Event Recap

Event Recap: NFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll Go

Nov 29
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: NFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll Go

Nov 29
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: NFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll Go

Nov 29
Alley Team
Community Over Everything

Event Recap: NFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll Go

NFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll GoNFTs - Where They Came From And Where They'll Go

Since Beeple sold a group of NFTs for $3.5M in December 2020, and later, a $69M NFT at Christie’s in March 2021, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have become a hot topic at parties, in mainstream media, and in memes. NFTs have become hyped to the point where people are buying, selling, and discussing them without fully understanding their origin, purpose, and potential. 

This blockchain powered asset has existed for over a decade but in less than a year has become a recognized and valuable venture. Now, something that was once relegated to niche forums is becoming a force in the art world and beyond, creating exclusive communities and turning a serious profit.

We invited a crew of NFT trailblazers who have been involved in the creation and popularization of this revolutionary digital asset to share how NFTs came to be and how they will impact the art world. This was the first discussion in a series exploring the metaverse - from Crypto, DeFi, NFTs and beyond.

Highlights

NFT’s are revolutionizing the artworld. Our expert panelists dive into the rapidly changing marketplace from theperspective of the artists and the collectors. First, we examine the ways thatNFT’s benefit the artists themselves. Because NFT’s create immutable records ofprovenance, they pave the way for a marketplace where digital art is ownableand scarce. What is crucial for artists is the way this creates new paymentsystems: NFT’s and smart contracts open up financial opportunities in thesecondary market that have never been possible before.

Beyond the artists, how do NFT’saffect the traditional structure of galleries, curators, and so-calledmiddlemen of the art world? These figures remain an important part of theequation as they continue to elevate the artwork itself. But with NFT’s, thereis an opportunity to decentralize that curation. As the digital art communitybecomes more global, transparent, and diverse, it gives a voice to artists whohave traditionally been underrepresented.

The same paradigm shift is reflectedon the consumer side. There is simply a much larger market for digital art thanthe traditional demographics of the auction houses. NFT’s are pushing the artworld to a more inclusive and democratic place. As the concept of digitalownership becomes more pervasive, art world NFT’s will become more mainstream.The result is increased opportunity for digital artists and a growing, diversecommunity of consumers and creators.  

OUR PANELISTS:
Jason Bailey
ClubNFT
Noelle Tassey
Alley
Carlos Marcial Torres
Richard Entrup
ClubNFT

TRANSCRIPT:

Noelle Tassey  0:00  
Welcome, my name is Noelle Tassey, I'm CEO here at Alley and I'm thrilled to welcome all of you to the relaunch of our Alley event series, which we're restarting after about a year and a half long hiatus. So for those of you who don't know us, Alley works with some of the biggest companies in the world support their innovation and impact initiatives through our expertise in startups, change management, and storytelling. So we're now going to be running this weekly-ish series with some of the top thought leaders across emerging markets, technology, and in corporate America. This is for us to highlight our awesome community and hopefully educate and entertain all of you. For the startups that are tuning in, make sure you sign up for the Alley newsletter at Alley.com. This is where we'll make sure you stay on top of awesome opportunities to join accelerators, partner with top enterprises and get the word out there about your product. So thank you all for joining us. Super excited to kick this off. And now I'm going to hand it over to Jason to kick off the panelist introductions.

Jason Bailey  1:11  
Sure, yeah. Thanks for the intro, Noelle, and for having us. Really excited to be on the webinar today. So just brief introductions, I guess I'll go first here. So my name is Jason Bailey, a lot of people know me in sort of the art and tech space as Artnome. I've been really excited about the intersection of art and tech my entire life, started a blog called Artnome.com, where I wrote about the early writings on the blockchain and art and how those things sort of interface before we even had such a thing as NFT's and talked about data and art and analytics. And most recently, have started a company called Club NFT where we look at trying to solve problems around NFT's that are less to do with buying and selling and more about protection and discovery and sharing NFT's. Maybe we will kick it over to Carlos.

Carlos Marcial  2:07  
Yeah, sure. Thank you, Jason. Thank you for inviting me, thank you everybody else for giving me the opportunity to be here. I'm Carlos Marcial. I'm a Puerto Rican Mexican digital artist. I've been in the digital arts industry for 10 years now. I actually started doing VFX for film and TV productions and that kind of stuff. Eventually, I moved to work in different design studios. The last studio that I worked for was actually a studio that exclusively catered to blockchain companies. So we would work on all types of design for crypto and blockchain companies. That was like three years ago. And I think that's the place where I connected the two things that I that I'm most passionate about: art, design, and blockchain technology. So I guess I was kind of in the right place at the right moment to take advantage of what we're seeing today. Two years ago, I discovered NFT's through the Superbid platform. Then COVID hit, I became redundant, I was made redundant at my job. So I had to jump full-time into NFT's. And I think that I'm probably one of the first full-time NFT artists ever in history. So that's it. Thank you.

Noelle Tassey  2:12  
Great Carlos, we love it. And thanks for being here with us. Last but not least, Rich.

Richard Entrup  3:40  
Very cool, Carlos. Hi, Noelle and everyone. Great to be here. So my background is a bit unique. I wouldn't say I'm an NFT native, but definitely a digital native for sure. My art and tech history started back when I was at MoMA back in 2007. I was the technology director there. And while NFT's and blockchain were still relatively not known, had done some interesting stuff besides traditional technology around AR and VR, social media, obviously was all the buzz and getting engagement and attraction for the museum there. My second stint in the art world was actually most recently at Christie's, the auction house, and did some cool stuff there, had traditional technology as well as digital transformation. We actually kicked off the first blockchain based auction, the Ebsworth collection back in 2018. Everyone that actually won their lots within that sale actually registered their winnings, if you will, in the blockchain, which was a pleasant surprise. Also met Jason the second time, first at MoMA in a different capacity but at the art and tech conference Christie's had put together in 2018 that was held in London and focused on blockchain specifically. And I'll note that that's exactly the place where Jason had announced to the traditional art world this concept of NFT's and blockchain and the rest, as they say is art history. So great. To be here, looking forward to a compelling discussion.

Noelle Tassey  5:03  
Awesome. So as you guys see, we have an all star lineup today. And one of the reasons that we've selected the three of you to be here with us is, there's so much talk right now about NFT's. It's an incredibly hot space. I think even when people are trying to really get to the heart of: Where did these come from? What's this about? It's very hard to go back to the the real beginnings. But as you just mentioned, Rich, you guys, were there. So to the three of you, especially Jason, and you Rich, if you want to jump in, could you just share a little bit more both about your work with Artnome and the presentation at Christie's that really launched NFT's in the art community?

Jason Bailey  5:48  
Sure, yeah. I'm happy to kick that off. And if you want to add color, Rich, maybe we will just proceed that way. So I had already been writing about art and tech for a couple of years. And my whole life was sort of about art and tech. I was a black sheep artists that was born into a family of engineers. All the conversations in my life growing up were always about engineering, but I went to school for art. And when I graduated, I realized that weren't a lot of opportunities. So I went into the tech field myself, and had been writing about how artists were using artificial intelligence and machine learning and all these different things in art. And someone came to me and said, hey, you know, you should really look at the blockchain. And I thought, Nah, blockchain, that sounds like cryptocurrency. I'm not really into currency. I'm into art, why would I care about this? But I really respected, the guy's name is Ahmed Hosni, I really respected Ahmed. And I thought, I have a couple hours on Saturday, I'll look at the blockchain. And right away, it clicked for me back in 2017 how the blockchain could actually dovetail perfectly with a lot of the challenges I was seeing in the art world. So for one, there's a big problem with forgery and provenance in the traditional art world. And the blockchain is sort of a list of transactions that, we call it immutable, meaning it's really hard to go in and change that list of transactions. So you have a really solid record from where the artwork started with the artist all the way up to who the current collector is. Another problem that I had been looking at is how digital artists didn't really have a great market or a great means for selling their artwork and the blockchain. If we think about NFT's which we weren't even calling them NFT's yet, as being similar to Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, we can use the blockchain to show that these digital things that people thought weren't really ownable can actually be provably scarce. And we can show that there, there are a limited number of them, and we can show who owns them, and that they came from that specific artists. So this idea that we might be able to build a marketplace, an entire marketplace for digital artists sort of emerge. And then the third big one was that we could have a better system to pay artists because there's these things called smart contracts that you can use that will automatically add some percentage of every additional sale on the secondary market, back to the artist, right. So a lot of times artists get successful, but the success happens, you know, further downstream, and they don't actually see a lot of the money come back to them. So this was a way that we thought, you know, we could bring in sort of blockchain and smart contracts to help artists. So I wrote that article, as the story goes, after just a couple hours of research. The next day, I had invitations, like hundreds of invitations to speak all around the world an expert. And I was like, Oh, crap, I actually don't know that much about blockchain. I know a lot about art, but not that much about blockchain. So I met with a lot of the core community members and interviewed them and started the podcast and started writing about this, mostly to explain it to myself, but my writing became the pathway or the conduit for an entire generation of people that came into this space, right. So a lot of the platforms were built around my writing, a lot of the artists I helped onboard, and I had the luck and pleasure to be invited to speak at Christie's in 2018. And at that time, as Richard mentioned, people were thinking about the blockchain as a way to track physical paintings. And no one was really that excited about digital art. So me and Matt Hall from Crypto Punks, and Judy from Dada were sitting on a stage trying to tell people in this old world art audience, hey, the future is digital art, you should collect these things. And I'm going to give you each an NFT that you can unlock from this card and it's going to be in your goodie bag. Do not throw this away. If you don't want it, I will buy it back from you even though I'm giving it to you for free. And everyone was like yawning and looking at me like who are these nutcases that are trying to get us to buy digital art. They're actually like snickering and laughing or whatever. So the punchline of that story is three, four years later now, each of those 300 NFT's that we gave away at Christie's sells for roughly a million dollars. And I get emails every single day from people sending me random things they found in their wallet or in their sock drawer like, is this the card, is this the card? So it's just to show how quickly we've gone from an art world that thinks that digital artists borderline uncollectible to 2021, where we've got $10 billion plus in NFT sales just through the first half of the year alone.

Noelle Tassey  10:14  
That's incredible. I think that story about the lost...

Jason Bailey  10:21  
The lost, Robbies.  

Noelle Tassey  10:22  
The lost Robbies, that's just...

Richard Entrup  10:26  
Soul crushing is what it is.

Noelle Tassey  10:27  
Yeah, it's brutal. For anybody listening, if you if you lost your lost Robbie, my heart goes out to you. What were you thinking? Awesome. Well, I would love, Carlos, to just get the artist's perspective on this, right? Like you said, you're pioneering this new career, I don't think you can check off full-time NFT artists on your tax returns yet. I would just love to just hear more about how the last two years have been, and what it's been like to blaze your own trail there. And also, I'd love to know, you mentioned this in your intro a little bit, but obviously COVID kind of closed one door and opened this amazing door's line of work, but how has COVID played into that as well?

