BitCulture explores arts, culture, music and media in blockchain and Web3.
Fine art on the blockchain
Exchange.art head curator Haley Karren came to Web3 from some of the world’s leading art institutions and says that working with 14,000 artists on Solana’s fine art marketplace has broadened her tastes.
Exchange.art head curator Haley Karren (Supplied)
“I have a new appreciation for pixel art, voxels and things that really are very much native to this space. It’s been fascinating to see the difference between what I was more interested in two years ago and what I’m interested in now.”
Formerly a curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Karren says her role has always been as a “conduit” between contemporary artists and the rest of the world. Even more so now that she’s connecting traditional artists to a space that utilizes blockchain, NFTs and artificial intelligence.
“Digital art and traditional art spaces are moving together more and more. That’s a big push for us at Exchange.art, but there is still a little bit of a divide,” she says.
“There’s just a little bit of a bias against the blockchain in a sense, and I think it’s a little bit of not understanding it.”
She says often, collectors are unaware that the blockchain can be used for provenance, and artists don’t realize that NFTs can be programmed to collect royalties each time a piece is sold.
“It’s shifting some established norms in the art world that didn’t give artists enough ownership over their work,” she says.
“I try to help onboard people as well as artists or traditional art collectors. It is a process, you know, understanding what crypto is, understanding what a wallet is.”
In the traditional art world, galleries are the gatekeepers. For artists to sell works, galleries need to display them for buyers, taking commissions of up to 50% for doing so.
NFTs help replace these gatekeepers, giving control back to artists.
“It’s a huge shift in terms of sovereignty and shifting it back toward artists. It places much more responsibility on them to also market their work, to talk about their work and to present it coherently.”
Incorporating aspects of physical art (Lisanne Hack, Aspire, 2022)
Karren sees her current role as a “sounding board” for artists to think through how a series should be presented, and put out in the world, how many, how often, in which order?
One such artist Karren highlighted is Lisanne Haack and her “Synergy” series (pictured left). Haack is a digital painter who creates in a style that resembles oil painting, as well as charcoal and pastels.
“In a fascinating departure from physical art, she varies the texture of the support between canvas and paper,” Karren explains, adding that digital tools enable Haack to cut, paste, rework and repeat sections to create digital pieces of fine art.
Emerging trends in the space include artists “working with different AI programs and incorporating it into their creative process to then push themselves in a way that they wouldn’t have been challenged previously.”
She also points to conceptual art being put on the blockchain directly, as well as the emergence of illustration as a fine art.
“Finally, in this space, it has been given its due. It’s been fascinating to watch and learn more about this art form that has a long history and has not been considered a fine art form in the traditional art world.”
Musicians vs AI
AI has been causing a stir across the world with its ability to remix and create “new” works based on existing artists. Musicians and major record labels have taken wildly varying stances on this.
Dance/electronica musician Grimes was a trailblazer, offering to split 50% of the royalties with any “successful” AI-generated song that uses her voice. She said she finds it “cool to be fused with a machine” and is in favor of “open sourcing all art and killing copyright.”
But rapper Ice Cube, who rose to fame in the late 80s with N.W.A., said in a recent interview he would sue anyone producing AI tracks mimicking his voice and any platform that offers the track.
“It’s like a sample. Somebody can’t take your original voice and manipulate it without having to pay. I think AI is demonic, I think AI is going to get a backlash from organic people.”
Universal Music Group famously ordered streaming services like Spotify to ban AI from being able to train on the label’s content. However, last week the label signaled it’s not opposed to the technology if used in the right way, announcing a partnership with the “wellness sound app” Endel to create “ethical” AI music that “respects artists’ rights.”
UMG artists will use Endel’s AI technology to create “science-backed soundscapes, designed to enhance listeners’ wellness, including both new music and new versions of catalog music.”
Michael Nash, the label’s chief digital officer, said, “At UMG, we believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists, labels and songwriters, something that Endel has harnessed with impressive ingenuity and scientific innovation.”
Is this a cautious green light for AI creators from one of the music industry’s most powerful players?
`The Web3 Foundation partners with legacy music festival
On May 31, the Web3 Foundation, which is behind the Polkadot blockchain, announced a new partnership with Primavera Pro to create the inaugural Web3 Music Summit in Madrid this June. Primavera Pro is known for throwing some of Spain’s largest festivals, with hundreds of thousands in attendance. The conference focuses on blockchain technology, experiential events, and discussions on the future of music in the digital age.
DJ Agoria gives NFT owners 100% of recording royalties
The French DJ Agoria announced his entrance to the NFT scene via the NFT music platform Bolero. Agoria revealed that his fans who collect his music as NFTs would see 100% of the royalties redistributed to them. He said it’s “about time” to give back to fans and also sees it “as a sincere and legitimate opportunity for my traditional partners to step into our ecosystem.”
Elon’s cryptic meme about AI
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a love-hate relationship with AI. While he helped found OpenAI, creates robot armies and is buying up GPUs to create his own generative AI tool, he has also warned about its destructive capabilities. Last week the billionaire tweeted a cryptic meme about people entering the AI space, going from everyday-looking people to corpse-like zombies.
Podcast review: Edge of NFT
The Edge of NFT podcast explores the intersection of emerging technologies and culture, exploring everything from art to gaming and animation.
Edge of NFT podcast logo.
Hosted by Eathan Janney, Jeff Kelley, and Josh Kriger — three industry insiders and founders of Web3 advisory MainChain Venture — the show racked up more than 100,000 listeners in the last year.
This podcast goes beyond technology and looks at the human element of how NFTs change the way we interact with communities and industries. Ranging from 30-60 minutes, each show features a guest interview and explores topics like building better Web3 games, the importance of culture and royalties to Web3, and even tax loss harvesting of NFTs.
Big-name guests they’ve had on the show include Dim Mak founder and DJ Steve Aoki, The Sandbox founder Sebastien Borget, VeeFriends creator Gary Vaynerchuk and Filecoin Foundation President Marta Belcher. The presenters also regularly travel to high-profile events like Consensus and ETHDenver to conduct interviewees and help give listeners a sense of the flavor of the event.
In last week’s episode, they covered an event in New York at Christie’s art gallery featuring a 152-piece generative art collection of physical hand-drawn monoprints paired with NFTs.
Book review: Crypto Titans, by Markus Thielen
Crypto Titans was released in May.
Subtitled “How trillions were made and billions lost in the cryptocurrency markets,” this 405-page book is out now. Crypto Titans recounts the last 15 years of the cryptocurrency industry — starting from the publishing of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper in 2008 to the ongoing banking crisis and the U.S. crypto crackdown of 2023.
More than just a history, Crypto Titans reveals the interconnectedness of everyone and everything in crypto. How regulatory action in one country led to a massive crypto boom in another. Where some crypto empires were built, and others turned to rubble in a few days.
If you’re looking for a gripping edge-of-your-seat read, though, you may want to stick to fiction. This book focuses on being objective and fact-based — with plenty of references to boot: 631, in fact.
This means that unless you’re a history buff, it can get a little dry just talking about fact after fact. The book overcomes this with plenty of chapters and sections — meaning you can easily dip in and out, picking it back up with a fresh mind.
There’s even a handy little index at the back, in case you want to get a quick refresher on a specific company or person. Sam Bankman-Fried gets 68 mentions; the Securities and Exchange Commission, 41.
The book is great for anyone with an interest in the history of crypto. Readers need not be familiar with crypto or financial lingo to enjoy it, though a basic understanding will certainly help.
Memes for the road: