NFTs aren't dead, but NFT Paris showed that blockchain hasn't cut through just yet

Nina Knaack
February 27, 2023

The first big NFT conference of the year was NFT Paris, with attendance from Brigitte Macron and thousands of crypto-natives, making it one of Europe’s landmark web3 conferences. Nina Knaack reviews the event and explains what made it special, and what missed the mark.

NFT Paris had plenty to get excited about. Hosted next to the Eiffel Tower; esteemed web3 speakers like Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano; world-leading brands like LVMH and Salesforce. To add to the prestige, multiple representatives of the French government, including Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister for Digital, and Brigitte Macron, stopped by at the accessibly priced event.

The queue began to build from 9am, winding around the Champ de Mars park. Soon after, group chats and Twitter feeds started to blow up with images from inside the Grand Palais Éphémère and the view of the Eiffel Tower next door.

With 18,000 visitors from February 24th-25th, NFT Paris is one of Europe's most popular web3 conferences to date.

Progressing from 500 people last year to 18,000 in 2023, NFT Paris generally coped with the step up, despite logistical difficulties for long queues at entry, food stalls, and, given the space and weight restrictions of the Grand Palais Éphémère’s elevated second floor, the main stage. (The structure is a temporary replacement for the Grand Palais, undergoing renovations ahead of the 2024 Olympics; Éphémère means ‘short-lived’ in French.)

However, those difficulties were minor irritations overall, paling in comparison to the palpable enthusiasm that spread across the entire venue. Whilst the Grand Palais Éphémère venue itself may be short-lived, the event to which it played host emphatically demonstrated that NFTs are here to stay.

The area where NFT Paris truly excelled was the speaker line-up. It is unlikely that any conference this year will beat the NFT Paris agenda, featuring top-tier leaders from both NFTs and the business world, including Sébastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox; Nicolas Julia, founder of Sorare; Yat Siu, founder of Animoca Brands; as well as leaders from NFT communities like Yuga Labs, PROOF, Doodles, Pudgy Penguins, and rekt guy, plus executives from LVMH, Salesforce, Warner Bros., and Shopify.

“With NFT Paris, we wanted to build a new standard for the entire industry in terms of curation and quality, and to create a beacon for creative minds from all around the world,” Côme Prost-Boucle, co-founder of NFT Paris, tells Culture3. “Our vision was to build a cultural event rather than a crypto or tech event. With more than 18,000 visitors over the two days, that bet received an incredible validation from the market.”

In particular, NFT Paris was a conference for web3’s Twitter community, with those most popular on the social media platform attracting the biggest crowds. The lineup was certainly impressive, which inevitably introduces the problem of packing everything in for a two-day agenda. With panels all 35 minutes or longer, there was enough time to get into an interesting discussion and hear a range of perspectives, though not enough to dive deep into a topic. And for those unable to reach the main stage, simulcasts were only a partial substitute, particularly for those too far away to hear the uncaptioned livestream. 

“We wanted to build a new standard for the entire industry in terms of curation and quality.”

— Côme Prost-Boucle, co-founder, NFT Paris

Nonetheless, side-events provided an excellent complement. Panels at NFT Factory Paris during the week lasted an hour. Whilst this variety in the events could have been integrated into the main agenda, which also lacked true workshop events, NFT Paris deserves credit for creating a valuable hub in which thousands of web3 innovators could gather and connect.

These side-events allowed for a more intimate and curated environment to meet specific groups of people. Throughout the week, various galleries hosted openings and multiple shows drew throngs of artists and collectors. NFT Factory Paris, located across from the Centre Pompidou and considered the heart of the NFT community in the French capital, organised themed days focusing on particular genres, such as generative or AI art, which provided a dedicated space for like-minded people to meet and engage with others away from the throng of the main conference.

“It’s exciting to see so much momentum in web3 in Europe.”

— Jonathan Perkins, co-founder, SuperRare

Similar variety could be found amongst the companies exhibiting across the 10,000 square metre floor. Though generally a consumer audience rather than an enterprise one, a wide range of organisations had a positive experience, from blockchains like Tezos to PFP communities like Renga; all felt buoyed by unending enthusiasm and crowds at their booths.

“It’s exciting to see so much momentum in web3 in Europe, and to see genuine engagement from the French government – we were honoured to have visits from both Brigitte Macron and the Minister of Culture at the SuperRare booth,” Jonathan Perkins tells Culture3, co-founder of SuperRare, whose Botto exhibit demonstrated the best of AI and community-led art.

NFT Paris 2023 was set at the Grand Palais Éphémère, nextdoor to the Eiffel Tower in the Champ de Mars park.

Paris proved to be an excellent location. The City of Lights is home to major web3 companies like Ledger, Sorare, and The Sandbox, and with significant support from the French government, last week’s conference consolidated the city as Europe’s leading hub in web3. Indeed, France was one of the first countries in the world to introduce a regulatory framework for digital assets in 2019, creating more regulatory certainty for blockchain companies in the nation. 

The French capital is also the birthplace of one of the first crypto art galleries, IHAM Gallery, whilst the NFT Factory was made possible by the web3 community in Paris; 100 members contributed to build the location and operate a rotating schedule to keep the place open. Paris continues to write art history and claim the European mantle as the contemporary centre of new technological progress. In demonstrating that NFTs are far from dead, NFT Paris will continue to play a key role in growing the reputation not only of web3, but of France.

NFT Paris hosted some of the leading artists, builders, and communities in web3.
NFT Paris hosted some of the leading artists, builders, and communities in web3.
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Written by
Nina Knaack
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Nina is passionate about telling the stories of artists and documenting their artistic processes, so that they can focus on creating. She’s written for a range of cultural magazines in the Netherlands, her homeland, including 3voor12 and the Groninger Museum. Her work as a contemporary art historian has seen her work at Museum Voorlinden, the Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Today, her main and ever-increasing focus is on the digital art world, and she is fascinated by the endless possibilities of web3 and how crypto artists are pushing the boundaries of creating without gatekeepers.