2021, Aug. 20th

Eleonora Brizi, was at TEDx Cortina to talk about the Crypto Art world, 

how it begun and develop through time.



Think of an artwork.

Even by Leonardo da Vinci. Like his drawing of the bear’s head auctioned by Christie’s a month ago for more than $10 million. 

Now think of a digital artwork. And then think of $69 million.

On 11 March 2021, Christie’s auctioned a digital artwork by the artist Beeple for 69 million dollars.

This digital work is an NFT – Non Fungible Token. A certificate of authenticity where digital assets, including digital artworks, are made unique, authenticated and sold on the blockchain; assets that otherwise by their nature would be spendable and reproducible. And the blockchain is nothing more than a record book of shared, immutable and validated transactions through distributed consensus. After the Beeple auction, the world of art goes crazy, the press too. Everyone, without distinction, wants to know what these blessed NFTs are.

To me, an NFT, was nothing more than the reason why, years ago, everyone thought I was crazy, accusing me of moving even to New York to deal with digital frogs.This talk is not a revenge, but an opportunity for me to finally tell you not what an NFT is, but the wonderful story of what lies behind it: the artistic movement of Crypto Art and its community. Few know that this space was born not with the Christie’s auction, but a long time earlier. Too often associated with speculation and even more often identified by synecdoche, precisely through tokens. A bit like talking about Impressionism focusing on the authenticity of the paintings. So this is the story of how I had the opportunity to find myself among the pioneers of Crypto Art, in the right place at the right time. 

It is the story that precedes March 2021, which I also call year zero, the one that divides time into BEFORE CHRISTIE’S and AFTER CHRISTIE’S. This is the story of the Before Christie’s. 

My involvement with the world of art actually dates back to a few years ago, with my choice to study Chinese and graduate in Chinese contemporary art. Even then, I was told to be crazy, but this is another story. The Chinese sculptor Wang Keping – the subject of my thesis – as well as the best friend of the most famous dissident artist in the world, literally sent me to the greatest adventure of my life: six years in China, four of which working for Ai Weiwei. “This letter is for you. Go to Beijing, ring the door of Ai Weiwei’s studio, tell him that Wang Keping is sending you and see how it goes “. So I bought my one-way ticket and never came back. But in 2018 I left what I considered to be my second home and moved to New York. There begun the second great adventure of my life: my journey into the world of art and technology. In New York, I studied the blockchain and its application to the world of art. Ai Weiwei’s studio had catapulted me at supersonic speed into the world of contemporary art. But thinking about dealing with it outside the Chinese context was totally different for me. I hated galleries, as well as museums, as well as the whole rusty system of the art world.I was looking for answers, which I would soon find in the only place in the world capable of giving them. It was September 14, 2018 and I was just arrived in NYC for two weeks. My roommate at the time invited me to a conference on this thing called “Crypto Art – art and blockchain”, at the National Arts Club in Manhattan, where within an hour, all the pillars of society disintegrated without a way of return. Blockchain, cancels all intermediaries, there are no more banks, there are no more art galleries. It self-feeds and exists in decentralization. 

A shock. But it was already too late to turn back. At the dinner with the speakers of the conference, a boy was sitting next to me holding a cartoon in his hand that depicted a small frog, named Pepe. Until today, I wake up every day and think how a frog can change your life. Rare Pepe is the first art project that ever existed on the blockchain, as Crypto Art, as we understand it today. It happened that someone decided to reproduce in digital the character of the comic by Matt Furie. And someone else agreed to buy this digital card with digital currency. The transaction took place and reached the consensus. A bit of what happened in the beginning with bitcoin. What is consent and value? In 2010, a gentleman phoned the American pizza chain Papa Johns. He ordered two pizzas and proposed to pay them with 10,000 bitcoins. The restaurateur accepted: 10,000 bitcoins are worth 2 pizzas.My timid question was: “But why don’t we tell Pepe’s project on a book, to give a good wake up call to the art world and show everyone what is currently the purest and most spontaneous artistic and creative space? “

This is where my experience in the world of Crypto Art as a curator begun. Within a few days, I throw myself headlong into the blockchain and begin my involvement with the creative community of New York’s Crypto Art. A panacea for the soul and the mind.Infinite conferences, events and speeches with groups of absolute nerds who question every certainty. Critical thinking, desire for change. I sneaked in everywhere, I volunteered, I helped the artists with the setting up of their stands, thus gaining access to all the major world conferences on Blockchain. I was there, I listened, I learned, my mind opened. “Welcome to Decentraland”, say the signs, for a decentralized future.

