In Donald Trump’s long career of licensing his name to seemingly random products like steaks, airlines, and online courses, his launch of an online art series is surely the strangest yet.
Posting what he called a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” to his “Truth Social” website on Thursday, the disgraced ex-president urged supporters to buy “digital trading cards” of crudely made memes of himself which can be traded on cryptocurrency markets as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Some of the images, which were offered at a $99 initial price, appear to be based on copyrighted photos which may not be properly licensed.
Trump’s embrace of NFTs is a dramatic change in his attitude toward digital assets. In 2019, he derided cryptocurrencies as being “highly volatile and based on thin air” and being likely to “facilitate unlawful behavior.”
On the official website to purchase the images, the company offering them, NFT INT LLC, disclosed that Trump had only licensed his name for the product and was not affiliated with its operations. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the contact address listed on the site was for a private mailbox in Park City, Utah. The owner of the box claimed to be unaffiliated with Trump or the NFT sales in an interview with the newspaper.
In a recorded video message to supporters, Trump hailed the artistic quality of the images, which appear to be assembled randomly and automatically by a computer program from a pre-defined collection of backgrounds, costumes, and heads, according to listings on the OpenSea NFT marketplace. According to the Collect Trump Cards website, the NFT graphics were designed by an illustrator named Clark Mitchell.
“These cards feature some of the really incredible artwork pertaining to my life and career, it’s been very exciting,” Trump said in the video, also noting that only a limited number of the virtual cards would be released. He also offered several sweepstakes incentives to people who purchased, including a dinner and a chance to speak to him on the Zoom video conference service.
Several of the paper doll-style images used in the cards appear to be barely modified copies of widely available photos seen on clothing retailer and stock photo websites.
One image of the ex-president wearing a formal tuxedo appears to have been constructed from an oversized Trump head superimposed onto a body of a model featured on the website of the clothing retailer Men’s Wearhouse.