An anonymous crypto group thought they bought the rights to Dune. They were wrong.
Nimo omer, narrating:
Hi Iâ€™m Nimo and this is the Sensemaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world.
Today, a story about art, ownership and a very expensive book.
In November a rare book went on sale at an auction house in Paris.
There are probably only about 10 copies of it in the world.Â
And for people who are fans of the sci-fi novel Dune, it is very much a collectors item.Â
This book is a collection of artwork, storyboards and costume designs for a 1970s movie based on the novel by Frank Herbert.
But that movie wasnâ€™t madeâ€¦
The Sensemaker spoke to Gabriella Angeleti, a journalist at the Art Newspaperâ€¦Â
â€śSo what sort of remained of this dream projectâ€¦was this concept book for Dune that had, uh, hundreds of illustrations and concept artworkâ€¦And, itâ€™s really the only relic that we have of this movie that was never made, but that nonetheless gained us huge cult following among Dune fans.â€ťÂGabriella Angeleti
The last time one of these books was sold, it went for $42,500â€¦.Â
But the one weâ€™re talking about sold for $3 million dollars.Â
And it was bought by a mysterious anonymous organisationâ€¦
A group called Spice DAO.Â
So who are they ? And why did they spend so much on this book?Â
Before I get on to Spice DAO and the book they bought, Iâ€™d like to introduce you to Alejandro Jodorowsky, the director behind the failed 70s Dune movie.Â
â€śMovies have heart, have mind, have ambition, have power. I wanted to do something like that. â€śAlejandro Jodorowsky
He had an amazing vision for the film.Â
â€śPink Floyd was approached to produce the soundtrack. Salvador Dali was going to be playing the master of the universe. Mick Jagger was also billed to be in the movie.â€ť
But most of all it was going to be an unbelievable visual experience.Â
Hereâ€™s Alejandro Jodorowsky talking about it in a documentary in 2014:
[In Spanish] â€śI wanted to create a film thatÂ gives LSD hallucinations, without taking LSDâ€ťAlejandro Jodorwosky
Heâ€™s saying: â€śI wanted to create a film thatÂ gives LSD hallucinations, without taking LSDâ€ťÂ
Alejandro Jodorowsky hired a whole team of artists to bring his creation to life in storyboards and costume designs.
But to get this movie made, Alejandro Jodorowsky needed money.
So he collected all the artwork into a set of books he could show off to Hollywood studio executives.Â
â€śThe book itself was close to 300 pages. There was the script, there was concept artwork. It was pretty much the Dune Bible.â€ťGabriella Angeleti
Butâ€¦ like I said, this film never actually made it to productionâ€¦in the end, no one would fund it.Â
Still, for sci-fi buffs, the unmade Dune film is the stuff of legends. People call it â€śthe greatest movie never made.â€ť
So you can see why the sale of one of Jodorowskyâ€™s Dune books would attract a lot of interestâ€¦.
And thatâ€™s where Spice DAO comes in.
Spice DAO is a decentralised autonomous organisation. Itâ€™s a concept that is tied up with the world of blockchain and cryptocurrenciesâ€¦Â
So itâ€™s a little complicated to explainâ€¦
Spice DAO was set up by a crypto millionaire.
â€śThe main person in Spice DAO is a 25 year old in California, who, along with some tech savvy friends, amassed a lot of crypto very early onâ€ťÂGabriella Angeleti
Heâ€™s a big collector of digital artworks called non-fungible tokens â€“ or NFTs. And his co-founders are NFT pioneers too.Â
Spice DAO was founded with a mission to raise money from its members to buy Alejandro Jodorowskyâ€™s Dune book â€“ and to fund a series of creative projects.Â
And last week they revealed that they had bought the book.Â
In a thread on Twitter, they said they wanted to make it available to the public.
And they said they wanted to create an original animated series â€śinspired byâ€ť the book.Â
But there was lots of speculation that Spice DAOâ€™s real intention was to turn the book into a series of NFTsâ€¦after all, a lot of the founding members are NFT experts.Â
But it seems pretty obvious that they canâ€™t do that because of copyright laws.
â€śAllegedly the group that bought it, didnâ€™t fully understand that buying the book didnâ€™t really give them the rights to make any work based on the contents. And, uh, didnâ€™t give them a right to sell individual artwork in the book as NFTs.â€ťGabriella Angeleti
The rights still belong to Alejandro Jodrowsky and the artists he worked withâ€¦
So what can Spice DAO do?
In a post on the blog site Medium the Spice DAO founders said they had been in discussions about the Dune book with the rights holders â€“ and hadnâ€™t got anywhere.Â
But they said they were still forging ahead with an animated series inspired by the book.Â
Spice DAO says they want to create something â€śinspired by the intent and vision of Jodorowskyâ€™s Dune.â€ťÂ
And Alejandro Jodorowskyâ€™s vision was certainly ambitiousâ€¦
â€śYou want to make the most fantastic art of movie. Try. If you fail it is not important. You need to try.â€ťÂAlejandro Jodorowsky, Sony Pictures
So if Spice DAO were true to their word, theyâ€™d need to create something startlingly original.
But can a group of crypto bros really pull it off?Â
Plenty of people are scepticalâ€¦
Although Spice DAO does seem to have something that Alejandro Jodorowsky lackedâ€¦money.
Todayâ€™s story was written and produced by Ella Hill.
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