These Technologies That Can Help Collectors, Galleries And Artists Supercharge The Traditional Art Market

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/09/28/these-technologies-that-can-help-collectors-galleries-and-artists-supercharge-the-traditional-art-market/

SHANGHAI, CHINA – AUGUST 22: People visit glass art installations at SML Center shopping mall on … [+] August 22, 2022 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images)

VCG via Getty Images

“Art tech” refers to solutions that assist art market stakeholders—whether they’re collectors, creators, or gallerists—in elevating their businesses. The inception of art tech predates the dot-com boom, with SaaS solutions targeting this market. Yet, nearly three decades on, the art market predominantly operates on PDFs, word processors, email lists, and spreadsheets.

According to the 2023 Art Basel and UBS market report, global art sales increased by 3% year-on-year in the previous year. The report indicated that 2022 sales approached almost $68 billion, with the US capturing 45% of the global market share. However, the Artnet Mid-Year Review from July 2023 expects a downturn in these figures for 2023, noting a significant deceleration in line with the global economy. Artnet’s findings revealed a 25% decline in secondary sales at major auction houses compared to 2022. Despite this, gallerists like David Zwirner remain hopeful.

A saying common during crypto bear markets goes, “the bear is for builders.” This sentiment resonates with the art market as well. With advancements in blockchain technology and AI, developers across various sectors are fervently creating solutions for an industry long overdue for modern tooling. By “supercharging” the art world with tools crafted by teams of tech and art experts, the market might witness enhancement.

Artificial Intelligence and User-Friendly Tooling by simplify.art

The simplify.art sales interface

simplify.art

simplify.art, a platform powered by Yurica—an AI engineered to “understand and process text about art”—was introduced to me by its co-founder, Victoria Dejaco. Yurica, a meta-algorithm, drives various facets of the simplify.art platform. Its algorithms handle tasks like processing and extracting information from online documents and those uploaded by artists. It also offers LLMs for text processing, provides custom recommendations for collectors and artists, and implements an AI-based pricing model. Furthermore, the diligent AI task force at simplify.art, spearheaded by researcher Sonja Steiner, meticulously refines Yurica to ensure its algorithms exhibit reduced biases concerning gender, social, and racial representation.

Dejaco founded simplify.art drawing from her experiences as a gallerist, art historian, and a studio and collection manager. Recognizing the inadequacies of current solutions, she envisioned a new platform tailored to address the specific issues she encountered firsthand. Together with co-founder Glenn Vanbavinckhove, a former Director of Data Science at both KPMG and Deloitte, they scrutinized other art tech offerings. Their vision expanded, aiming for a tech stack that seamlessly integrates the best solutions. Dejaco stressed the importance of a software “that remains simple to handle, integrating essential features into a cohesive ecosystem.”

The duo, alongside an all-female team of technologists and marketers, is committed to refining the platform, focusing on user-centric automation. Vanbavinckhove emphasized the importance of tailored and relevant solutions, championing the use of automation, machine learning, and AI throughout simplify.art.

Blockchain-based Artwork Authentication by Verisart

In 2015, the Verisart team began experimenting with the blockchain for physical art. Their Certificates of Authenticity, built atop the Bitcoin
BTC
blockchain, were launched in 2019. The product has four different certificate statuses, incremental in levels of verification. The highest one, Certificate of Authenticity+ provides detailed item information and includes holographic certificates and QR stickers for physical items.

As the company evolved, and in response to the explosion of the NFT
NFT
market in 2021, Verisart has subsequently expanded their product offerings. Today, they provide NFT minting tools, a Shopify integration for streamlined storefront creation, and more.

A Generative Art Engine by Art Blocks

LOVE by Martin Grasser for ATP Tour using the Art Blocks Engine infrastructure

Martin Grasser

Generative art stands out as the most dominant genre in the NFT world. Art Blocks, established in 2019, has led the industry in this space since 2021. This platform and company are devoted to launching and selling algorithmic art. Two of the most lucrative generative art NFT releases, Ringers by Dmitri Cherniak (January 2021) and Fidenza by Tyler Hobbs (June 2021), were introduced via Art Blocks. As per the NFT marketplace OpenSea, Ringers and Fidenza have generated trading volumes of 31,301 ETH
ETH
and 62,872 ETH, respectively.

