Art Basel Miami is full of crypto art. From immersive augmented reality installations to ‘NFT toys’ in cereal boxes, the range of projects showcased at the contemporary art fair that opened on December 2 offers a glimpse of the wild tangents that the burgeoning field has taken. taken in recent months.
Crypto art – essentially a digital asset whose ownership is secured by a non-fungible token – has become a topic of great interest after Christie’s sold a jpeg for $ 70 million in March. The breathtaking sale of Beeple’s The first 5,000 days has stimulated countless other NFT gambits from artists of all skill levels.
Vignesh Sundaresan (better known as MetaKovan) and Anand Venkateswaran (aka Twobadour), the bitcoin investors who won Christie’s auction, are particularly excited to see the genre flourish. Besides the notoriety of owning the most expensive jpeg in history, the two investors from Tamil Nadu, India, have a more important motive: to disrupt the Western outlook of the art world.
“Imagine an investor, a financier, a patron. Ten times out of nine your palette is monochrome, ”MetaKovan and Twobadour wrote in a joint blog post after Christie’s auction. “The goal was to show Indians and people of color that they too can be patrons, that crypto is an equalizing power between the West and the rest, and that the Global South is on the rise.”
The Singapore-based duo have since launched a $ 100,000 scholarship for writers and content creators interested in the field, as well as a dedicated NFT art festival called “Dreamverse.” They are also creating a virtual museum for cryptographic art, a “meta souk” as they call it.
MetaKovan and Twobadour say they are not curators but community builders. In their view, good art is more about the process than the outcome, and patronage is about friendship rather than genius. Ultimately, the goal is to “break cultural hegemony,” as MetaKovan puts it, and provide space for any willful and enthusiastic creator, regardless of their pedigree or geography.
Could crypto really shake up the established order in the art world? Quartz spoke to MetaKovan and Twobadour at the Dreamverse New York launch to learn more about their mission.
Quartz: How do you explain the rise of crypto art?
MetaKovan: Crypto needs art more than art needs crypto. NFTs and the technology behind them have been around for some time; the only thing that has changed is this influx of artists. They legitimized it.
What turns me on the most is that when you see an artist here [in the Dreamverse exhibition]- you should ask them what they do with the money. Most of them, in my experience, will say that they supported another artist.
Do you really feel that there is racism in the art world?
MetaKovan: I wouldn’t use such a strong word as racism. What we are trying to express is the fact that we are placing a value on something based on our own purpose. We definitely give a premium to some crops and not others. If you are an artist from one of these lesser-known cultures, there probably won’t be a market for your work.
For example, if I am a poet in my native language, who is Tamil, who will buy it? Now there is a project here with Thiruvalluvar, the 5th century BC poet and philosopher. It’s a great AI app from Althea that we ended up buying. Now it is there for all eternity and you can consult it for your daily life problems.
What we are trying to say is that we need to broaden our way of appreciating art beyond European sensibilities.
Deuxbadour: I think [the literary critic] Walter Mignolo put it best when he said that if your culture or art cannot be described in one of the six European languages, it is not considered culture.
What do you say to the critics who say a lot of the crypto art is actually bad, including several items from the Beeple coin you bought.
MetaKovan: I really humbly take all the criticisms regarding the purchase of the Beeple part. As you know, its content has attracted a lot of criticism. But I think people’s skepticism isn’t just about what’s in the Beeple article, but everything about NFTs.
So, do you really like Beeple’s piece “Everydays”? What kind of fun do you get from a play that cost you $ 69 million?
Deuxbadour: What attracted us to Beeple’s work was not just the art, but the process and its almost spiritual level of consistency. A work of art for art, performed flawlessly for 13 years – good days, bad days – it is very strong.
But how do you go about it?
Deuxbadour: We want to share it. We are building a structure in the metaverse on a monumental scale, which hopefully can become a focal point for culture and the performing arts. This will be the permanent address of the Beeple Everyday room. It is designed by Joshua Ramus of Rex Architects, who also designed the Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center.
Twobadour, you describe yourself as a “truffle sniffer” for crypto art. How to refine your nose?
Deuxbadour: My first experience with art was the crypto space, therefore digital art. Of course, most of us are exposed to art our entire lives, but when you try to reach out [to institutions], you are made to feel that it is only for people with means, as if it was locked in an ivory tower. Sometimes you are also made to feel that you are not cultivated enough. This has been my experience for 30 years of my life. When I entered the NFT space, I suddenly discovered these deep and incredible relationships with over 100 artists over the course of eight months. It really changed my perception of myself. It told me that I was finally worthy enough to engage in art and that was a beautiful thing for me.
As far as curation or “truffle sniffing” goes, it really is an emotional experience. Art doesn’t need curation, it just needs context. One artist friend of ours described said that when he sees a piece of art for the first time, he tries to figure out how it makes him feel. I think it’s a beautiful thing. In the end, you just have to go back to your guts, to follow how the work moves you.
We are currently in a world capital of art. Are you going to visit any museums in New York while you are here?
MetaKovan: I want to go to everyone. I have a few friends in New York and Los Angeles [who know art] and I will devote a day to them. They can be the curators of this experience.
Deuxbadour: I went to the Met, and it left me with a conflicting understanding of how it was created. I would like to have more context on art. I am more interested in art history today than before because I developed a taste for digital art.
But no, we don’t have time to visit museums on this trip.
You’ve been active in the Metaverse for some time. What do you think of the big companies that come into space and suddenly sit down at the table?
MetaKovan: They are not sitting at the same table, but they think they are. The metaverse is about decentralization and they are about central planning. There will be a lot of companies that see this as a trend and want to market it, but I think they don’t really understand what’s going on here.
People want change, an alternative to the current system. They wonder who owns the data and the platform, who makes all the money. For this to work, companies must change the way they are more powerful for users in terms of ownership and governance. It’s a very different shift in mindset. Companies that just take the name [metaverse] are about to find out it’s not that simple.