: What helped you stand out as an authoritative collector and dealer in the crowded impressionist to contemporary space?
SK: I was fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. Apart from my boss, Patti Wong, the Chairwoman of Sotheby’s Asia, I was the only other Chinese speaking employee in Sotheby’s on New Bond Street.  I bid for telephone bidders from Asia who required translation, be it for a Mouton Rothschild wine collection, a Ron Arad design table, paintings by Monet, Miró, Picasso, Warhol or Lichtenstein.  That was how I met Asian collectors who wanted to buy Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art overseas.

LUX: What compelled you to seek advisory roles at Unit London and Eye of the Collector?
SK: I became a Board Member for Unit London becasue I found their business model ground-breaking in a traditional art world and I wanted to be involved in the journey of one of the art world pioneers of the digital age. Using social media to promote artists was a new concept and aligned with how I liked to work. My role at Eye of the Collector came about as Nazy Vassegh, the founder, is a long-time friend whom I knew from Sotheby’s and she invited me to join her Advisory Council.  Their second edition launched in May 2022.

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LUX: You were an early adopter of tech to facilitate China/Europe crossover collecting. How did you do this?
SK: In the 2000s, collectors shifted away from needing the see the original artwork before buying. That was the real break for me in the ability to adopt tech to facilitate China/Europe crossover collecting.  My first sale completed on email was a Warhol.  As social media began to take-off, I sold via platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, and so on.

green and pink waterlilies and a bridge in a painting by Monet

The most recent sale of a waterlilies artwork by Claude Monet was sold at Sotheby’s for $70.4 million in May 2021

LUX: What was behind your co-founding of Global Showcases?
SK: Global Showcases is a ‘by invitation only’ UHNW luxury app-based sales platform. My co-founders and I decided that there was a gap in the market for buyers and brands in the “beyond luxury” space. These are assets, collectibles and experiences, for instance, art, real estate, yachts and accessories, aircraft, performance cars, high jewellery, limited edition watches. This is going to be an interesting space as the crypto world continues to develop.

LUX: How did Artemis come about and why is this disruptive to the crypto industry from a sustainability perspective?
SK: Artemis Market is the world’s first decentralised NFT mobile social platform. It uses Solana as the crypto currency which is more sustainable from an environmental perspective.  I was invited to be the first Brand Ambassador and was excited to accept. As the world continues to move towards crypto currency trading, NFTs are fast becoming a new asset class for collectors.

A woman in a silver one shoulder dress

Shanyan hosted an art x fashion evening for Borne Charity in collaboration with the Unit London. Image courtesy of Shanyan Koder

LUX: How did entrepreneurship and social connection bring about your work with the NHS?
SK: I suffered the loss of three unborn babies during pregnancy and the grief, the spiritual, physical and mental impact are beyond words. As a result, I have supported Borne, a leading scientific research foundation in the field of preterm labour and premature birth.  Via Borne, I met fellow Borne Ambassador, an ex-SAS military officer, Jason Fox, and his SAS friend Richard Bassett.

Read more: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation: Bridging Global South And North

We discussed PTSD caused by mental trauma from losing a baby and from experiencing combat. This was the start of our partnership and co-founding Mentor360, your pocket mentor. This App launched on World Mental Health Day on October 2021. It is a safe space to help people focus on mental fitness, holistic wellbeing, mindfulness and performance. The content is produced by leading psychologists, health care professionals and mentors. We partner with the NHS in North and Central London as their recommended mental fitness app for NHS surgical patients on their waiting list. We aim to develop Mentor360 to help teenagers and young adults through the Education space.

LUX: How has your personal journey influenced what you want for the next generation?
SK: I want young people to be healthy, happy, pursuing their passion, growing up as global citizens. The pandemic reminds us of the value of family and the importance of giving children a happy childhood.

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Reading time: 5 min