Carlos Marcial  11:17  
Right. Sure. I mean, it's been the most surreal experience. I'll say it's like the second most surreal experience after becoming a dad and having to deal with fatherhood. But yeah, this has been really, really crazy. I mean, I've seen when I minted my first NFT in 2019, it was something that I thought it was just going to become like a hobby, because it actually felt like a hobby. And I immediately was welcomed by the community that was already there. You know, I wasn't the first one, Jason was already, 2018 he was working on this. You had Sculpey, you had you had a couple more artists. But I think I jumped in at a great time, you had some of the best artists inside crypto art, I think we tokenize this more or less at the same time. And I thought, yeah, it was gonna be something that I would do, you know, at night after I put my kids to bed. And then I minted my first NFT. And I saw that it sold for like $100. And I immediately started jumping up and down in my house because, I mean, I like many other 3D, Digital, generative, any kind of  digital artist, we had already spent so much time uploading our art to centralized social media, Facebook, Instagram, whatnot. And we never saw anything in return, you know, like, we've been feeding these platforms, we've been making them millions or billions of dollars through our content. And we never saw anything in return. Maybe you know, like the client here and that I would get as a freelance digital artist, but nothing more than that. And then I saw somebody buying my first NFT for $100. And I couldn't believe it, that somebody was willing to pay that amount of money for a digital image, right. And I still think that I wasn't quite able to get it when I saw that first sale. I always tell people that it was waiting to be sold, like three months later, that same NFT resold for I think it was either $500 or $600. And I immediately got a royalty payment for 10% of that secondary market sale. And I think that's when everything clicked, because one of the things is like, I was raised by a painter, and my mom is an art historian in Puerto Rico, in the island of Puerto Rico. So I come from an artistic family and I seen firsthand the economical struggles. I know my parents divorced because of money problems, right? My dad was unable to sell his paintings, and that caused a lot of problems when I was growing up in my household, right? So when I saw that, I knew immediately that there was something here that needed my attention, that this was completely new. I knew that my father never got a royalty payment for a painting that was sold in the secondary market. I knew that first-hand. And so when I experienced that, it just changed my mind. I knew that this was something that was going to revolutionize the art world. But the thing is, I thought it was going to take much more years, like five, I don't know, six, seven years. And then I just saw it all happen in a year and a half after I joined. So it's been so surreal and I still feel like I'm in the middle of it. So it's kind of like Richard was talking about the impressionists and I feel like I'm an impressionist right in the middle of impressionism trying to be a movement. So you know, it's really cool. It's really interesting. It's been crazy. It's changed my life forever. Like the royalty payment, I didn't have to send emails to try to get them only to get the payment. No, no, no, wait for mem three months til we have the money to pay it. No, no, no, it was immediately. It was settled by smart contracts on the blockchain. And then COVID head, right, like you mentioned, and I was fired from my job. I don't think it was COVID, I think it was the company that I used to work with that didn't evolve quickly enough to adapt to the lock downs and COVID. So that didn't work. And I didn't have any other option. And I had already spent four or five months selling NFT's and they were selling well. And I saw how the prices were rising, how the value of my digital artwork was racing. And then I just decided, yeah, let's go, let's do this. I had a conversation with my wife, I remember she told me, We could always go back to being nine to five workers, employees, so why not, let's give it a chance. So I have to give credit to my wife Alondra, for giving me the push forward. And it's been already two years and I've been living off completely  the sales of NFT's. Like the food that my kids eat, it's from NFT sales. The rent in this place, it's being paid from NFT sales. Everything, that car is being paid from NFF sales. It happened.

Noelle Tassey  16:45  
That's incredible.

Carlos Marcial  16:46  
It really happened.

Noelle Tassey  16:47  
Yay. I mean, your story every time just blows me away. I mean, everything about it's so powerful, and especially that that realization around the royalty payments in that moment that you had there. Something that we've all talked about a lot in our one-on-ones, in our chats leading up to this, has been that idea around, you know, how is this changing the dynamics between collectors, artists, and then traditional ecosystems with middlemen, and the idea of artists continuing to receive payments as their art appreciates in value to me is incredibly powerful. It's so compelling, I think it's not something we think about all the time. But you look at all that value that's generated in the secondary market. And so it's a very, very cool breakthrough. And an awesome thing that comes with the rise of NFT's. However, we still have this sort of middleman structure in the form of marketplaces. Right? So we've moved away from maybe galleries handpicking star artists and that sort of celebrity artists system, but we haven't necessarily entirely shifted away from that. Right. So I'd love to just explore that with the three of you a little bit around, how decentralized really is this now? Who's the kingmakers, if anyone? How do you guys see the system, the same versus different to what was in place previously, etc.? And I think something we can chat about there too is diversity and inclusion, you know, what is getting lifted up? Is this more equitable? So to you guys, all three of you really.

Richard Entrup  18:31  
I'll jump in, if I may. I think Carlos's story is a great one. Noelle, as you mentioned, you know, traditionally the non digital art world, the physical art world, auction houses specifically, most of the artists they were selling were long dead, right, with a handful of living artists like Hirst and Koons, and Kondo and others, number one. Number two, digital art within those auction houses was very scarce and limited to a handful of team labs, maybe Pipilotti Rist and some other relatively obscure, not known names in the non art world. To Carlos's point, I think the opportunity for digital artists up until NFT's was very limited. There were some websites selling them, diving into art, some others where they could do that. They were selling directly, I think people were actually selling this stuff potentially directly as well. So this is about the artist. It's a very different dynamic. Blockchain is about peer to peer democratization of that supply chain, whatever it is: travel stock, real estate, whatever the transaction is. I think NFT's and art NFT's are the proof of concept for this whole notion of blockchain and the democratization of an industry. But you're raising a point around peer to peer, which is very interesting, so that the MakersPlaces and Nifty's and the Open Seas are popping up like Spotify almost. They are the middleman taking a small vig on every transaction. The good news is that the artist at least is participating in the secondary market. So when they sell it once, and I buy an NFT of Carlos's from Carlos directly, if I then in turn sell my NFT of Carlos to someone else like Jason downstream, Carlos is still getting a residual, he's getting some, some royalty on that. That's very unique. That does not exist in the physical art world, never has. You know, Hockney's alive, Hockney's stuff sells for $100 million. He sold it once. And then if it sells through auction while he's alive, he does not see any money there. So that's a very unique dynamic. I think that this changed for sure the technology. And the other thing is, again, I think blockchains promise was to cut out that middleman as you mentioned, but I'm going to defer to Jason on that one. Where are we going with peer to peer with regards to NFT, art NFT's, that is.