To diversify their offerings, Art Blocks rolled out a generative art engine in 2022. This engine empowers creators and brands to debut their own NFT generative collections using Art Blocks’ smart contracts and rendering capabilities. The Art Blocks Engine offers two products: the primary Engine, which also manages on-chain storage of assets, and Engine Flex, which grants clients the flexibility to manage asset storage through decentralized solutions, such as IPFS.

Invisible Web3 Experiences by Mojito

Mojito, a consumer engagement platform, has garnered attention in the traditional art world, partly due to the crypto expertise of its founders, Matthew Iles and Amanda Cassatt, both Consensys alumni and marketing experts. Mojito extends a suite of white-label web3 services, including crypto wallets, mints, drops, marketplaces, and token-gated reward systems.

Mojito is versatile, catering to a diverse range of brands and companies of all sizes. While they can assist prominent names seeking a strong metaverse presence, their expertise doesn’t stop there. Renowned auction houses such as Sotheby’s (that was in turn a backer in Mojito’s $20 million USD raise) and esteemed galleries like Pace—both Mojito clients—already benefit from their services. Moreover, small creative agencies looking to lead in web3 consulting can harness Mojito’s comprehensive tools to amplify their offerings. This is in line with how global brands, like Adidas, are charting their course in the metaverse, underscoring a broader industry shift.

Iles highlighted in an email conversation that “Traditional art galleries are largely offline, lacking in e-commerce proficiency and customer data.” Beyond creating new markets for digital art, Iles believes NFTs offer traditional galleries enhanced online engagement capabilities and richer customer data.


It’s worth noting that the tools and platforms mentioned above aren’t solely designed for big institutions or high-profile galleries; they cater to a broad spectrum of users. To suggest that the art market’s primary participants are only major galleries and auction houses is an oversimplification. Numerous talented artists opt for independence, while others struggle to secure representation. Moreover, many smaller galleries can’t afford the cost of showcasing at art fairs or prominent online platforms.

Affordable service rates, a wide range of technologies and customizable packages help small businesses grow sustainably. The tools highlighted above offer diverse avenues for all art world participants to carve out their online identities—whether they’re selling NFTs, sculptures, paintings, or even poems.

Platforms crafted by multidisciplinary teams, bridging the divide between technologists and art enthusiasts, will be pivotal for the art world’s future. They hold the key to broader inclusivity, fostering a more vibrant and healthy market.

Web3’s New Media Platforms: How This Female-Led Venture Dominated The Segment

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/09/20/web3s-new-media-platforms-how-this-female-led-venture-dominated-the-segment/

Boys Club’s Zine

Noa Griffel

In 2021, 10% of early-stage startups worldwide were focused on blockchain. This deep-tech sector, encompassing such technologies, emerged as the fastest-growing segment within the early-stage company ecosystem, according to The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021. This annual survey is conducted by the policy advisory and research organization, Startup Genome.

Boys Club is no exception. Founded in the fall of that year, what began as a dinner club and group chat quickly morphed into a media company and DAO
DAO
. Boys Club was co-founded by Deana Burke and Natasha Hoskins, who had recently seen their travel company, Allcall, acquired by Fora Travel. At the time of founding, Burke was employed at the Celo Foundation, a decentralized finance project aimed at introducing crypto to underserved communities, while Hoskins remained at Fora. The founders and initial members of the Boys Club dinner club aimed to transition from being observers to active participants in this new economic and cultural movement. They swiftly transformed into a media brand and lifestyle business, offering a “fourth space” for those who align with their unapologetically femme and deeply curious worldview, fostering a sense of belonging within their interests, work, and social lives, as Hoskins revealed in an interview.

Following their graduation from the consumer-crypto focused accelerator Seed Club in April 2022, Boys Club evolved from a community to a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, incorporating several guilds to manage core responsibilities. By June 2022, Boys Club had unveiled two NFT collections: a free drop for existing followers, and a purchasable one to facilitate supporters in funding the DAO’s mission to contribute to web3 culture by acting as a bridge or medium of sorts. Hoskins described this as “a bridge for our normal friends who may not understand crypto, the latest meme, or the peculiar online moments unfolding. We’re exploring it together.”

