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Episode 14
The Future of Museums - Art Technologist Jason Bailey and Museum of Crypto Art Founder Colborn Bell

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

In this week’s episode we consider the future of museums.

1:03 - Art Technologist Jason Bailey discusses the continued evolution of the crypto art space, particularly the growing trend among museums to pursue digital deaccessioning and the risks that might pose to an institution.

29:30 - Museum of Crypto Art Founder Colburn Bell discusses the history of the organization, the current state of the crypto art market and the challenges that lie ahead.

47:27 - The week’s top art headlines.


Craig: [00:00:11] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. In this week's episode, we consider the future of museums in the first segment. Art technologist Jason Bailey discusses the continued evolution of the crypto art space, particularly the growing trend among museums to pursue digital deaccessioning in the risks that that might pose to an institution in Segment two. Museum of Crypto Art founder Colborn Bell discusses the history of the organization, the current state of the crypto art market and the challenges that lie ahead. At the end of the episode, I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, considering digital deaccessioning with Jason Bailey.

Craig: [00:01:08] Jason Bailey, thank you very much for joining me today on the Art Sense podcast. I really appreciate you taking time out. Talk to us about your realm of expertise and some topics related to the art world in the NFT market. Maybe the best place to start is giving our listeners a little bit of background on where you are and where you've where you've been. I know that you have been working with NFTs for a number of years. Maybe you could kind of explain some of the different roles you've had and some of the different, you know, areas of research that you've kind of had your hands in.

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Jason: [00:01:45] Sure. Yeah, thanks for having me on, Craig. And you know, I think it's always helpful for folks to hear sort of a brief version of my background. I think it helps to make a little bit more sense of the kind of projects that I'm engaged in. So I actually grew up in a family of engineers. My dad was an engineer, my older brother was an engineer and my younger brother was an engineer. And every conversation at the dinner table and the long car trips was always largely focused around math and science and engineering. But I was always a bit of a black sheep, and all I really ever wanted to do from a very young age was to become an artist. So I spent a lot of time going to museums with my family growing up and in particular fell in love with 20th century yard and wanted to be a painter. A lot of kids heroes growing up or football players or baseball players, and I had that sort of level of almost hero worship with the like the painters and folks like that. So I ended up going to art school in the late nineties and got a degree in sort of traditional studio art, but graduated. And, you know, the advice that I'd gotten from all the adults that it would be really hard to make a living as an artist and that there weren't a lot of opportunities out there panned out to be true. You know, early two thousand. So I actually started my job search on nine, 11, 11. And yeah, it just wasn't a lot of opportunity out there. So I ended up kind of going into the family trade and working in tech, initially as a designer, then more in marketing and then business strategy, and snuck away nights from 2007 to 2010 to get my MFA because again, it's always been what I cared about.

Jason: [00:03:27] But my my MFA was much more around tech. So then I was working in tech during the day and was in this program at mass art that focused on data visualization and generative art and art made with computers. So really had a sort of a background that's always been tied, you know, between art and tech. And to sort of fast forward. I had read this book, I guess, five or six years ago, called provenance that talked a lot about how 10 to 15 percent of art at auction or in museums is either forged or misattributed. Obviously a really hard number to pin down. That's a bit on the conservative side, though, relative to what I've heard from, from other folks through me into a bit of a mid-life crisis because art's like my religion, so I thought, Well, you know, how is it possible that people could be rewriting, you know, the history of art? Artists only make so many paintings like there has to be a database that lists all this out, so called all the major libraries and institutions getting Smithsonian, Harvard and everybody kind of came back and said no such database exists and it's a major problem. So spent nights and weekends for a couple of years trying to build the what ended up being the world's largest database of complete works to try to fight forgery and got invited to some of these larger art events where I would ask folks during coffee breaks, Hey, what do you think about digital art? And I think it's the most important art of this generation, and a lot of folks weren't particularly interested.

Jason: [00:05:05] So I started using my blog to a share information about this, this sort of analytical and database view of art, stratified forgery and being really celebrate, you know, generative artists and digital artists. And that's that's when I started writing about NFTs to catch us all the way up to today, so early to late. Twenty seventeen, I wrote. After doing just a few hours research an article called The Blockchain Art Market is Here. We weren't calling them NFTs at the time, and it was sort of an audacious title, but I had a pretty good CEO. So as the story goes, the next day I woke up and there were hundreds of emails because there was a sort of a spike in interest in crypto at the time. And I had ranked my article and ranked number one really quickly for anything to do with art in crypto. So I had invitations to speak around the world, including an event in London at Christie's and several other opportunities, and realized I had better, better hurry up and learn a thing or two about. So that sort of started the voyage, and here we are four years later, there was a sort of a lull and interest in two thousand eighteen and nineteen by the public. But myself and a lot of the other folks that sort of saw early opportunities for blockchain and NFTs and art have kind of stuck with it the whole way through.