But what is specifically the artistic current of Crypto Art? If it is true that art speaks the language of its time, like when in the past the human being used the brush or the chisel to express his creative strength, so today he uses the technological means to communicate and create art.In New York I met these two wonderful women: Judy and Bea, the founders of Dada. A platform where artists from all over the planet talk and respond to the sound of digital drawings. They talk about collaborative art, where all creators have the same digital tools at their disposal – color palette, brush – and where the final visual conversations (in digital file format) are authenticated through the use of blockchain.  Crypto Art is therefore native to digital and thanks to the Internet, artists participate from all over the world, it is absolutely global. So imagine an artistic movement that was born among the web communities, a place where space and time do not exist, where creators can remain anonymous, judged only by their art and not by education, social origin, gender, age, etc. and where these judges are no longer a handful of experts selected from various hierarchies. A transparent, participatory, decentralized artistic movement: DISTRIBUTED. Economically sustainable: for the first time, artists are also remunerated in sales on the secondary market, where thanks to smart contracts, every time the work passes into the hands of a new collector, 10% will go to its creator.The pop-art of our century: Crypto Art.

Imagine also an ultra-contemporary aesthetic language, where multidisciplinarity is encouraged to the maximum. Let’s think of the Italian artistic duo Hackatao, also pioneers of this world and for me essential travel companions. To their acrylic canvases that – when we scan them with app – digitally animate on our screens in augmented reality. The possibility to digitally bring a Leonardo’s “Bear’s head” back to life or the thrill to artistically collaborate with the punk-rock band Blondie

For the presentation of Pepe’s book, a collection of 1774 digital cards, we organized an event in Brooklyn where my first encounter with the purest community of Crypto Art took place. The distrust of me that evening is something that I will always remember with great affection. At the beginning: “you come from the world of art”. In the end, many toasts. (In the event space there were creative stations where everyone could create their own Pepe. The artist Jessica Angel created the painting of “Bacchus Pepe”, with acrylic and wine. A party! A tribute to the community of the frog who was liberating creativity.) That same evening, someone told me one of those stories that you know will change the world. The first “Rare Art Festival” was organized in NY on January 17th, 2018. There were DADA, Crypto Punks, the Pepe community, R.A.R.E. Art Labs and a few others. They were making history, and they felt it, but it was just the beginning and no one knew each other or knew that someone else was using the blockchain for art! Think today of Crypto Punk, the brilliant 10,000 pixelated faces that changed the fate of NFTs forever. 

And also at the Homer Pepe auction – Pepe with the face of Homer Simpson – sold for around $ 40,000. An unthinkable figure for that historic moment. Instead, it was resold this year for $ 320,000.In May 2019, the second Rare Art festival was organized in Brooklyn by the community in a decentralized way. Together with a guy from the community, we organized a curated auction of Crypto Art. He thought of different options for buying the works, one funnier than the other, precisely to subvert what we witnessed a few days before in person: a Christie’s auction in New York. In our auction, the starting point were stellar numbers and they gradually down sizing until the collector said STOP! He bought at the price reached. Everyone was silent and tense or we proceeded according to a bonding curve. A constant raising of hands and lots of laughter. My time is running out, although there is still a lot to say. 

But what I care about is that from now on, when you read the news explanig the NFTs to you, they tell you about mind-blowing auctions with stratospheric figures, don’t stop at the first information. Crypto Art is the artistic revolution of our century, it is the manifestation of freedom of expression and the possibility for anyone to give space to their creativity. 

It is not Beeple’s auction, it is a jump, but A JUMP WITHOUT A POLE. 

Now let’s take all this information and think of a frog. A frog that gave to hundreds of creators the opportunity to express themselves spontaneously and their creations to be accepted without judgment or rules.A frog that has not only revolutionized my life, but the world. A frog that we have seen in the role of the funniest memes, Basquiat, Monnalisa, modern art, which manifested itself to us in 1774 different ways. A frog that changed the meaning of making art. The frog that I’m here to talk to you about today. 

And so yes, I’m really glad that I moved to New York for a frog.

Eleonora Brizi