Later that year, Boys Club inaugurated a consulting arm to assist companies in navigating web3 and formulating their strategies. Today, as noted by Hoskins, Boys Club identifies as “a social collective and lifestyle brand, ushering new voices into the new internet.” They accomplish this through various forms of cultural production, including “podcasts, newsletters, events, a biannual magazine, and apparel, all viewed through the lens of how emerging tech influences culture (and vice versa).”

Boys Club’s new Apparel line

Noa Griffel

Last week, following the crypto conference Permissionless II 2022—where Boys Club curated culturally-oriented discussions—they announced a fresh endeavor: a satellite event at the renowned tech conference SXSW
XSW
, named /brandnew. This summit aims to explore consumer crypto, a burgeoning trend in the blockchain arena, and its intersection with culture.

However, Boys Club isn’t the sole media entity dabbling in web3. Poolsuite, an Apple Design Awards 2021 finalist, is an internet radio service that recently initiated an NFT collection to garner support for establishing a DAO, with plans to purchase a villa for hosting events. Since its 2014 launch, Poolsuite has been a beloved presence online, branching out in 2021 with the launch of Vacation, a sunscreen line that earned an endorsement from mega-celebrity Kim Kardashian in August 2023.

In a similar vein, Zora, the NFT protocol and marketplace that recently launched a layer-2 scaling solution for Ethereum
ETH
, gave birth to a media subsidiary: Zine, previously known as Zora Zine. After operating as an online publication for two years, their inaugural print edition was released in the summer of 2023, with acquisition necessitating the redemption of a Zine NFT for the physical volume.

As Hoskins told me, “Web3 culture is internet culture on steroids. It gathers all your chronically online friends who adore the internet so much that they’ve devised ways to claim their own corner of it.” It appears netizens are gearing up to release products that resonate with their audiences, expanding the web3 community into new sectors of society.

Get To Know The Key Players That Adidas Will Be Competing Against With Its New NFT Residency Program

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/09/05/get-to-know-the-key-players-that-adidas-will-be-competing-against-with-its-new-nft-residency-program/

The megabrand Adidas continues to fortify its allegiance to NFTs and the potentials of web3 technologies. Since launching its initial capsule collection, Originals: Into The Metaverse — which comprised 30,000 NFTs — in December 2021, Adidas has maintained a strong presence in the NFT realm. This initiative came just a few days before its biggest competitor, Nike
NKE
, acquired RTFKT, a start-up specializing in NFT wearables. These strategic moves were predictable at that time, as the NFT market was burgeoning, with every major brand eager to unveil their NFT roadmaps.

Despite the competition, Adidas has managed to distinguish itself by persistently investing in this new venture. Whereas Nike’s foray into the sector, via RTFKT’s Cryptokicks which debuted in April 2022, seems to have dwindled — with their virtual sneakers that initially sold at 0.38 ETH
ETH
peaking at 3.59 ETH and now available in secondary markets for 0.14 ETH — Adidas has demonstrated ongoing interest in the sector.

In 2022, Adidas unveiled phase two of its web3 strategy, Unbox The Impossible, and prominently featured its Bored Ape NFT, Indigo Hertz, in the FIFA World Cup ad campaign. Even in 2023, amidst an NFT bear market, Adidas remained steadfast, introducing Phase 3, ALTS by Adidas, a loyalty program. Soon, the newly announced NFT residency will offer an immersive experience during the Korean Blockchain Week, scheduled for September 7th-8th.

This high-profile residency program aims to nurture and elevate digital artists, representing a natural progression in their web3 journey. This vision was shared by Stacey King, the Global Head of Communications and Digital Activations at the brand’s Three Stripes Studio, during an interview with NFTnow, a metaverse-centric media platform. King was joined by artists MONKEEMOTO and Adra Kandil, also known as Dear Nostalgia, who are the first two artists to join “RESIDENCY by Adidas”.