Craig: [00:06:26] Well, I think I remember hearing you tell a pretty interesting story about speaking at that blockchain event at Christie's and telling people that there is something special in their swag bag and getting a lot of glazed eyes about what they were receiving.

Jason: [00:06:42] Yeah, yeah. So at that point, people forget, but in early twenty eighteen, you know, the art world's interest like this blockchain event at Christie's was really around. How can we use the blockchain to capture provenance for physical artworks, right? The idea that that digital art would be something collectible and that serious art collectors would want it or even non-serious? I mean, there was just, I mean, the number of people collecting what we now now call NFTs was probably in the dozens, you know, by early twenty eighteen. And so we went when we went to Christie's, the whole days event was about how do we use blockchain to record provenance for physical artworks? And then we had this panel that I was on with the guys from CryptoPunks and Judy, from Dada. And you know, at the end, I had arranged to give out an NFT to everybody at the conference on what's called a paper wallet. So it was like a plastic card with the code on it. And I tried to explain to this room full of traditional art collectors at Christie's in London. Hey, like you know, digital art is going to be the future. These are really important artists. This particular artist, Robbie Barrett, is amazing. He's using A.I. in ways other people haven't used it, like going to be the artist of the future. Do not throw away your NFT that would have in your goodie bag. If you don't want it, I'll buy it back from you. It's going to be worth a lot someday, you know? And I was thinking, Well, you know, maybe when I say someday, 10, 20, 30 years, but you fast forward just three or four years, and most of the three hundred we gave away, I think something like two hundred and seventy or so unaccounted for. And the ones that people have found now sell for somewhere between six hundred thousand to a million dollars each. So there's a lot of it's fun because periodically every few weeks someone discovers one and it's like, I've got one. It's like the golden ticket from Willy Wonka.

Craig: [00:08:40] So can you tell me a little bit more about your analytics research? Because that seems to be something where we could kind of think of it as Moneyball for art? Can you kind of give us a little bit of a broader scope on what that project could turn into the art world's a little messy. Jason?

Jason: [00:08:56] Yeah, yeah, really is. So I think what's interesting to me is that I grew up, you know, again, religious about art and art history and went and got my my undergraduate degree and then later my master's degree and focused heavily on art history and and went through all of that, you know, well into my my thirties without ever giving a thought about the art market. So when we say the art world, a lot of times I think what we mean by default is the art market. But for most people who don't participate and sort of and when we say the art market, we're kind of talking about that top like five percent, 10 percent of artists who sell for eye watering sums and make the news. And this that and the other. But for most people, the art world actually has very little to do with those record breaking sales, right? We don't really everyday people don't participate in those sales, but we do participate in a shared culture. We like to go to museums and we care about sort of our shared historical heritage and which artists made what when. And so I think there is a little bit of a battle there, you know, tug of war that I think is starting to loosen up where ultimately the private collectors for reasons that I understand, appreciate or respect, want to retain privacy over who owns what and what they paid for it.

Jason: [00:10:16] And you know, some people would say, Oh, it's money laundering or it's this or it's that. But you know, the exposure that I've had to the art world actually doesn't really point to much in that direction. It's more, I think about just privacy. People don't necessarily want everybody knowing, you know what they've spent money on, where, how much they've spent, where they store these valuable things, right? But so that's the art market. But outside of the market is sort of this entire academic aspect of art, right? Where, like every major university has like an entire section dedicated to to art history and often art theory and art preservation. And we've got these museums that are like, you know, expensive and temperature controlled that are that are put all around the world. So we kind of need to have, in my opinion, we need to have a point where we have a reckoning or a peace moment where we. Realize that while it's great that we have these individuals that are sort of stewards and collectors of this work, the work still falls under sort of our shared cultural history and we need to be sort of responsible about how we keep track of these things and document them. And you know, for me, a big part of that is sort of the metadata, right? So it's funny.