Jason Bailey  20:50  
So in the beginning, anyone that was involved with what we now call NFT's, it was really a bunch of sort of hippie, altruistic hippies. We were all trying to think about, just like how the people from the cryptocurrency side wanted to get rid of the banks, we were thinking, well, we'll get rid of all the middlemen. Maybe that's the galleries, maybe that's even the curators. Ironically, I've done a lot of curation, right. And that will mean that more money will go to the artists, that's what we thoughr. And I advised probably a half dozen to a dozen platforms and gave them bad information essentially in those early years. I said, Look, this whole space is going to move towards the artists being able to do everything on their own, and there's no need for a marketplace. But what I learned, you know, I was wrong. And what I learned is that if you're an artist, and your work isn't selling, there's nothing magic about turning it into an NFT that all of a sudden people will race and start buying the work, right? You still need these people that actually are going to lift up and elevate your work and connect you with collectors and help write about your work and why other people might be interested in it. So my opinion on this is actually done sort of a 180 from thinking we get rid of all of these people, to realizing that we need them to help lift up artists and get their work out in front of people. Now, what we want in what hopefully is a more idealized world of art that we're trying to build, is to make sure that the share that the artist gets is larger, whether that's the secondary royalties or lower commissions for the marketplaces in the first place. And in terms of where we're headed, I think the marketplaces that I'm going to say were sort of enlightened from the beginning, that got into this space for the right reasons, are actually still trying to figure out the right way to give governance back to the artists and collectors. So you look at someone like SuperRare, right, who I have a lot of respect for, that have been in this space for a long time and I think for the right reasons. They recently released governance tokens that effectively gave the authority back to the artists and the collectors to try to take over the entire community and in the marketplace, right. So I think we're still exploring what that looks like. But the way I look at it, the way I describe it, for those of us that literally wanted to build a new marketplace, or a new art world: the old art world, we kind of looked at it like an oak tree. And there were a lot of things we wanted to change about the old art world, but it's hard to reshape an old oak tree, right? It's going in the direction it's going and even if they want to change direction, it's kind of hard to change direction, right? And we see NFT's as being like a sapling. So they're not perfect. There's all kinds of problems, and I'm sure we'll get into those conversations today too. But when it's young and still malleable, and we can help shape and experiment that direction it goes, we think we have a better shot at building a more inclusive art world that actually benefits artists more.

Carlos Marcial  23:35  
I'm just gonna jump in. I think you're, you're always going to need tastemakers in culture. That's part of how culture works, right? And like Jason said, I thought like Jason, exactly like him in the beginning also, Like, Oh, you're just going to get rid of everything and everybody in the middle and ax them. But then you start to understand that you need people to write about, you know, NFT'S, about crypto art, to curate it. And I think like Jason mentioned, like SuperRare, they're making a very conscious effort to decentralize curation. And I think that's where we're moving forward. We need to decentralize. We've been able to cut some middlemen. We're not going to get rid of curation. We need it, but we need it to be more decentralized. Actually, right now there's what they're calling the the SuperRare Space Race. And it's an opportunity for like the community members of collectors and artists from SuperRare to propose spaces, as they call them, which I think it's like galleries, like virtual galleries for the managers. And I actually have one that I proposed, Metaphysical, which is a gallery for Latin American art. And I think that's where we're moving, right? For example, when you think about Christie's and Sotheby's, they all have like the Latin American art departments. So that means that we here in Latin America, we are being curated from the north, we are being thought from there, and then it comes to us. And I think what we're trying to do here is finally as Latin American artists to be able to curate ourselves, to think for ourselves, right? And I think obviously we're in the very beginning, we're really in the early stages, we're only going to be able to see the repercussions of what decentralized curation might mean for the future of art and culture, maybe in five to 10 years, right. But we are seeing the stepping stones for that. And for me, talking from Mexico City and from the Global South, I know that I've been very lucky. And there's a lot of other Latin American artists that haven't had the chance that I've had. But that's what we're trying to change with Metaphysical and decentralizing curation, being able to give more opportunities to unheard voices in the Global South.

Richard Entrup  26:15  
Carlos, Noelle, if I could just pick up on that one. As Carlos mentioned, I just had this discussion with John, the CEO of SuperRare this morning, these these spaces Carlos are referring to are basically going to be built on top of the SuperRare platform, but provide that community in the case of Latin American or Islamic art, or old masters, whatever the category is, they'll be able to build a community and curate it and actually just leverage those platforms. So it's the best of both worlds, right? So SuperRare gets a piece of it. But I think the artists and the community focused on that genre will then be able to play together and kind of focus as a community. I think the key word here on all of this is 'community.' That's a very different mindset. That's a tenet, I think, for the NFT community, the NFT, this whole thing happening, this movement, is about that. And something I think that was probably missing somewhat in the traditional art world. There was definitely community, just a very, very small one. This is quite the opposite, right? This is global, this is open source, this is fully transparent, very, very different paradigm shift in that sense of community.

Noelle Tassey  27:24  
So I think something that has been really fascinating, and just on the community theme quickly, we'll be doing another one of these events in I think about a month very much focused on that community theme. So I'm really excited to keep digging on that. Because I do think it's the hidden power of this entire thing. And something that gets lost in the conversation around treating these like financial assets and the speculative approach to this, the things that got lost, I think, in that dialogue are the community piece, the artists empowerment piece, and the actual spirit of the art. And we had some really great questions in the Q&A on this that we'll hopefully get to in a little bit. But I just want to go back to the conversation we were just having about new modes of exchange. I think there's so much interesting stuff happening in the space around these marketplaces, and different ways of transacting. But then if you look at headlines from the last 12 months or so, I think the one headline that everybody from my mom to you guys in this panel saw was the Beeple auction at Christie's. So how do you see the old art world, you know, as they're beginning to dip their toes in the space, how do you see them interacting and engaging with all of these emerging platforms? And how do they become a part of that ecosystem? And is it good or bad, or probably both, as always?