However, Adidas is neither the first nor the last company to launch an NFT residency. Several web3 native ventures have been facilitating programs to support artists for several years now. Micol Ap, an Italian residing in London, founded VERTICAL (formerly known as Verticalcrypto Art) in early 2021. This grassroots organization, widely appreciated, began as a media platform reporting on noteworthy developments in the NFT sphere, initially focusing on the Tezos
XTZ
blockchain NFTs. The Tezos Foundation played a pivotal role in facilitating the launch of the Vertical Residency in July 2021, through a grant announced in the foundation’s biannual update in the latter half of 202

Several People are Typing by Emily Weil – part of the VERTICAL residency

Emily Weil

VERTICAL’s residency program emerged “from a need we noticed within the broader artist community to understand and learn more about blockchain and NFTs, the technology, markets, and ecosystem; and to carve out a space for artists to learn, share, and communicate,” Micol Ap revealed in an interview. True to the open-source spirit, all the classes are recorded and uploaded to Vertical’s YouTube channel, which now features over 200+ hours of educational content on topics such as smart contracts, curation, DAOs, creative coding, and 3D, AR
AR
, and VR practices. Now in its 7th cohort, the residency boasts over 150+ artists and 50+ mentors in their network, receiving institutional support from the University of the Arts London, which has incorporated the Vertical program into their educational offerings.

VERTICAL has also played a pivotal role in the birth of new ventures, such as the NFT text-based platform The VerseVerse, founded by Kalen Iwamoto, Ana Maria Caballero, and Sasha Stiles. Ap fondly recalls the moment the VERTICAL alumni conceived the idea, which “gradually evolved through the residency and her experience and education, morphing into a reality and now a fully functioning and successful platform dedicated to artists working with text.”

Lucky You – Sunset by Eko33, part of the VERTICAL residency

Eko33

John Kobs, an entrepreneur who found success when he co-founded Apartment List, propelled it into an online marketplace with more than 5 million properties listed and a valuation of 600 million dollars. Kobs, known as Douglass in the NFT world, delved deeply into the web3 sphere in 2021, starting his collection of NFTs. Soon after, his web3 venture, Wild.xyz, came into being as a residency program, gathering artists Douglass admired and had collected. Season 0, the initial cohort of the Wild residency, was a 12-week program culminating in an NFT sale. In a discussion for this article, Kobs noted that people often compare Wild.xyz “to a Y Combinator for digital creators”. While flattered by the comparison, they perceive the platform more as “an opportunity to champion and support those shaping the future of immersive art and the spatial internet.”

As above, so below by Yinkore, part of the Wild.xyz residency program

Yinkore

In March 2023, Wild announced a high-profile seven-million-dollar seed round led by Matrix Partners, with LinkedIn
LNKD
founder Reid Hoffman participating as one of the angel investors. This influx of funds promises increased financial support for residency artists, an enhanced marketplace, and an imminent metaverse.

Like VERTICAL, Wild.xyz not only pairs artists with mentors but also aids them in transforming their artwork ideas into fully-fledged NFT releases. In this vein, Wild.xyz launched a marketplace in January 2023. Their latest success story, The Boys of Summer by Mitchell F. Chan, was released a fortnight ago and sold out within minutes, generating 114 ETH in primary sales and a trading volume of 175 ETH on the secondary market to date. Currently, in its third season, Wild.xyz has hosted over 70 artists and mentors, releasing 23 collections, most of which sold out upon launch. Discussing the thriving marketplace, Kobs expressed pride in being “the number one source of revenue for a majority of our artists, whether they originate in our residency or through another facet of the Wild ecosystem.”

While the RESIDENCY by Adidas, owing to the monumental stature of the parent brand, might appear to outsiders as a colossal and innovative venture poised to revolutionize the NFT artist community, it faces certain limitations. With only two artists initially announced as the first cohort, coupled with a physical and digital component to the program, the initiative seems unlikely to accommodate a large number of creatives. Both VERTICAL and Wild.xyz have established a robust history of supporting artists over several years, nurturing hundreds in their respective networks. It appears the German behemoth will have to prove its mettle yet again in the web3 domain, akin to its past rivalry with Nike, albeit in a completely new arena.

Here’s Why Anonymous NFT And Crypto Founders Continue To Gain Popularity

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/09/01/heres-why-anonymous-nft-and-crypto-founders-continue-to-gain-popularity/

Portrait of artist H. R. Giger w. mask over face. (Photo by Dana Frank/Getty Images)

Getty Images

After the rapid growth of Friend.tech, internet users and the media started pointing out the choice of the founding team of staying anonymous as a red flag. Friend.tech is a new social media platform where users follow others by buying their profile shares. The team, led by developers who go by the aliases 0xracer and Shrimpepe, have partnered with the venture capital firm Paradigm.

