An idea by The NFT Magazine, curated by Eleonora Brizi, published by Rizzoli Editore.
CRYPTO ART BEGINS is a book that represents publishing innovation for the new Phygital bookstores now between print and WEB3.
This book is not about the chronological history of Crypto Art; nor about transactions, NFT standards, or auctions. It is about Art. A collection of extraordinary stories through the eyes of 50 artists who contributed to the start and the evolution of the Crypto Art movement.
When the NFT Magazine team approached me to discuss the book project Crypto Art Begins to be published by Rizzoli and asked me to be the curator, my doubts were instantly very few. On the opposite, my fears weren’t.
How do you even accept selecting a certain number of artists for a book? And especially, how do you create an understandable, and at the same time lively, narration on one of the most exciting creative spaces of all times? I know there is magic, believe me, but how do you translate it to people?
My name is Eleonora Brizi, and I am a digital and crypto art curator, for whatever that means. I am not a magician, but I certainly did experience magic once, finding myself in the right place at the right time, and that can only go by the name of New York City.
It was September 2018 when I started one of the biggest adventures of my life, after hearing a conference about some strange associations of words like digital art on the blockchain, NFTs, rare, and – of course – digital frogs. I won’t bother you with the whole story. Still, after having dinner with those who built the crypto art space from scratch – today known as the OGs – the only thing I can remember, coming then from the contemporary art world, is a question that kept bombing my brain: “where was I until now?” What I was discovering was the most modern manifestation of art in its creative space, speaking the absolute language of our time.
It was an art movement, born amongst the web communities, where space and time no longer exist, geographically agnostic, anonymous, accessible, welcoming to any form of art; where transparency, participation, peer-to-peer relationships, and collaboration are sovereign. Decentralized, distributed. And all this through the use of blockchain technology. It was the chance that artists never had before, being totally in control of their creations and commercialization. Creators were finally empowered. A place for exchange, for constant experimentation: from the creative perspective, through the use of all the new contemporary technological tools, like AI, machine learning, digital animations, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and various computer programs; and from the socio-political and economic perspective, through the increasing blurring of the roles previously assigned by the traditional art world, where artists collect artists and support each other, where gatekeepers are no longer in place, where collectors and patrons are in a personal relationship with creators, where incomes are distributed to collectives, where new decentralized autonomous organizations come to life, where collaborations between creators supported by brand new technological mechanisms and multidisciplinarity are at the heart of it. Freedom of expression, freedom of style, freedom of just being.
Are you feeling the magic already?
This book is about art. For me, it was never crypto art, rare art, or NFT art; for me, it was always ART, in capital letters. And so it is this book.
The NFT space eventually evolved at the speed of light and is still growing. Sometimes we feel nostalgic; some others, we feel hope. With the action of Beeple’s “‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’” at Christie’s in February 2021, an NFT artwork that reached unimaginable figures, everything changed. Ironically, I refer to B.C. and A.C. in the crypto art world: Before Christie’s and After Christie’s. Have they changed for the better? Have they changed for the worse? Everything in life is a cycle; every time we have an evolution, both good and evil come with it.
This book is not about transactions, numbers, NFTs standards, auctions, or sales. This book is tired of everything that has been said around the crypto and NFT art space, tired of speculations, games, earnings, and losses. This book goes straight to the core, back to basics, and finds its truth.
Crypto Art Begins is a collection of stories, precisely 50, narrated through live interviews that I have done with almost all the artists, respecting those who preferred the written way. The paths of 50 humans who somehow contributed to creating the space the way it looks today. It’s not only the story of those who were there at the beginning, nor those who just arrived. It’s a tale, through art, about how 50 different pairs of eyes live, breathe and create the most cutting-edge art while coexisting in the quintessentially diverse and multi-everything space, about how they constantly push the boundaries of creation and its perception, how they build the future while showing us the present. Some of them are visionaries, some others just genuinely want or need to create art; some embed the blockchain smart contracts in their works, some others simply utilize them to transact; some were and are the builders of what is a pillar of this space: community, some others prefer their own communities; some are building the wealth distribution mechanisms of the future, some others are finding new chances in the art world. But all of them are groundbreaking, and they all have hope; this is all possible only thanks to one of the most revolutionary technologies of our times: the blockchain.
A special place was also reserved for another integral part of the Crypto Art ecosystem: collectors. We wanted to highlight their voices and witness their constant and fundamental contribution to the space. Not only in the form of money but also manifesting in passion, purpose, and unique relationships with creative minds. We asked 50 of them the question: “why do you collect crypto art?” and received the most exciting answers.
So no, it’s not the detailed history and timeline of crypto art we are presenting here; that requires different research abilities, and it is not the goal of this publication. Our goal is for people to hold this book, look at it, and think: this is art.
You will experience and enjoy 3d art, digital paintings or paintings that were born in the physical space and found their complementary soul in the digital and the animations, memes, portraits, VR art, mixed media, inks and watercolors combined with computer programs, generative art created with code and algorithms, digital collage, GIFs, AR, performance fused with virtual avatars, collaborative digital drawings and more. Some artworks express the most intimate human feelings, and some are a solid critique of the old rusted systems. There are ironic pieces, commentaries on what happens in society and crypto, self-referential art depicting the wonders of the decentralized world, and art for art’s sake.
Last year – I won’t say who and where – after a presentation we did about the crypto art and NFT space, for which I started from the Rare Pepe project, until showing artworks on current platforms, a known art critic from the audience asked: “you keep talking about new, new this and new that. I see a new economic structure and possibilities for the market, but the art you showed me is not new. That piece belongs to surrealism current; the other is digital photography, etc. So if you call yourself an art movement, what is your aesthetic?”
This question stroke me. It wasn’t directed to me, but it still did. So I thought that although I would know how to answer, I still wanted to discuss it with the community of artists. This is why I insisted on video call interviews for Crypto Art Begins. Because a book needs discussion. And so I decided that this would be my extra bonus tricky question, after the six about art, art practice, technology, personal story in the space, the community, and the future: what is our aesthetic? And this debate, which I had with almost everyone, the majority unified in the answer that crypto art doesn’t have an aesthetic and is its whole point. In fact, crypto art even gave a chance to some genres that were never considered art to be called so. That the space and what unifies it is about ethos and values, not styles and aesthetics. We don’t wish nor need to go back and put art in boxes, classify it, define it, label it; it is really out of place in our contemporaneity to even refer to these standards: art is permissionless. And this is, thanks to all the discussions I had with these fantastic beings because of the book, how I would answer today to that woman: “your question is very wrong.”
This is my biggest hope for the book and my role.
I don’t know what it means to be an art curator, but if through all these debates, I could function as a gathering point to collect the feedback of the community, package it, and give it back to the world – at least to help grow the understanding of the identity of the space, where it comes from and where it’s going – then I would think this book was necessary and I would have accomplished my mission.
There are many truths in these pages, even more than 50. I hope you will find yours; after all, that is what art does: show you how to find your own truth. You will be surprised when you discover that it was always there; only you weren’t ready to see it.
Fasten the seatbelt and enjoy your flight. We are here to assist you if you need anything.