Jason Bailey  28:53  
Happy to take this one. So for the first three years of being into NFT's and art on the blockchain, people didn't really understand what I was talking about. And they're like, Wait, you're buying JPEGs for 10s of dollars that you can see for free, this doesn't make any sense. And I kept telling them for years and years: No, it's global. It's the first time that we have a global art market where it doesn't matter where you're born, what your gender is, what your color is, everyone can participate. And we're trying to build this thing from the ground up. People didn't really listen, and then fast forward to late 2020, early 2021 and everyone came running to me and they're like, hey, some white artist guy just sold a digital artwork for $70 million for a 200 year old auction house. Is that what you're about? Is that what you've been about these last three years? And I'm like, No, not really. That's not what the core community was about for the first three years. We were about trying to actually break that system to be honest and try to build a new one. Now that said, we owe some gratitude to Beeple and the sale and all the news that came in because it opened up the number of collectors which opens up the number of artists that can be supported, right? But there's been an awful lot of education that needs to be done from those of us that saw this opportunity, not as a way to replicate the 200 year old auction houses selling works by a white male artist for $70 million. That's a thing. And NFT's aren't monolithic so that's always going to be a part of what we're doing. But the sad thing is that that's really an outlier from a statistical standpoint. Every day, there are hundreds of sales for 10s of dollars, right? And those sales, no one writes when when Jason buys a work by you know, Sue for $20. Right? The New York Times doesn't come and write about it., right? So you what you see is sort of an unusual amount of attention paid to these enormous sales, which pulls away from the more interesting stories like Carlos's. Carlos's story doesn't happen in the old art world order. Very, very, very rarely, right? And there are Carloses around the world in the dozens, he's just one of the ones that's the best, in my opinion, about talking about his story. And that's new and unique to this space. So the good and the bad in summary is: Yeah, there's no question that a combination of the Beeple sale at Christie's and the Top Shots basketball NFT's taking off. Those two things, put NFT's on the radar for the mainstream. But it put him on the mainstream's radar, we think, a lot of us, for the wrong reasons. We're still feeling this focus around the money and the flipping and the speculation. And we think that that doesn't come from us because there was no money for three years, there was just supporting artists. None of us thought we were going to make any money. And we're trying to reconcile that still. How do we do that? How can we be grateful that there's all this interest and that we're growing this fast, but turn these people from flippers and speculators into authentic art appreciators are collectors?

Carlos Marcial  31:57  
I was just going to say quickly that I think, you know, obviously the Beeple sale is super headline grabbing. But if you measure what happened to me and my family compared to where Beeple was before NFT's, obviously it was like a massive jump. But if you think, just like Jason mentioned, I wasn't supposed to get this opportunity. I wasn't supposed to be sitting down talking to somebody who works at Christie's, I wasn't supposed to be getting a quarter million sales for my art, I wasn't supposed to be doing that. So when you think where I was, as a third world artist here in Mexico City, two years ago I wasn't able to pay rent. You know, I was really, really, really struggling. And if you really see and understand what happened to me, I would argue that NFT's changed my life even more than what they did to Beeple's life. It's relative. Right? So COVID hit and I'm here in Mexico, there's no social security network here in Mexico City, there were no stimulus checks, that doesn't happen in the third world. Quite literally, my stimulus check during COVID were my NFT sales. I don't even like to talk about this a lot, because I get emotional thinking where I might have ended up if NFT's didn't appear in my life, especially knowing that COVID happened, I don't like to think about it, because I don't think it would have been like an easy scenario. Okay. So I think that's the problem with the Beeple and those big sales. Those things don't let people hear the stories of different artists like myself in Mexico, in Bolivia, in Senegal, in Vietnam, in Zimbabwe, because it's been happening in all those places. Like I have a friend artist in Argentina and she tweeted recently, she's been doing well, she's been selling her NFT's quite well, and she made in a month the same thing that she was doing in a year as a teacher in Argentina. Right. And that's life changing. That's life changing. I don't argue against the fact that Beeple's life was really changed by NFT's, you know, that crazy amount of money. But there's a lot of smaller studies that are not being told, that are as big or even bigger than Beeple's.

Richard Entrup  34:48  
Noelle, if I can just, again, put a bow on that one. I think there's two ends of the spectrum here. There's the traditional struggling artists who did not have a platform to get their art out there in a very big way. And then there's the other end. I think the Beeple thing, there's some Malcolm Gladwell component to what that happened there. By the way, he just sold another one last week for $25 million, the Human One project, which is pretty cool actually, just the whole concept of physical and virtual. It's a physical thing sold as a unit, he's going to be editing and changing it forever, whoever won it. But to Carlos's point, I think the NFT movement and the community was about the artists first and foremost, not the dealers, not the galleries, not the auction houses, the middlemen, if you will. It's it's about the artist. And I think there needs to be a lot more attention on that. And what opportunity these new platforms are providing for folks. Again, Carlos is one end of the spectrum for sure, but don't know how much money Beeple was making before that 70 million. As he claims, it wasn't a whole lot. He was selling stuff for 100 bucks each, maybe 500 bucks each, but it's all relative for sure.

Noelle Tassey  35:55  
Definitely. I mean, it's it's an incredibly powerful movement, still, just so in its early days. I think that there are two things I want to make sure we cover. One is really, this is still not super mainstream. We're very early in the adoption curve on NFT's. Would love to talk more about what you guys see as drivers of that leap to mainstream adoption. And then as part of that, on the art side, obviously, and to the trends of this conversation, I feel like the theme has been talking about these big legacy institutions and things like that. And then this incredibly democratized emerging, dynamic community. What's going to get those big collectors who are on the sidelines, so what's getting them in? But I think first, I'd love to just chat about what's going to help us make the leap into the mainstream, and I feel like financial speculation is probably not the answer, hopefully, because there's so much more to this.

Richard Entrup  36:55  
I think there's a certain FOMO aspect alive and well right now. You've got the legacy art, physical art collectors jumping in, buying a Crypto Punk or buying just to kind of play along and participate in the movement, if you will, at their level. I know many traditional art art collectors who are not buying any of it, not interested, they're watching this, they probably won't. And there's some few and far between. I think the opportunity for the NFT artists themselves, that's not their market, the market is the you know, hundreds, billions of people that are on the internet that can buy a piece of art for 50 bucks, or 5,000 or those crypto millionaires that are out there that made money on crypto the last 20 years, I think there's a much, much larger market. And that's the point here, traditionally, the art world was kept to a very, very small demo that dealt with auction houses. I think up until 2018, quite frankly, that Jason and I attended the first Christie's art and tech conference, there are people in that building that would have never stepped foot in it, quite frankly, had that blockchain event not been going on. So this is all happening very organically. It's a good thing. I think the Beeple sale will only help folks like Carlos and other NFT artists be become mainstream. So everyone's participating in this, which is what this is all about. Right? Democratization and opportunity.

