The term ‘crypto art’ is still somewhat nebulous, but increasingly the moniker of a rapidly growing creative community. On the one hand, it is art about crypto and its various memes – which can be digital or otherwise. Yet, on the other hand, it is increasingly about purely digital art made by a community of animators, 3d model makers and graphic designers, like Perry Cooper, that leverage the digital scarcity of NFTs (non fungible tokens). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the latter emerged as a subset of the Ethereum community, seemingly with a bias towards its London and Berlin creative community. That said, it is obviously global by nature, with many artists choosing to not disclose their locations, or even their real identities.
However, like conventional art, it can be hard for a ‘noob’ to navigate and today there is a distinct lack of curation beyond the handful of digital platforms like; Superrare.io, KnownOrigin.io or Aync.art, the former being the most commercially successful – with over $2m spent on crypto art, $1.5m earned by artists and $500k by its ‘top collectors’. I can imagine an Angel List-type way of following and investing in curators, where you get a fractional stake in their collection. But perhaps because of the transparency of blockchains, removing some of the opacity when compared to today’s decidedly shady art world.
Many of these platforms are better at marketing than you typically see in crypto projects, like NiftyGateway.com who leverage tactics seen in the fashion world by brands like Supreme, with exclusive time sensitive ‘drops’ via mailing list. You can see how they might evolve with access tokens as scarce as the art itself, acquired and held only by the most active or elite collectors, making them gatekeepers, tastemakers curating the crypto market and providing ‘signal’ to a wider retail audience. In fact, it would be natural for VCs like myself or Jake Brukhman of Coinfund (an artist himself) who are actively interested in the space and whose day job is already providing signal to crypto investors, in startups more generally, to start providing signal to new emerging artists. It was interesting to see Nifty is ‘owned’ by Gemini, and it is likely a matter of time before the Winklevoss Twins and other well known crypto-founders like Vitalik begin to send many artists viral.
Interestingly, Serena Tabacchi who works in the retail part of The Tate in the UK has founded MOCDA (Museum of Crypto Digital Art) which even has an Incubator of Crypto Art in Somnium, a VR on a blockchain environment, where they provide virtual land to artists to host their work. There are several others like this, Ethereum’s Decentraland, Crypto Voxels and Infinite Art Muse, too. I can imagine the streaming of digital collections on screens on the walls of homes, but also restaurants, bars and clubs, creating immersive – perhaps even interactive – experiences; a Twitch for watching how digital art, in all its forms, can be made.
What’s true in crypto generally will be true for crypto art, with the two main drivers of value and attention being: price + meme game. Crypto Art people have a natural affinity and mastery of visual memetics. Because of its digital nature, Twitter is increasingly a powerful medium for crypto artists as eye catching animated art can be streamed as GIFs, and even interacted with, as part of innovative interactive marketing campaigns by artists such as XCopyArt. Could Superrare’s ‘gems’ emoji meme become the next ‘yam’ craze?
And like with everything in crypto, and similar to DeFi, everything starts niche and almost for crypto’s own sake, but as things become more usable, and go beyond just the Ethereum ecosystem – they promise to go mainstream. With new dedicated protocols for NFTs such as DApper Labs Flow or Fabian Vogelstellar’s Lukso, new features and functionality will become possible with the ability to cross over, and perhaps converge, with the world of ‘digital collectibles’ we see in Gaming and the wider VR / AR art movement. It’s here where ownership and cross platform / protocol portability of digital wealth becomes increasingly important and why we backed Crucible.network – who make tools for the builders of the ‘metaverse’, and a portable digital identity for players, in gaming.
In fact, Archillect.com is an AI based on the Ocular gaming engine ‘created to discover and share stimulating visual content’ that curates images it likes on Twitter (where it has over 2m followers) and Instagram based on a unifying aesthetic. But imagine if it also had economic agency via a Fetch.ai agent or AEA (Autonomous Economic Agency) to not just discover and share, but buy crypto art and even auction it back to the community. Ownership of digital art, rather than by cities and physical museums, could increasingly be by AIs that work on our behalf or DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) as collectives. This may be one area where I can imagine personal tokens, stakes in people – in this case artists – or at least their personas and brands, could make sense.
Either way we at Outlier Ventures increasingly believe the macro environment for crypto art, NFTs and digital collectibles has created a perfect moment for the asset class to mainstream. Whilst we, as of yet, have no stakes in any of the projects mentioned, we are now actively recruiting these types of projects to explore the themes and ideas described in our next Basecamp Web 3 Accelerator (starting Jan 2021).
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