Anonymous creators are nothing new. Historically, Victorian-era female authors often published under pseudonyms. It is, however, considered unusually controversial by crypto critics. While journalists at the New York Times
NYT
published warnings about pseudonymous crypto founders, they have also celebrated anonymous White House whistleblowers and authors. If writing code is a type of authorship, and journalists have no qualms with authors profiting from anonymously written books, aren’t anonymous crypto developers merely continuing in the grand tradition of privacy-conscious publishers?

If we want to protect others from wrongdoing and scams, perhaps the emphasis should be on financial literacy and education, not on compulsively revealing identities. The choice to adopt a different identity should not inherently be a red flag. After all, famed fraudsters Bernie Madoff and Sam Bankman-Fried used their given names to run some of the largest scale scams ever known to Wall Street.

Anonymity has been vital for the emergence of user-controlled, alternative decentralized cryptocurrencies. The pseudonymous figure who invented Bitcoin
BTC
, Satoshi Nakamoto, completely changed the paradigm of how money can operate. He, or she, paved the way for the crypto ecosystem to become a fast-growing industry.

The right to communicate via encrypted channels and preserve anonymity have been long advocated for by the Association for Progressive Communications and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. The right to publish anonymously is so important that the APC urged United Nations representative David Kaye, who was presenting a report to the Human Rights Council in 2015, to include information on anonymity as key for freedom of expression.

It should then come as no surprise that in the crypto scene, the choice to stay anonymous is protected and “doxxing” a person is frowned upon. In July, Arkham Intelligence, a company seeking to deanonymize blockchain users, sparked controversy by creating a doxx to earn program, through which people could report on the identities of others in exchange for bounties.

The NFT artist known as Shl0ms was among the outspoken critics of the vigilante doxxing program. “Anonymity offers an artist the rare opportunity to craft a character that is pure and reflects a deep, fundamental part of them, without any of the perceptional baggage that comes with the banal characteristics of human identity. It allows you to loom larger than life.” mentioned Shl0ms in an interview. The artist is best known for blowing up a $250,000 Lamborghini and creating 999 NFTs with videos of the rotating pieces of the destroyed vehicle. This collection offered a scathing commentary on greed in the crypto industry. In a similarly outspoken move, Shl0ms responded to Arkham’s program by launching a campaign revealing details about the company and its founders, using their own platform. On the topic of bounties Shl0ms commented that while their initial whitepaper included no protections against it becoming a free-for-all doxxing, Arkham Intelligence has since “implemented some controls which will supposedly not allow for bounties to be placed on non-criminal or institutional entities”.

It’s commonplace for NFT artists to launch their careers using pseudonyms. Yuga Labs, the creators of the world-famous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project, started off as anons as well. Buzzfeed revealed two of the founders’ identities against their will in 2022, in an article alleging there was hidden extremist symbolism within the NFT collection. In spite of this, Yuga Labs continued to grow, professionalizing the team, launching a lifestyle brand, a metaverse, and an ERC-20 token, on top of acquiring the most valuable project in the NFT space: CryptoPunks. Currently, Yuga Labs is valued at $4 billion, after their last financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Being anon, or semi-anon, doesn’t prevent people in the blockchain industry from interacting with others in the real world, either. During my time at FWBFest, I had the opportunity to hang out with many people I admire, like the Brazil-born artist Godmin, a pseudonymous artist I’ve been following for more than two years. A one-woman show, Godmin has single-handedly developed the code and visuals for two NFT projects while running her own NFT community.

Another notable anonymous artist, 0x113d, creator of the ambitious NFT expansive project Mathcastles by Terraforms, told me in an interview that creating an artistic pseudonym “helped me genuinely immerse myself. Through this, I could shed any attachment to a former pedigree uncorrelated to success in this new art world.” 0x113d also runs a free education program for aspiring NFT artists wanting to learn creative coding and smart contract development.

Some other founders have elected to break off their anon veneers as part of their company’s roadmap. One such example is the Franco-Iranian artist Sassan Behnan Bakhtiar, who is a recognized painter, a leading figure in the Middle Eastern art market. When he entered the crypto industry, he originally worked on a project called The Futures (alongside his co-founder) under the name s Kensho Kenji for two years. Now The Futures has been released to the public through a high-profile mint on NFT marketplace Magic Eden. Bakhtiar and co-founder Kevin Beharmon (aka Moses) chose to start as an anon-led project while setting up a legal entity in Monaco.