Jason: [00:11:32] I got early on, I got invited to go to these conferences all around the world where there would be art, art, analytics and art and tech companies. And I won't call any out by name, but they would go on stage and talk about how they're using A.I. and this, that and the other. And they're doing advanced analytics. And I would kind of, you know, I didn't want to call them out, but afterwards I'd be like, Look, you know, we counting is the most basic analytic there is, and we don't even know how many works there are offhand by some of our best known artists, right? So let's let's start with an inventory and some clean data, right? And then we can get to these more advanced analytics. A story I used to tell, and it's lost some of its heft because I think Google has corrected for this now. But for years, if you search, you know, a basic question like how many works that Mark Rothko make the response Google would come back with and I used to do this live on stage was about five, it would say, because because it didn't know and Google is where we go to get all our our information. So really sort of my, you know, the my point in a lot of my earlier lectures was like, you know, I come from a data analytics and data based world.

Jason: [00:12:42] I know you have to have good clean data on what's out there in order to do the most basic analytics. So before we start talking about super duper advanced analytics, let's just get a basic inventory and figure these things out so we can answer some of the basic questions and then get more sophisticated from there. So, yeah, I know I kind of touched on a few different things there, but essentially I'm hoping I'm hoping that we kind of loosen up on the art market and collector side a little bit, at least of the metadata we don't need. We don't need exhaustive data on the collectors themselves, which is the stuff that they want to keep private. But I think we really need to do a better job of like, where are the works that these artists that we all agree are important know where are they and how many are there and what materials were used? And that kind of information that provides context should be, you know, provided, in my opinion, somewhere public, right? So those are that's factual based information. You can't copyright facts. And I think a database that sort of has these facts would be a really useful way to look at to look at art, you know,

Craig: [00:13:48] At the end of each episode. Do some news stories. In recently, I did a news story about how the Hermitage had sold NFTs of five of its pieces, which netted the Hermitage roughly four hundred and forty thousand U.S.. And I talked a little bit about what both camps are saying about whether or not that's a good idea, right? And I think it kind of at the heart of it is the broader topic of discussion in museums. Covid hit museums pretty hard in terms of attendance, numbers and donations. A lot of museums from their own policy making and the policy making of museum associations in general have kind of tied their hands in terms of what they can do with the works in their collection. In terms of, you know, selling works to add money to their coffers because they're kind of charged with being stewards over this work and a lot of museums. I think the number is probably close to 80 percent of the collection is never on display. And so the question is how can we use something like a digital asset to maybe do what we might call digital deaccessioning to raise funds for the organization? You know, I saw that you had written an article kind of associated with this, and maybe you could kind of give me a background on what you found when you dove into this topic.

Jason: [00:15:16] Sure. Yeah. So, you know, look, I've been writing things that a lot of people thought were crazy for for a while now. So, you know, in late 2017, when literally nobody but nobody was going to spend money on an artwork that was a JPEG that people could see for free. I predicted that there would be an entire market in that the digital work would be valued more than the physical work, right? So fast forward to twenty twenty one. Opensea, a single NFT marketplace, did three billion dollars in sales last month alone. So, you know, I look at the world, you know, that's to say that the world has come around to where there are some pieces that I own both a physical and a digital copy and at least for the digital artists collectors prefer and the value of those of that digital work is worth more than the physical work. Itself, so that's sort of as a preface for what I'm about to say, will probably also sound crazy, and it doesn't mean I can't be wrong, you know, but but I've got I've got a decent track record here, so you know, I worry. I love museums. I grew up in museums, museums, in my church, right? You know, art history is my religion, and I worry that museums, because they often have folks that may be the whole art world, is generally a little bit behind, in my opinion, on tech, sort of historically.

Jason: [00:16:33] They're great at other things, but they kind of lag a bit on tech and I sympathize for them. You know, the worst thing for me about the entire pandemic was that I couldn't go to museums. I was having like museum withdrawals, right? So this comes from purely from a position of love. And I see that they missed out on all those ticket sales and they see this NFT thing and they think, Well, what do we have to lose? Why wouldn't we sell a digital copy of our best known works and is close to, you know, an exact copy of those works as we can? Is that NFTs? This feels like a brand new asset that we never knew we had that we won't miss if we sell, and maybe we can get a couple of hundred thousand, even for each work. And what I sort of my my caution there is that like, be careful what you're selling if you don't fully understand it, right? So what I'm sort of on the front line of these, like, you know what, now seem like weirdos, but I think we'll eventually become more mainstream. These people that own digital assets and what happens when we buy NFTs, we want to show them somewhere. So we show them places like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram or whatever. Not really Facebook, but other places that whatever wherever becomes popular, but also in sort of the 3D metaverse, right? So there's these virtual worlds where we kind of there are galleries popping up and we show these items in a 3D metaverse.