Jason Bailey  38:19  
I think I would echo, I've talked to three or four of the largest auction houses in the last month or two. And the question that I've asked the folks that I talked to at those auction houses is, are you seeing your traditional collectors buying any of these NFT's? And they've all told me no. So they're thrilled, by the way, because they've been trying to figure out, we're seeing a massive cultural change from generation to generation, right, particularly around the younger generation wanting to be more inclusive and being digitally native and for auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's, they're trying to figure out, how do we adjust to this new younger audience of art collectors without losing the old audience, right? So all these NFT's that are being bought and sold from the auction houses, the buyers aren't their usual customers. It's this new group of younger cryptocurrency, wealthy cryptocurrency folks that are coming in and they're thrilled, as well they should be. They're a business, right, and they need to figure out how to stay relevant moving forward, while not ostracizing their older collector crowd. I think to answer the other part of your question in terms of how does this expand or what does that look like moving forward? As much an NFT cheerleader as I am sometimes, NFT's are riddled with all kinds of problems still. And one of the biggest ones is onboarding. For anyone that's actually tried to buy NFT's go from zero cryptocurrency to getting cryptocurrency to installing their your wallet browser wallet to figuring out why when they even move money, they lose money because of these gaspee things and then don't lose your keys or you lose all your money and you're still on the call. The onboarding is brutal. It's like a weekend and it doesn't always end in you actually buying an NFT, right? So despite that, we've seen $10 billion in sales the first time for this year. But this pretty much arguably broken onboarding process, imagine what happens when the technical barriers to entry and the costs to entry go down, and the rest of the world can participate. And instead of taking a weekend, it takes a few minutes. That alone, just removing those barriers, I think we're going to see this whole space take off, right, and the one thing that I would add to that is, some people are just allergic to the acronym NFT, they've seen too much in the news, just no matter how much you talk about it, you're never gonna convince them to think that NFT's are worthwhile are going to go somewhere. But if I switch that, and I say, Okay, throw NFT, the acronym, out the window. Let's just talk about digital ownership for a second. You know, I grew up with records, then cassettes, then CDs, and now my music, there is no physical component to it, right? Then I had, you know, VHS and, you know, DVDs, and now my movies, I just screen or whatever, there's no physical component to it. I spend most of my money on books, those books, I haven't picked up and read a physical book in two years. I listen to podcasts and, books on streaming books or whatever. So, when you explain it to peole that way, and you ask, Hey, do you think your kids, rather than going and get a happy meal and a piece of plastic with the happy meal or whatever, they would rather have a fortnight weapon or an Animal Crossing characte? The entire shift towards digital ownership is happening, whether you like NFT's or not, whether or not NFT's are actually the way that we even use it. Like maybe NFT's do disappear in a year, but in three to five years, 10 years, 15 years, this trend of everything moving towards digital ownership is just going to keep going. And today NFT's are one of the best options for trying to own those things and prove that you own them digitally.

Noelle Tassey  41:38  
Yeah, for sure. Carlos?

Carlos Marcial  41:41  
I'm just going to add that I would be lying to you, if I didn't say that I would, at some level, like the opportunity to be showcase in an auction house like Christie's or Sotheby's. But I'm in my 30s. And also my dad is a painter, and my mom is an art historian so I have that background. But I have that feeling that if you talk to crypto artists in their 20s, they don't care that much, and that's where you're seeing a big cultural shift. And the other thing is the thing that's been in everybody's mouth is like the metaverse. So you have Mark Zuckerberg rebranding his whole company to Meta. I think that's telling you something. Whether we like it or not, everything is moving there. I don't make up the rules. I don't make up the rules of how culture and society moves into different spaces. The thing is, wherever humans move, they will always bring culture with them. Right? Because I think culture is our software, right? Like, we are not able to understand the real world without culture. And since we've been spending so much time on this metaverse, we need that culture in there, even for when we go back to the real world, right? Because the real world, the world that we're leaving now, it's going to be completely a ... I forgot the word in English. It's been built also by digital culture. So like Jason mentioned, it's time that we have digital ownership. It just doesn't make sense to continue evolving how culture has been evolving without digital ownership. My kids are just constantly asking me to buy them stuff inside their apps. They don't ask like I did when I was a kid and was constantly bothering my mom to buy me like cars and stuff. They like that stuff, but it's it's mixed between like 50% get me a Hot Wheels car and 50% give me the clothes for my avatars inside my app. I see my kids and I see the future. I can't imagine my kids, like for me NFT and crypto are already like an intergenerational thing. So that I know that there's going to be a continuum of all of this. Because I know that my kids are going be talking about how their dad saved them through this global pandemic by becoming a crypto artist. They're going be talking about that to my grandchildren. I believe that. I believe that and I agree with Jason like it might go down like Bitcoin and crypto too but it's here to stay. We don't know what's the end game and what's going to make it explode further to maybe that place where even all artwork collectors jump in, but they might never jump in and it's okay. You know, this is for like the younger generations. I'm building this for my kids.