Sassan Behnam-Bahktiar and Kevin Benharmon, founders of The Futures before and after revealing their … [+] identities.

Sassan Behnam-Bahktiar

Meanwhile, in 2021, Bakhtiar was simultaneously working on the first NFT residency program alongside the NFT platform Nifty Gateway, in collaboration with the rapper Tiny Tempah.

“‘Coming from a politically charged family, one which brought me pain, torture and trauma throughout my childhood and youth, ultimately formed in me a rebel mentality,” Bakhtiar told me in an interview about why he choose to temporarily work on The Futures under a pseudonym. ‘Through my younger teen years, I realized a valuable lesson – to give the minimum information possible. I implemented the same mindset in my career as a contemporary artist, and in working on The Futures.”

Since the The Guardian reported that Bakhtiar was previously held in state custody in Iran, it should come as no surprise that he chose working in the shadows for a while. Anonymity is a form of preservation and protection, an effective way to quench the outside noise and to look towards the future without baggage.

Human resource departments in crypto companies have learned to respect anonymity as well – just because you chose to preserve your identity from others doesn’t mean you can’t get a job. This is not a charitable undertaking. Anonymous coders are sometimes the most talented of them all, like Paradigm researcher Samczun, whose identity has been well-preserved for years. Samczun started off as a white-hat hacker and he is now better known for having rescued tens of millions of dollars in crypto from malicious hacker attacks by doing constant reviews of open source codebases. Lately, Samczun has been championing the task of creating a way for hackers and lurkers to disclose security vulnerabilities responsibly while preserving their identity – the Seal 911 initiative.

In summary, a society under surveillance is a captive one. It is considered a normal, healthy choice for crypto founders to remain anonymous, even if temporarily, and not a sign of nefarious activity. Perhaps other sectors of the tech industry would benefit from the creativity the NFT market enjoys due to this culture of flexibility. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation affirms in declaring there is a human right to anonymity – respecting the privacy of others is vital to free expression.

Crypto Clubs Throwing Summer Parties: Inside The Friends With Benefits DAO Festival

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/08/10/crypto-clubs-throwing-summer-parties-inside-the-friends-with-benefits-dao-festival/

The peregrination to catch the sunset at FWBfest. Photo courtesy of Friends with Benefits

Keegan for Friends with Benefits

For its second consecutive year, the Decentralized Autonomous Organization Friends With Benefits, one of the crypto industry’s most expensive and popular social clubs, gathered in the mountains of California on August 3rd for a weekend of music, tech-savvy talks and assemblies called FWBfest. DAOs continue to grow, in spite of the bear market, and may actually be more popular now than they were during the last crypto market surge. When people say there’s nothing tangible behind tokens beyond speculation, what they’re missing is the IRL activities facilitated through such DAOs.

FWB has offered the industry an example of how to grow a DAO
DAO
beyond a group of friends, towards a multi-headed organization that includes a recently spun-off software development company. Another comparable example is Seed Club Ventures, a DAO and crypto accelerator that launched in 2021 and just announced its sixth cohort. On the more artistic side of the spectrum, this past May, FingerprintsDAO, a collectors’ organization, is now partnering with Mercedes-Benz’s creative studio NXT
XT
, to create an NFT collection.

FWB Founder Trevor McFedries and friends during FWBfest

Photo courtesy of Friends with Benefits

Stepping back, FWB was founded in 2020 by Trevor McFedries, an entrepreneur that co-founded the agency Brud behind the lucrative, computer-generated influencer Lil’ Miquela, is now focused on growing FWB as a token-gated DAO, meaning that members need to acquire a certain amount of $FWB tokens (70, to be exact) to join the club. There are currently 7,386 FWB token holders, based on publicly-available data from Ethereum explorer Etherscan, with the token at an average price of $3 (on August 10th, 2023, some days after the Fest took place) and an all-time high price of $196.19 in August 2021, as seen on coin tracker platform Coingecko. Several members of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz are among FWB’s most famous advocates.