Jason: [00:17:55] And it's generally socially understood that if you bought a work and it's, you know, an NFT and everybody can see on the blockchain that you own it and you purchased it that you're the one that's allowed to show it in this 3D world, right? So what I worry about with museums is if one of the top works in your physical collection, which is what is drawing people to your physical museum if you sell it, not really understanding, you're like, Well, technically, I still own the digital rights. I didn't even sell my digital rights. I just sold us a magic being this imaginary thing, this NFT like that I didn't even know about and no one's ever going to care about. But the problem is that the culture around NFTs believes that if you own it and you know, once they sold it, they no longer own and someone else owns sort of the digital right to show these things in the metaverse, which sounds super nerdy. I understand that people are like Jason. No one cares about your metaverse, but we're moving really, really quickly. And even if we weren't, if you go out on a far enough time horizon and you look at how quickly everything is turned digital, look at our music's all digital.

Jason: [00:19:00] You know, we listen to podcasts instead of like this instead of books or audible and things like that. And now our art, which I've been saying for years, is turning digital and people said I was crazy. But now we're seeing it unfold through NFTs, right? Digital transformation is the story of our generation. And while there are physical limitations on who can come to your physical museum, the number of people that can come to your digital museum in the metaverse is sort of unlimited, right? So. Well, I can't say exactly what it is that you've sold or that you're giving away. I know that it's it feels pretty premature if these things are the cornerstones of what are drawing people to your physical space. You don't want to forfeit the right to own them as ways to draw people into your digital space. And that's the one thing that I would tack on to that is if you are selling one of two things are happening. If you're a museum, you're selling exact replicas of your physical work as NFTs. You either don't value them and you think you're kind of getting one over on the people that you're selling them to because you're like, Well, we don't care, like, we don't even know what these things are, and we're happy to take your money or, you know, you're selling, you know that they're important in your in your sort of mortgaging your future by selling them off.

Jason: [00:20:13] So I think there are lots of cool strategies that we can talk about that museums can do to engage around NFTs without sort of selling the farm. I just I would caution them to be very, very careful. And the last thing I throw in is sort of this. I just read Disney's biography over the summer, and there's this point in time, like during the depression. I'll forget the exact details of it. But Disney was offered from two two competing offers and one was slightly more lucrative. But they wanted television rights. So this is decades before TV was even a big thing. Disney didn't even know what TV was, but he knew enough that he didn't want to sign away the rights to something that he didn't fully understand, right? And sure enough, two decades later, the numbers were staggering. Like some insane percentage of people that own televisions were watching a Disney related TV show every single week, right? And I know this isn't the. Same thing. It's just, you know, we all know that everything's becoming increasingly digital, right, that's how we correspond. It's how we all connect around the world. And if your assets in real life that are drawing people in are going to be the assets that draw people in in the digital world, just be careful that you don't sign away those assets without understanding what your exactly what it is that you're doing

Craig: [00:21:27] In the article that I read. You know, you mentioned, I guess you had moderated a panel at the Whitworth Gallery at Manchester University and they had decided to do something along these lines, but had chosen to go about it a little bit different way. Maybe you could kind of explain a little bit about what they chose to do with with their dipping their toe into the water?

Jason: [00:21:51] Yeah, I really like the approach that the Whitworth took, so they worked with a company called the Stari and kind of looked at this in terms of an experiment and wanted to rather than sort of. And I hate to use the phrase, but I don't know any other way to look at it rather than a cash grab, which I think under duress. Some of the other museums are kind of doing this sort of hasty. The Whitworth thought, Well, this is a new technology, it's new to us and it's new to sort of our audience. You know, let's let's do a thoughtful experiment around it where we don't come in and assume that we're the experts, but we all kind of go on this ride together in a way that leaves our collection intact. So they took a William Blake work and took an electro magnetic scan of it. And so it's not. It's understood that it's not the exact work in the collection, that it's not like a digital twin or like a copy of that exact work as an NFT, but more of a creative derivative of that work that could be purchased by people as part of this experiment, and a way to have sort of like group ownership or stewardship.

