CurioCards and the Philippine Art Scene
On Sunday, I got the news that CurioCards, the NFTart collection that I participated in back in 2017, was being exhibited at the Christie’s auction house lobby at the Rockefeller Center in New York. My friend Sean Go visited the gallery and sent back some great photos and videos which I’ve compiled them here. For those who don’t know, CurioCards is a collection of multi-edition NFTs, the world’s first example of NFTart, minted all the way back in early 2017. Seven artists, including myself, contributed to the set, each one bringing their own style and themes. Because of CurioCards’ age, it’s been quite hard to collect a full set of all 30 cards (including our one misprint, which is explained in the video link above). We estimate that there’s only a few dozen complete sets in the world, and one of those sets is being auctioned by its anonymous owner at Christie’s in NYC this Friday at 930pm Manila time. The auction house is estimating that the value of the full set is in excess of $1M.
We still haven’t gotten a definitive answer on whether I’m the first Filipino artist to have work auctioned at Christie’s NYC, but as far as we could tell, Amorsolo, Luna, Joya, Manansala, Kiukok, Zobel, Francisco, Bencab, and every other Filipino artist I could think of were all auctioned in Christie’s Asia branch in Hong Kong. It’s possible that we’ve never had a Filipino’s work auctioned at their NYC location until today. (If you have data that says otherwise, please let me know though!) Now I realize that this area of inquiry seems unnecessarily vain, so bear with me as I attempt to make a point about art in general.
The fact that the work of an unknown Filipino artist could somehow find its way into the most high-profile auction house in the world is not the important part of this story. I think what is happening here is that we now have proof of NFTart’s ability to democratize the art space, and that democratization is WAY MORE valuable to an artist from Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City than it is to an artist in NYC, or Paris, or Tokyo. The reason why I have art about to be auctioned at the Rockefeller center later this week is NOT because I’ve somehow “cracked the code,” but because in the NFTart world it no longer matters where you’re from. I’ve never exhibited at a local gallery, I’ve never tried to get the attention of a prominent art dealer, and the first time I even interacted with the local traditional art scene was just a couple of months ago (and I was workshopping NFTs there, too). I just minted art on Ethereum, promoted it myself (sometimes unsuccessfully), and eventually sold enough that my art is now generating more revenue than my day job. The democratization of art in the form of NFTs is making all this possible in the same way that blogs did for writers 20 years ago.
A few weeks ago I spoke at a Congressional inquiry on the state of the art scene in the Philippines, convened by Congressman Toff de Venecia. One of the key statistics that really stuck with me was that in 2019, the Philippine art industry as a whole made $89M in revenue. That may seem like a lot of money until you consider that our CurioCards collection, a single NFTart collection made by just seven artists, has made over $90M in just the last six months. And we’re not even in the top 10 NFTart projects on Opensea! If you took any one of the top-tier NFTart collections right now, their sales volume for 2021 would dwarf the art industry of our entire country. (Some of those collections aren’t even made by human artists, which is another area of discussion altogether.) I’m not saying this to attack anyone or to undermine what galleries, museums, or art schools are doing for the local industry. I’m saying this because the art revolution we were waiting for is already here, and yet traditional art folks are still bemoaning who weak our industry is. It’s weak because you’re looking in the wrong place! I’ve been fortunate enough to have been doing NFTs from day one, and I’m working as hard as I can to get as many other artists on board as quickly as possible.
Yearn.Finance creator Andre Cronje over the weekend launched Artion, a decentralized version of the leading NFTart marketplace OpenSea. I think this is going to be next big battleground for NFTs and although the tech is still very raw, I think the idea is sound. With NFTart, we cut out the gallerists, the dealers, and the so-called art mafia whose tacit approval is a requirement for a lot of local artists’ success. However, we still have the marketplaces like OpenSea and NiftyGateway, and these are gatekeepers in their own right. If we go one level deeper and instead just define a blockchain protocol for art trading, we can cut out the marketplaces as well, and reduce the whole equation to simply an artist and their audience. It’s a real brain-teaser, and I suspect that we’ll be discussing these concepts a lot more as time goes on.
One of the most powerful implications of NFTart is automatic royalties. The CurioCards artists receive a 1% royalty fee every time one of our cards is traded or sold on OpenSea, and this will happen automatically for as long as the marketplace exists. Earlier this month I decided to redirect most of my royalties to supporting underprivileged artists here in the Philippines, and teaching them how to get into NFTart. (CurioCards co-founder @travisformayor has also contributed generously, as well as several other awesome co-investors from the NFTart community.) That project is called the Cryptopop Art Guild (CPAG), and I’m happy to announce that we now have over 70 artists. We’re still open for scholarship applications though, so if you are looking for both an Axie Infinity scholarship and NFTart mentoring, submit your best work now at fb.com/cryptopop!
That’s it for today’s newsletter, cryptofam. I have to skip Wednesday this week coz there’s so much work to be done, but I’ll be back on Friday with crypto news and other fun updates! Stay safe, stay curious!