FWB is undoubtedly, the largest social DAO, including celebrity members like Erykah Badu, Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, and Azealia Banks. It has also amassed partnerships with brands such as LVMH via Hennessy.So when I attended the latest FWBfest , to give a presentation on cultural organizations, I also stayed to interview interview FWB leadership, speakers and festival attendees to get a first hand report of what brought them to the token-savvy festival.

A talk hosted by crypto accelerator Seed Club at the Library of Iddylwild Arts Academy, the venue … [+] chosen for the festival. Photo courtesy of Friends with Benefits.

Friends with Benefits

Alex Zhang, the “Mayor” of FWB, told me that while the first edition of the festival in 2021 was fully organized by the DAO operations team, this new edition tried a more collaborative approach. By this Zhang meant that 30 external but like-minded communities helped plan event programming, from the nonprofit Rhizome, to the media company Zora Zine to the podcast club and woman-centric DAO Boys Club, in addition to leading crypto companies like OpenSea and Optimism
OP
.

“This led to a much more pluralist fest experience, and more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience. Or in our words, continuing to push the idea of FWB being a city, and these different subcultures being neighborhoods,” Zhang added.

With regards to ticket sales, Zhang confirmed the festival sold out, doubling ticket sales from 350 in 2022 (when token prices were higher) to 700 in 2023, which meant the DAO was able to afford more scholarship passes for community members that could not afford the $399 ticket price.

The festival’s programming included a diverse roster of speakers ranging from technologists to artists. There was a cinema, a series of free generative art workshops by NFT platform Highlight.xyz, yoga sessions, concerts with DJ sets, even a tennis tournament that had many festival goers strutting around in full all white tennis attire. The educational talks focused mainly on internet culture, especially on using AI for creative projects. Writers Eileen Isagon Skyers and Ruby Justice Thélot gave an almost-theatrical presentation on authorship in an era of AI. Meanwhile, on a nearby stage, Washington Post journalist and internet legend Taylor Lorenz explained how the term “creator economy” was co-opted by venture capitalists. Based on her research, it was the early mommy bloggers that pioneered content creation and monetization.

Caroline Polachek was the main musical act. Photo by Jasmine Safaeian courtesy of Friends with … [+] Benefits.

Jasmine Safaeian @yasi

“There’s been a phrase used by Internet anthropologists in the last couple of years, which is The Dark Forest, It refers to parts of the Internet where you can be ‘your true self,’ away from ad-monetisation and surveillance capitalism. FWBFest literally took place in a forest, where parasocial friendships forged over the past years via DMs were expanded into the Forest Dimension,” Shumon Basar, a Bangladeshi-British author, told me about his experience of the festival. “After the pandemic’s denuding of our senses into screen-everything, I feel like we appreciate even more these occasions where our avatar selves can meet-greet in all our fleshy, inimitable eccentricity. The future is already here; it’s a forest.”

But not all attendants were there to join the token revolution. Ann Liu, a 23-year-old artist and fine art dealer who drove up from Los Angeles, said the festival was more like a regular music festival than a crypto conference or hackathon.

“It was cool to meet a lot of thinkers and writers in person, who offered resources and jumping off points for continued research,” Liu told me. “If the goal was to integrate or introduce people to Web3, I hope there is more onboarding next year, because I had a few conversations with people who left Fest still not caring about NFTs.“

Community is FWB’s biggest value proposition, regardless of the token price, while IRL events reinforce the DAO’s brand. The software c-corp recently created under the Friends with Benefits bran to develop new applications and products for the FWB members is ready to take off. according to the DAOs forum there’s now a clear distinction between the DAO and a legal entity with a software development venture. Yet the business hasn’t strayed far from its token governance roots. The DAO approved this spinoff via a community vote last May.

6 NFT Artists And Experimental Studios To Watch In 2023

https://www.forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/08/02/6-nft-artists-and-experimental-studios-to-watch-in-2023/

Maps of Nothing #255, image courtesy of the artist Steve Pikelny

Steve Pikelny

When it comes to digital art, we have seen spectacular growth in the nonfungible token space over the past three years, and even more spectacular crashes with regards to the market value of collectible NFTs. While the collectibles category allowed collectors to gain decent investment returns at first, lately it feels like the overproduction of PFP collectibles (NFTs that can be used as social media profile pictures) led to a downward spiral of NFT price volatility. And yet, according to the data aggregator CryptoSlam, people are still making millions of dollars worth of NFT trades every day, roughly $118 million in the last week of June.