Jason: [00:23:02] And then the funds were used to go back into sort of community type endeavors. So I thought that that was really clever, right? Let's and it's tied into an exhibition that they're doing that, I believe, comes out in a year or so that looks at the relationship between art and sort of finance, right? So just top to bottom. It's sort of a thought, more thoughtful way to do it. And it wasn't the implication of it wasn't like you can buy the official digital version of this, which is something that I think people will only let you do once, even if legally you could do it more than once. It's sort of like, OK, well, how many times are you going to sell the official digital copy of your work, right? So having it be a variant that sort of uses a cool digital type image I thought was, you know, clever and sort of effective. So, yeah, I like I like that as a blueprint for maybe how museums should think about this. Don't just race to kind of have a fire sale on like the exact copy of your collection. Try to engage with the community and the technology sort of in a thoughtful, longer term way.

Craig: [00:24:10] So Jason, before I let you go, I've been asking the folks that come from the NFT space, a couple of a couple of questions. One is where where do we think that this space is headed and what hurdles do we think are standing in the way of long term growth?

Jason: [00:24:26] Sure. Yeah. So I always tell people that I'm really bullish on digital ownership and the ownership of digital goods and digital property. So look, I think eventually, even though I love collecting NFTs and have been collecting them since before they were called NFTs, it's the nature of anything popular that eventually people are going to get tired of the word NFT. Maybe, maybe this trend, you know, a year, four years, you know, a decade out kind of runs its course. But I don't think the trend of people wanting to own digital things ever goes away. It only goes up from here, in my opinion, right? We've seen it increase over the last several decades, and I think there's no reason to think that it won't only increase moving forward. Right. So I'm very bullish on the idea that, you know, people are going to want increasingly to own things digitally as as sort of our existence increasingly goes online and it becomes less physical. So I think the things that could get in the way of that happen or the things that need to be laid in place are today so much of the focus on NFTs has been around buying and selling. So it's all about if I buy this, can I flip it? Can I sell that? Can I buy this? You know, how much is my collection worth? But we've kind of raced ahead of the infrastructure, so there's still a lot of non buying and selling oriented infrastructure stuff that has to be built and put into place.

Jason: [00:25:49] So that's actually a quick plug for sort of what I'm working on now. I've launched a company called Club NFT, and a big part of our focus is that people don't realize that 90 percent or more of the time when they buy an NFT, the image file or the movie file, you know the media file associated. With that, NFT doesn't actually live on the blockchain, so it typically doesn't benefit from sort of that permanent sense of storage of the blockchain. It tends to be on a distributed storage called IPFS. And the questions that people need to ask themselves is that storage isn't free. Who's paying for it? What happens to your NFT when they stop paying for it? So it's a bit of a teaser, but that's third of the infrastructure type problems that we're trying to solve, because I think without that, people won't have the confidence to sort of build this space into what it could become.

Craig: [00:26:39] Well, Jason, I really appreciate your time this morning. And if it's OK, I think I'd like to ask you back again some time to to talk more about NFTs. Individual topic here and there. It's it's obvious just how deep your knowledge is and how your your skating to the puck and have been for years. And so I really appreciate you taking half an hour out of your day to to speak to us. Really appreciate it.

Jason: [00:27:07] Yeah. Thanks, Craig. I love the opportunity to talk about it. So art and tech is my thing and I'd be happy to come back on any time you want. And the hardest part is actually getting me to stop talking about it. You can. You can ask my wife she'll attest to that. So happy to talk about it whenever you like and really appreciate you having me on.

Craig: [00:27:24] Yeah, I appreciate.

Craig: [00:27:31] It seems like I often find myself in a conversation about why anything has a particular value. And my answer is that it comes down to three things. Scarcity, authenticity and appeal. Much of the excitement around NFTs comes from the fact that the technology can prove the scarcity and the authenticity. Well, that just leaves appeal. Do you like it? Do others like it that can be hard to predict? But those NFTs that are scarce, authentic and appealing have real value. They bring a sense of pride and intrinsic joy just to look at. But a question a lot of collectors have been dealing with is how do I display my collection of NFTs? If looking at your NFTs makes you happy and brings you a sense of pride, then you need to get your NFTs onto your walls. And there is no easier or safer way to do that than with your Canvia. Canvia is the first commercially available digital art frame to provide a fully integrated solution for securely displaying NFTs directly from a user's crypto wallet. Regardless of whether your NFT is portrait or landscape static or video, you can sync your MetaMask or other crypto wallet and immediately start displaying your NFTs on your Canvia. If you want to learn more about Canvia and its NFT display solutions, head over to Canvia Dot Art and check it out. And now a vision for the museum in the metaverse with the Museum of Crypto Arts, Coborn Bell.

Craig: [00:29:08] Colborn Bell, thank you for joining me today on the Art Sense podcast. Can you describe for the unknowing listener what the Museum of Crypto Art is?

Colborn: [00:29:19] Certainly, you know, its is a one of the first and earliest attempts at an exploration of the Metaverse, right? I was quite early to virtual lands and entered into really a blue sky green grass world, and it was a question of what is the virtual world that I want to create, always knowing that I couldn't do it myself and kind of recognizing that digital creators would be the crafters of these future landscapes began collecting NFTs to kind of just explore those relationships and those partners and wanted to build a virtual museum for digital artwork in a metaverse space that would really seek to tell artists stories and to tell the history of this now incredibly burgeoning space.

Craig: [00:30:15] So what year did did you start getting into NFTs and in crypto art and kind of putting your finger on the pulse of all that?

Colborn: [00:30:22] Yeah. So, you know, I was early investor to a theory was very involved with ICOs in twenty seventeen. I guess technically the first NFT I collected would have been the original Moon cap mission. From there, I played along with CryptoKitties, was an investor in the Decentraland ICO and subsequent participants in their land auction. And when they relaunched in January of 2020, that's when my interest was really reignited. Found this world saw omnium space, know purchased land and was also at the same time looking at an equity investment in super rare. And it's just a bit of due diligence started collecting on their platform. And immediately when I when I put kind of two and two together with virtual lands and NFTs, the the idea for the museum was was born. And, you know, it's just been a wonderful, wild rollercoaster ride.

Craig: [00:31:28] So now is, does the collection represent just your personal collection or are there more parties involved at this point?

Colborn: [00:31:37] Yes. So the collection has has since expanded from my own personal activity. It is a global nonprofit foundation which represents a community collection and really a public good space project. So everything that we do is is really meant to kind of invert, I guess, classic museum dynamics. We're focused on how do we derive kind of a common truth and groundswell support for certain artists as to as opposed to perhaps a single curator deciding what is most important and relevant and trying to push it from the top down.

Craig: [00:32:19] So how do you guys come to consensus then? Is there is there like a DAO sort of organization?

Colborn: [00:32:28] So we we have launched our, you know, months ago, six months ago, probably we launched our own token, which was meant to be a curation token. It was a prelude and a precursor to effectively what what SuperRare did. The idea is to begin to find who is supporting the museum and supports this vision and reward those parties over time so that we can come to more of a consensus among these participants over what are the types of shows that they want to see. I think Dallas right now suffer from a major governance problem and an allocation of responsibility. So as director of this foundation, I continue to prove relevance and valid use cases for for what I think is exciting and interesting and kind of on the fringe of what I define as crypto arts. Just just to give models to people so they can see and then replicate and follow what they're passionate about.

Craig: [00:33:28] So I've asked a couple of guests this, and I'll ask you also, which is what do you think makes a good NFT arts very subjective. But when when you're looking what? What speaks to you?

Colborn: [00:33:41] What an interesting and impossible question to answer. You know, I look for art that is kind of here and of the now that is poignant in its commentary that is rooted in an understanding of crypto culture and kind of like this niche, contemporary, hyper fast society that we live in. At the end of the day, I am a museum of crypto arts, right? And crypto art, I find to be, you know, a subset of probably what has emerged as NFT art. Right. So I am much more interested in the how NFTs as a Trojan horse facilitate the broader adoption of cryptocurrency, which I believe to be a more kind of fair and equitable economic system governed by code and not individuals. And I look for the ways in which artists translate some of the ideals of this financial movements, whether it is like a right to privacy, data sovereignty, the ability for open access networks to be, you know, to have creativity uploaded from them, from all corners of the world. So how do these artists kind of translate some of the intangibles that show the promise of this future, as opposed to the kind of dire picture that mainstream media might present?

Craig: [00:35:16] So let me ask you this. You know, I've had conversations with some guests recently about this whole aspect of digital deaccessioning by museums and so in. And if you look and some of the art headlines over the last couple of weeks, there have been several museums announcing that they are minting NFT versions of physical artwork in in their museums. A) My question is, you know, what is your opinion on that? And B) would you ever think about acquiring an NFT of an artwork that originally existed in the physical world in a traditional museum?

Colborn: [00:36:05] I think it's it's frankly like, wildly irresponsible and totally against the intent of the artist. You know, I have like the one that comes to mind immediately, right? Is that William Blake, I guess, painting or that they that they did. I have no interest that doesn't particularly speak to me. But what speaks to me, of course, is the existential crisis that these museums are facing. Right. You know, COVID pointed out a lot of flaws in the model. The fact of the matter is, is that it's incredibly expensive to store physical artwork. It's incredibly expensive to install physical artwork. And the curation of these collections is incredibly time intensive. And, you know, in playing the digital sphere, I provide, you know, not only way more accessibility to people through through online venues or virtual reality venues, but I have no cost to build new installations. The speed from which I can spin up an exhibit is probably 10 times, maybe faster than what they're able to do, and my installation process for an exhibit of 50 pieces takes an hour. And then, of course, like experientially, when you're inside of these spaces and you're in virtual reality and you have that image 40 feet tall in front of you, the profound effect that it has and the ability of like virtual reality as a medium to provide an analogous experience to a museum experience is, you know, from the comfort of one's home, it's really impressive.

Craig: [00:37:42] Do you think that the Museum of Crypto Art will always be in the metaverse? Or do you think you'll ever have A) a physical space, or B) some sort of augmented reality presentation points out in the physical world?

Colborn: [00:37:59] So I'll say that I just acquired a property up here where I'm living in Mid-State New York that will serve as a physical home for the museum. But it's really meant to be more of an artist retreat center, a co collaboration space and a live work space. It is meant to provide a home for the museum. But I do think that that physical location is important and will be vital.

Craig: [00:38:32] And it sounds like kind of at the forefront of that thought is kind of an artist residency, communal, collaborative sort of environment where you know you can. Is this is that kind of tied to so that you have an incubator? Is that is it is the incubator tied to that? Or is that something totally different where you are? You support projects?

Colborn: [00:38:55] Yeah. The incubator is is a bit different, right? So the incubator was originally a space where we would give artists lands in the metaverse to build their own exhibition space and kind of curate their own presentations. We've since transformed the incubator space into giving curators now a place in the metaverse somewhere for them to call home, where they can invite emerging artists to show and they can focus on the curation. So instead of any one artist, whatever their niche is, be it Afrofuturism, the Eastern European arts, you know, they you know, we have an architect incubator now within there. So whatever their I guess core set is now, they have a home that falls under this broader plan.

Craig: [00:39:55] These curators are they curators from that we think of in the traditional sense? Or are they a new type of curator? I mean, are they are they natively digital. 

Colborn: [00:40:06] Natively digital and people who have, you know, broadly proven themselves in the space long enough so that we know that they care about the arts, they care about the artists that care about telling stories. Some of most of them actually are artists themselves. Right. So it's it's really all meant to be a widening of of the circle for who our friends in the museum. I think people come to us to, you know, strip away any of the speculative elements to return to conversations around the arts. And frankly, there's just like very few people that are doing this work in this space.

Craig: [00:40:47] Where do you think the NFT space is headed? You know, what do you what do you think is on the horizon?

Colborn: [00:40:56] Uh, I mean, I'll be brutally honest, I think like a cataclysmic supply shock, right, I think it's a lot easier for artists to hear the story lines to think they're entering a a world paved with gold to think that if they take the time to learn the systems and mints, whatever their creation is from Cinema 4D that they will receive, like the recognition that I think it's all a bit of a misnomer. I haven't particularly seen the collector pool growing at the same pace. And you know, they're it's just not in my mind, particularly sustainable at the moment. I think we've seen like a rapid evolution of the culture, whereas there was kind of like a focus on one of one art pieces. It's all very much evolved into, you know, 10k PFP projects, lower price points, open editions, rampant speculation and kind of what identify what I identify as people trying to pick up pennies in front of a steamroller where they'll buy something for a thousand dollars and try and sell it for a thousand one hundred dollars and realize there's just no liquidity in the market.

Craig: [00:42:12] So the PFPs which in my mind kind of fall more along the lines of of collectibles, is that something that that winds up making it into into your institution? Or is the majority of your collection more over in one-of-one?

Colborn: [00:42:30] Yes, I did place one crypto punk inside the museum, and that is the only profile picture, I guess projects that was or is in the collection. Ninety nine percent of it is artwork.

Craig: [00:42:52] Do you see any specific hurdles that need to be overcome? So to enable the next wave of growth in this industry, I guess. Well, what is it that needs to be overcome for this to turn into its best version of itself?

Colborn: [00:43:08] Yeah. You know, there is a tremendous technological barrier to entry when it comes to just operating hardware wallets, operating MetaMask, you know, finding like in style as a collector, right? And then, you know, there is still like an existential battle with, you know, games like like Fortnite or how do we begin to transition these users to understanding what it means to have digital ownership rights? They understand what digital identity means and represents, but how do we get them to care about owning the things that they are purchased in a decentralized fashion instead of obviously at the end of the day? Take the Fortnite example Epic Games being, you know, the sole owner of that skin and just allowing you to kind of equip it right. So what does it means to have, I guess, like, you know, multiple use cases across metaverse across games? How do those items travel? What are you able to kind of like freely do with the things that you acquire? And I think there's a bit of an education gap there that needs to be addressed.