Richard Entrup  44:59  
Noelle, one more point on this: We're talking about NFT's in the art world. NFT's are digital assets of any kind. Could be music, could be art, could be film, there are movies being made where you can own a piece of it. Anthony Hopkins did one recently. Quentin Tarantino's trying to break down his his Pulp Fiction film into snippets and you can actually own stills of that and pieces of that. It can also be medical records. It can be any digital asset, if you will. So NFT's I mean, the art NFT's are the first proof of concept, I think, if you will, that's going quite well. But as Carlos mentioned, this is really very serendipitous timing. You've got all this Metaverse buzz happening, you've got the NFT community, you've got crypto finally heading towards some level of normalization. We won't go there in any depth right now. But I think all this happening digital assets are not new. I had my kids on Club Penguin 10 years ago, they were buying stuff. I mean, this was significant. Pokemon GO, 50 million bucks. I mean, these companies are making billions of dollars. So this whole concept of digital assets is not new. What's new, is making them collectible and owning unique ones. And then that whole collectible, dynamic, and blockchain, that's what's I think becoming much more pervasive and exploding it. So to Carlos's point, this is just getting started. I think NFT is the first real Etherium use case and proof of concept. I think there's many more coming, not just for consumers but even in the business world, companies looking at blockchain and NFT, specifically for healthcare, for FinTech, DeFi is a whole other subject we can talk about. You may have heard of a new acronym called DAO's, which are whole organizations being built around democratized ownership using these technologies. This is only getting started. It's much bigger than just the art world, but the art world is testing the proof of concept right now as we watch.

Noelle Tassey  46:50  
Yep, definitely. And for those of you tuning in, Rich just basically gave you a preview of all the topics we're hoping to hit over the next few months.

Richard Entrup  46:58  
Sorry.

Noelle Tassey  47:00  
No, it's perfect, then I don't have to remember. So definitely keep checking in and watch this space. Oh, my goodness, I'm realizing we have 10 minutes left and there's still so much more to talk about. Because we're focused on the art theme and I have to bring it back, although I think the intergenerational aspect of digital ownership and the legacy that leaves is really fascinating.  I just wish we had two hours. But we have gotten some really interesting questions about culture and art and how digitalization changes that. So I think I'm going to read two of our questions at the panel. So I think they're connected to each other, and then we can take them where we will. So the first one from Josh is: Where do you see the generative art projects migrating or evolving to? Will they take the same shape in six months or change? And if so, how, in your opinion? Ad also, Carlos, I think I'd love for you to field this. We could also for those people tuning in who might not know, explain what generative art is, that would be great. And then the other question, which I think is tied to this is: What changes and what stays the same about the social construction and meaning of art with NFT's? Which is sort of the subtext of 50% of this conversation, really. So over to you guys.

Richard Entrup  48:26  
I think the second one, I'm going to let Jason and Carlos go into the generative, Jason's a generative artist.

Carlos Marcial  48:31  
I'm going to let Jason, I think he's the expert on that.

Richard Entrup  48:34  
On the second one, I think what what changes from the art perspective, what is art? That's a whole other realm of discussion. I think Frank Zappa had a quote, if I may, quote, Mr. Zappa, he said, art is creating something from nothing and selling it. I'm not sure I totally agree with that. But art is very subjective. I think that digital art is not new, as I mentioned earlier. I think that the opportunity for that many more digital artists to come forefront now, not just be known because they got sold at Christie's or Sotheby's but to be known because of the platforms globally, I think is a great opportunity. If you look at some of this work, it can stand against, in my humble opinion, just about anything else that's been done in paint, only it's being done digitally. I'll also leave with this note: photography, when it first came out was technology. It wasn't an art form. It wasn't an art category. It was tech to capture moments in time for historical and archival purposes. Photography evolved into an art category. I think this may be the same thing to get people a little bit closer to how thi is technology and how it relates to art. And then lastly, there's some really great stuff happening in the AI machine learning space. I mean, you could mention one artists here. I think Rafiq Annadel, who's doing some amazing stuff, most recently with MoMA, where he basically took every MoMA painting there is and fed it through his AI models, and then the computer system generated this really beautiful artwork, I think it's a whole other realm of art opportunity. So it's very much art for sure. Maybe not to some old master purist sitting in an auction house, but I think it's a new medium, and only getting started.

Jason Bailey  50:18  
Cool, yeah. And I'm happy to take the one on generative art. So the quick high level definition of generative art is it's art that's created through programming on a computer. So that often means because with computers, you can repeat processes over and over and over again in ways that would make a human sort of tired, you often get these really complex, rich images or aesthetics that are the result of being able to run a program over and over again. And often there's this balance between control and randomness, where you can sort of populate your your program with a certain amount of randomness. It was a pretty nerdy subsection of digital art that only people like me cared about for the last 25 years, that's sort of been my specialty. No one ever wanted to talk to me about it this year out of nowhere, not at all, not only did everyone get super excited about NFT's, which was another thing no one wants to talk to me about. But overnight, seemingly, everyone been obsessed with generative art, which is great, because what I've been trying to tell people for a while now about generative artists, if you could fast forward 100 years from now, and look back at our generation, let's just even say 1960 to like 2030, right? People aren't going to ask, who invented a new brushstroke or something like that, or some painting technique. They're going to look and see how our entire lives are changed, how we work, eat, sleep, drink, think, you know, everything has been shifted through digitization, right, this digital transformation that we've gone through,. And they're going to ask, who were the artists that actually used those new tools from that generation, computing at its core to actually reflect the world that we lived in and the changes that we went through. In my opinion, a lot of the most important artists of our generation for that reason are going to be generative artists. Now, what's interesting, that's sort of the positive. What's interesting, though, I think, whenever anything grows too fast, people maybe have some hard lessons to learn, right? So generative art, by its own nature can sort of infinitely produce output. You can produce one set of code a project can produce millions of images through output. And I think a lot of collectors that have gotten really excited about generative art don't realize how it works yet or what it is. And having spent 20 years with generate artists and studying generative art, making generative art, a lot of them that I talked to actually think of the code itself as the artwork for that reason, right? The images that it can produce are sort of just artifacts, which I guess is sort of where the word art comes from. But I think people don't quite realize just how that model works, where the often the artist thinks of the code that they've written as being the actual artwork, and it can produce sort of infinite outputs from that. So we may, because of the nature of generative art, we may see a pretty quick cycle of the whole world getting really excited about it. But the nature of generative art is that it can and does often flood its own market, because it's so easy to produce more from the same codebase. So yeah, little bit of a nerdy answer. But as a nerd about generative art, we're going to get a nerdy answer.

Noelle Tassey  53:13  
That's why we're here.

Carlos Marcial  53:14  
Yeah, I mean, I was going to add that some people like the social construct, how it's changing how the social construct around art. And I think it's not changing it that much as it is like revealing exactly how art has function throughout modernity. For me, it's kind of similar to understanding Bitcoin and crypto I think, before decentralized currencies came into existence, a lot of people like myself didn't have any opportunity to really understand how finance works, how inflation, deflation, all of those things were, investments. That's another thing similar to NFT's. That technical category has helped a lot of people understand a lot of things around finance. And I think NFT is doing something similar to how we can finally see how art has been actually being traded throughout all modernity. When you think about it, you don't buy the Basquiat, you don't buy the $50 worth of canvas and oil or acrylic paintings, you're buying something intangible. So we've been already trading things that are completely intangible right, they're not physical. We've been moving millions and billions of dollars just trading those things. And the other thing is kind of like the digital provenance, for example, like my last NFT is called Salvator Cibermundi and it's my take on the whole Salvator Mundi, the genre that famously, you have the famous one that people think or do not know for sure if it's painted by Da Vinci. I think I just dropped that at the best time, right? Because you just have the Museo del Prado in Spain, kind of like really saying, we don't think that's like an authentic Da Vinci and I have my Salvator Cibermundi which has an immutable and incorruptible digital provenance. So forever, people will be able to track the Salvator Cibermundi to me. Right. And I think people are just realizing that stuff. So I don't think it's like shifting the social construct. It's just revealing to a wider audience and to a global audience, actually how our markets have workde throughout modernity. That's my thesis.

Jason Bailey  55:46  
I like it.

Noelle Tassey  55:47  
Me too. We're gonna do one last lightning round question since we're at time and then wrap if you want to drop a link to that piece in the chat for anyone?

Carlos Marcial  55:58  
Oh, sure. Yes, yes.

Noelle Tassey  56:01  
Since we can do that. That's the benefit of a zoom, the post the post COVID Zoom world. One of the many benefits it turns out, as we've learned on this call. It's really nice to be talking about the ways this pandemic changed people's lives, incidentally, for the better. Because we've had to do a lot of panels about the opposite, which is also important, but less, less fun, and less inspiring. Anyway, so final lightning round on this. I know that everybody who's tuned in today is probably here because they're incredibly passionate about the space, they want to learn more, they're excited, they're curious. And since we can't keep doing this for the next 24 hours straight, and there's so much to learn, would love to just go around and have you all named your top two to three resources, we'll make sure to send these out in the recap afterwards. So whether it's like a podcast, website, somebody that you follow on Twitter who's really great, just where people can go to really take the pulse of this community, get in the action and connect with credible sources. Obviously, if you're in the audience, and you're not following all three of our panelists on Twitter, what are you doing? But beyond that, where should they be going?

Carlos Marcial  57:21  
That's easy for me. I think, and it's not because Jason is here, but I think you should just follow Jason and read all his articles in the Artnome blog. Yeah, that's it. I mean, that's how I really understood, I jumped in, I didn't get a lot of stuff. And when I started reading Jason's articles, yeah, they were really helpful. So I'm just gonna say Artnome.

Richard Entrup  57:46  
I agree, 100%. Just follow Jason on Twitter and you're good to go there. And that's more from a collector's perspective. From more of a looking at the analytics and the data, and tracking it more as an asset, there are some pretty cool sites out there tracking these things by category, whether it's art and collectibles, if it's PFPs. Or if it's gaming, NFT's, there's tons of sites out there tracking this stuff more as you would track a stock or or your Bitcoin for that matter. Most of the Bitcoin tracking sites have an NFT selection as well. It's all in the same genre, if you will. So there's much great information out there. But folks like Jason, and once you attach to Jason, he's a force multiplier to 10s of 1000s of others who are playing in this space. And once you're in, it's hard to get out. I'll be honest with you, I'm spending most of my waking hours immersed in it.

Noelle Tassey  58:39  
I like to call Jason the patron saint of NFT's.

Jason Bailey  58:44  
I'm going to blush, guys. So yeah, I guess in addition, and thanks for telling folks to follow me, but really, there's a big community of us on Twitter. We call it crypto Twitter, it's just regular Twitter, but we call it crypto Twitter because all we talk about is NFT's and crypto and stuff like that. And it's a very welcoming community. And yeah, if you want to follow me, I'm at Artnome there. But I think a lot of people, there's so much mainstream press around NFT's that just kind of covers the same territory and big sales and things like that. So if you're looking for some actual thoughtful writing that's not from me around the NFT space, I always say Furtherfield is actually a great organization out of England that wrote I think still one of the best books on early exploration of the blockchain. You can just go to their Furtherfield website, they continue to have dialogues around what this means for us socially and where NFT's could go beyond just buying and selling. Ruth Catlow does an amazing job at Furtherfield and then Rhizome, who've been around for a long time and are sort of, you know, lots of writing and activity around how do we preserve our digital culture now that our culture is predominantly digital? Rhizome has a lot of great writing and activity and opportunities to learn. It's not going to be the fastest way to learn how to hurry up and buy NFT's. You can find those resources just by going to Google and be like, how do I buy NFT's. But if you're interested in some critical thought and analysis around NFT's, I think Furtherfield and Rhizome are both pretty good resources for that.

Noelle Tassey  1:00:19  
Thank you so much, Jason, and all of you. We are going to, for those you still tuning in, we're going to send links to all of these resources in the follow up emails. And Jason being one of those resources, you also have his Twitter handle from your initial RSVP. I want to thank you all so much. This has been an incredible return to our event series. I can't think of a better, more inspiring, more thought provoking panel to do it with. So I just want to thank all of you so much, and thank our audience. It's been great. It's been a blast, and we're super looking forward to continuing this conversation series. Thank you all so much.

Jason Bailey  1:01:00  
Thanks for having us.

Richard Entrup  1:01:02  
Thanks, everyone.

Noelle Tassey  1:01:03  
Thanks.

Carlos Marcial  1:01:04  
Thank you, gracias.

Read Next