Clearly, the NFT art scene is far from over. The question is what digital art aficionados will value most in 2023.

NFTs are still a fantastic way to create global communities around artists and genres. NFTs are not only certificates of authenticity to certify a particular PFP belongs to someone. They are also a fantastic artistic medium, extremely versatile by design, and allowing for ambitious concepts and narratives. While there are many innovative artists creating NFTs, here are a few that have been experimenting with cutting edge technology to create unique styles that push the envelope:

Sara Ludy

The California-born Sara Ludy explores nature in uncanny ways that highlight its mysticism. Featured in exhibitions at leading institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Ludy combines a wide range of media like painting, AI, VR, video and websites to create her work. Her latest work Daance Dange Daice, a collaboration with Refraction, a DAO
DAO
focused on cultural production, and for the benefit of non-profit organization Rhizome, that has been at the forefront of digital art for almost three decades, is Sara’s first foray with AI.

Sara Ludy, Daance Dange Daice #101, courtesy of the artist

Sara Ludy

Entangled Others Studio

The Argentinian artist Sofia Crespo and the Norwegian artist Feileacan McCormick form Entangled Others, a duo that uses cutting edge technology such as neural networks, AI image generation, 3D modeling and quantum computing to bring their ideas to life. Entangled Others explores different forms of life and makes poetry with technology. The duo’s work took center stage during a fundraiser for the Buffalo AKG Art Museum in 2022, resulting in a museum acquisition that bridged the NFT world to this more traditional artistic space.

Stevie P

Brooklyn-based Stevie P has a background in economics, and his artwork explores common internet scams and imaginary investment schemes, immersing his audience into a hilarious performance like no other. An extremely savvy coder, Stevie builds his projects from start to finish, investigating and utilizing smart contracts (blockchain native immutable programs) as part of the artwork. This prolific artist releases work on almost a monthly basis, keeping his audience (who he calls “his business associates”) asking for more. His latest project with the generative art powerhouse Art Blocks is Dopamine Machines (2023) and explores the language of internet advertising.

Keiken

Tanya Cruz, Hana Omori and Isabel Ramos founders of Keiken, image by Callum Leo Hughes, courtesy of … [+] Daata and the artists

Callum Leo Hughes

Everyone admires the beauty in the worlds proposed by video games, but very few people know that some artists utilize them as artistic mediums. Keiken (Japanese for “experience”) is a collective based between Berlin and London that works across performance, video games, digital art and is famed for spending most of its time “working inside a gaming engine” where they make most of their artworks. Keiken creates speculative worlds that invite us to immerse ourselves in thinking about better futures. Their latest NFT work, Wisdoms for Neknel, which I had the pleasure to help lureleased alongside digital art publishers Daata and aided by AI, proposes people to experience a world where wisdom is a currency.

Jonas Lund

The Swedish born, Berlin-based artist Jonas Lund has been experimenting with blockchain technology for at least half a decade. A relentless innovator, Lund works across different media like sculpture, painting, AI, smart contracts and even tapestry-making. Always injecting a very healthy dose of humor into his work, the artist allows the audience to explore emerging technologies together with him. Lund launched a token, called JLT, in 2018 that allows its token holders to vote on decisions that affect his personal artistic practice. Currently, Jonas is set to launch the first Signature project of the up and coming platform Wild.xyz, called Most Accidents Happen at Home (2023).

Disclosure: I am part of the curation board at wild.xyz.

Felt Zine

This artist collective from New York City and Brooklyn have been portraying internet counter-culture since 2011. From music and parties, to digital art, and even launching their own marketplace, the always-in-motion iconoclasts are constantly innovating and creating new ways to perceive reality. Founded by Mark Sabb, and led by Dev Moore and Jawn Reyes, Felt Zine is a well-oiled machine. Most notably, their latest collaboration was with none other than Givenchy. Matthew Williams, the Creative Director at the luxury powerhouse, in conversation with Complex, said that the collaboration was strategic to create streetwear akin to contemporary art in web3.


NFTs have allowed for better pricing and discoverability of digital art as a whole, and created a flourishing market over the past five years. The above-mentioned artists and collectives show that there’s much more to NFTs than goofy jpegs. And they show that, in the metaverse, experimentation holds real value.