Millionaire under investigation for burning Frida Kahlo art in NFT stunt

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At the end of July, art collector and crypto millionaire Martin Mobarak invited a select few to his Miami mansion. His party celebrated the launch of his ‘exclusive NFT collection’ in a way so provocative that Mexican authorities are now investigating the matter.

Mobarak’s project Frida.NFT plans to mint 10,000 digital copies of Fantasmones Siniestros (Sinister Ghosts), a colourful artwork drawn by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in 1944. The millionaire claims to own the original, which he showcased at his event. It was placed on a martini glass filled with dry ice and fuel — and then promptly set on fire.

Now, the artwork has “transitioned into the metaverse,” Frida.NFT’s website claims. Collectors can purchase a copy of the digital artwork for 3 ether, worth about $4,000 at press time.

A percent of all proceeds will reportedly be donated to several charity organizations in Mexico, including the Museo Frida Kahlo, Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Autism Society, and the Children’s Craniofacial Association. Mobarak stated these organizations are close to his heart as the father of a child battling rare diseases.

“We’re going to change the lives of thousands of children,” Mobarak said to his party guests before the artwork was burned. “I hope everyone can understand it and I hope everyone can see a positive side to the legacy this is going to leave.”

Mexican authorities probe Mobarak for NFT stunt

Fantasmones Siniestros was last valued at over $10 million. Originally, Kahlo gifted the double-sided drawing to Venezuelan art critic Juan Rohl. It came into the possession of a gallery in New York, was sold in 2004 to the Vergel Foundation, and then to a private collector in 2013, Vice reports.

However, art collectors are skeptical of the burned artwork’s provenance. The crypto millionaire claims he bought the work in 2015 from the New York gallery, called Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art. Only, Martin says she had never heard of him before last week. “The whole thing is creepy,” she told Vice.

The viral video of Mubarak destroying the artwork made its way to Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature. On Monday, it announced it had opened an investigation as the country’s leading cultural authority into the destruction.

Watch the artwork light up in flames at Mobarak’s Miami party, which featured a fashion show, live music, and a fire dancer.

Read more: Crypto project marks passing of monarch with a Skeleton Queen NFT

“In Mexico, the deliberate destruction of an artistic monument constitutes a crime in terms of the federal law on archaeological, artistic, and historical monuments and zones,” it stated.

The institute is currently determining the provenance of Mubarak’s drawing, which Frida.NFT claims was verified by Mexican art dealer Andres Siegel on the day it perished. The certificate of authentication says the burned work matches Kahlo’s style and materials used: “This work on paper corresponds to a page torn from Frida Kahlo’s diary (1944-1945).”

Mobarak is a Mexican tech entrepreneur who created AGCoin, a cryptocurrency claiming to be backed by silver. Mobarak calls himself an “art alchemist transforming physical art into digital gold.” The Florida businessman says he plans to burn other pieces of art from his private collection and mint them as NFTs.

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