Craig: [00:44:34] Yeah, and I've been speaking to a number of people this week that share a concern or a market opportunity about helping that 60 plus person who's interested in collecting. How do you easily get that person on boarded in a way that they don't just kind of mentally shut down? How do you get someone into a crypto wallet and it still feel like an easy process?

Colborn: [00:45:01] Yeah, yeah. I mean, call it a market opportunity. I think that's that's an enormous market challenge and an almost an impossibility because unless you are very digitally native, you probably don't understand exactly what you're dealing with and you can understand the importance of like a seed phrase and how you should secure it. And you can't prevent that person from, you know, phishing emails. So how do you begin to kind of like keep those types of people safe in an environment where they'll want to come back and return without? I think that's a major, major challenge. And until we have institutional custody of these works, then these people probably shouldn't and won't feel comfortable in this market.

Craig: [00:45:56] Well, Colburn, I really appreciate your time. You know, it's it's been a 20 minute conversation, but it seems jam packed with information. And, you know, I think I think what you're doing is novel and congratulations on having that vision at the outset so that you have have this foundation to build on. And so I really appreciate you taking time out to talk with me about Museum of Crypto Art.

Colborn: [00:46:29] Cheers Craig. It's a...the pleasure's all mine.

Craig: [00:46:31] All right.

Craig: [00:46:43] And now the news

Craig: [00:46:46] Since I recorded my conversation with Jason Bailey, the issue of digital deaccessioning has continued to come up in the news cycle. Just this week, the British Museum announced a sell of two hundred Hokusai NFTs to coincide with an upcoming Hawkeye exhibit at the museum. Included in the offering are two NFTs of the Great Wave, which is arguably one of the top five most iconic images in the canon of art. The sale is being organized by a French company called La Collection that i o co-founded by his John Sebastian Beauchamp. It sounds as if Beauchamp reached out to more than 30 institutions via LinkedIn, and the British Museum was the first to take advantage of the offer. Some of the pieces will be offered with a fixed price, while others will be offered at auction. Pieces will be released. In addition, sizes ranging from one for a quote unquote unique release to ten thousand for the lowest quote-unquote common tier. It's not known what percentage of proceeds the British Museum will receive on the primary sell, but it looks as if the contract provides 10 percent for the institution on secondary sells, as well as three percent for LA Collection. Time will tell if this winds up being adequate compensation for relinquishing the rights to the work in the Metaverse. In other cross-over news between the NFT and conventional art worlds this week, art dealer Vito Schnabel announced that he would be teaming up with startup guru Gary Vaynerchuk to Form Artificielle, an online NFT platform focused on selling NFTs from artists that are part of the traditional art world.

Craig: [00:48:31] The platform launched this past Friday with an NFT offering from Francesco Clemente. Add ons and perks are all the rage in NFTs these days. In this particular NFT sales, with a commitment that Clemente will paint a portrait of the buyer sometime in the next year, the platform will be leveraging Schnabel's brick and mortar book of business and the connections in the art world that go along with the last name Schnabel. Artificial claims that the difference in their platform versus the competition will be the quality of the work. Compared to many of the NFT platforms that rose from the low brow art world, that's probably true. But there's also the competition at the top from the likes of Pace and Christie's. Pablo Picasso's daughter, Maya Ruiz Picasso, has agreed to donate nine pieces by her late father to the nation of France. It's actually not a donation, but more of a payment in kind. You see, since nineteen sixty eight, France has allowed citizens to pay their tax debts with art or collectibles. We don't know how much Maya actually owed, but it must have been a lot.

Craig: [00:49:43] The nine pieces include six paintings, two sculptures and a sketchbook. The donation is intended to offset an inheritance tax situation that she has run into. Among the paintings, quote unquote donated, was a child with a lollipop sitting under a chair from nineteen thirty eight. In a portrait of Picasso's father from 1895, when the artist was only 14 years old, the pieces will become part of the collection at the Museum Picasso in Paris. Online, both the finance minister and Culture Ministers of France gushed about the extraordinary quote unquote gift given the nature of France's tax laws. There will probably be more opportunities for more gifts in the future. That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Krag at Canvia. Art. Thanks for listening.

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