Bigelow’s Babble On by the Bay: The Cool Kids — And Their NFTs

By Catherine Bigelow

In March 2006, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey probably never dreamed that his first tweet released into the world (“just setting up my twttr”) would — 15 years later — sell in March 2021 for $2.9 million in a red-hot art market phenomenon: nonfungible tokens.

Or, as the cool kids say: NFTs. For the rest of us, according to The Verge, NFT is a digital good that lives on the “Ethereum blockchain” — purchased with cryptocurrency. Um, hookay.

That “token” is not hard copy to hang over your sofa. It’s a unique digital asset (say, a JPEG or MP3) that remains visible at its origin source. NFT buyers receive a digital certificate of authenticity and — minus a frame for that — bragging rights.

According to the 2021 Forbes World’s Billionaires List, Dorsey, who also founded Square in San Francisco, clocks in at No. 173 of 2,755, with a net worth hovering around the $15 billion mark. Yet, unlike some of his brethren in the “Nine Zeroes Club,” Dorsey immediately converted his NFT sale to Bitcoin and tweeted (natch) that he’d donated all proceeds to Africa COVID-19, a response fund of @GiveDirectly, which provides cash transfers to people living in poverty.

That direct giving ethos drives Dorsey’s global philanthropic initiative #StartSmall, an LLC he launched last year to provide rapid relief to individuals or organizations economically impacted by COVID-19. Funded with $1 billion — a third of Dorsey’s personal wealth from his Square equity — his efforts now encompass direct Twitter #cashtag requests supporting girls’ health and education, UBI (universal basic income) and the AAPI community.

As for the winning NFT bidder? Bridge Oracle CEO Sina Estavi now “owns” Dorsey’s inaugural tweet, a 24-character purchase he proudly described to the BBC as “the Mona Lisa of tweets.”

Rolling Stone(s): Before initials were assigned to intangible art forms, a kind of precursor debuted at the Gold Coast manse of the late Norah Stone, and Norman Stone, who died last month.

This colorful couple, who were art collectors, devoted SFMOMA patrons and philanthropists, joyfully shared their cutting-edge collection. Their City residence was chock-full of pieces by Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. In Calistoga, their vineyard was transformed into the magical “Stonescape,” starring an art cave and swimming pool crowned by a James Turrell Skyspace.

But on a clear San Francisco night in 2015, the Stones’ backyard set the stage for the inaugural performance of Pierre Huyghe’s Singing in the Rain (1996) — replete with rain machines, ballet dancers and an umbrella. The Stones “owned” this Gene Kelly homage. But Huyghe only allowed the piece’s performance every February 2, the anniversary of Kelly’s death.

In the contemporary art world, there are lots of protocols to follow. But that’s what makes the art so interesting and challenging. Norah Stone

At the time, as I wrote in my San Francisco Chronicle column, Norah laughed over the rules, noting: “In the contemporary art world, there are lots of protocols to follow. But that’s what makes the art so interesting and challenging.”

Everyone loved the NoNos, a fond marital nickname. With Norman’s passage, our world will definitely be less interesting, and much less colorful.

School’s (still) out: The old pomp and circumstance remains stuck in no gear — all graduations are a bust. But California College of the Arts is forging into the ethersphere for its grad ceremony and spring gala. CCA students are actually thrilled for their virtual May 10 diploma day — they’ll be “joined”  by legendary industrial designer Sir Jony Ive. The former Apple chief designer receives an honorary CCA doctorate for his devotion to groundbreaking design and delivers the commencement address.

Ive will be honored again on May 14 at CCA’s gala, chaired by Lorna Meyer Calas, Stanlee Gatti and Kimberlee Swig. At-home sponsors will sup on a Paula LeDuc dinner while pondering must-have pieces in a silent art auction of works by CCA alumni, including Viola Frey, Manuel Neri and Lava Thomas. Ticket information and auction preview at

Dine11: As the Bay Area cautiously creaks open the door to our pre-2020 activities — sports, museums, concerts, dining, shopping — hope blooms atop Union Square, where McCalls Catering received a Union Square Business Improvement District nod to manage concessions there.

Union Square Coffee (facing Powell Street) features hot beverages and gourmet grab-and-go. Along Stockton Street, McCalls President Lucas Schoemaker rebranded a sit-down, indoor-outdoor cafe as Alma’s — a nod to Alma Spreckels, the famed 1880-era EssEff socialite, whose sculpted figure adorns the square’s Dewey Monument.

“We’re thrilled to work with Karin Flood (USBID executive director) and welcome people back,” enthuses Schoemaker. “We’re engaging Union Square shoppers and workers with good food, and with the district, we plan to create pop-up entertainment on the square.”

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