May 9, 2022

fxhash | The Collectors

Following the launch of fxhash 1.0, Danielle King speaks to some of the core members of this vibrant new collecting community
Credit: Casey Reas, CENTURY-XXX-METAMOLNAR(S) #229 (detail), 2021. Courtesy of the artist
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fxhash | The Collectors

On its homepage, fxhash describes itself as “an open platform to create and collect generative NFTs on the tezos blockchain.” But it is so much more than that. As a newcomer to the world of digital art, I have found my home there. To the detriment of my wallet, I collect something from fxhash nearly every day. The quality and variety of artists and projects on the platform is remarkable, and I have had the joy of collecting work by more established artists and discovering work by emerging talents. 

The excitement of minting your own, unique artwork with the click of a button is hard to describe until you experience it. And the friends I’ve made along the way have turned the process of collecting art — traditionally, a private, solo endeavor — into a fun, sometimes even collaborative, social experience. Here, a panel of collectors shares its views on what makes fxhash stand out along with a selection of favorite projects.

fxhash, FXHASH Logo with Features #243, 2021. Courtesy of fxhash

Danielle King: What makes fxhash a unique ecosystem in the NFT space?

Trinity: When I think about fxhash, I see a fully integrated ecosystem that truly does it all from a human experience perspective — as a collector I can mint, buy, sell, and explore a full range of generative art projects on a single site. I found myself immediately sucked in and have loved every second of it. It’s a uniquely exciting place for art as well. The best work is on par with the work on Art Blocks, and we get so many drops per week, it’s like drinking out of the most delightful fire hose. The sheer depth of new and historical work would keep anyone coming back for more.

The community is another differentiating factor; it is by far the most consistently engaged and excited group that I’ve personally experienced in the crypto space. While I sometimes sense that we could be in a very excited echo chamber, there is so much positivity and love in the space that it almost doesn’t matter. The fact that many artists are so heavily engaged in the community and in active discourse with collectors is also outstanding.

Jason Bailey: Fxhash is a throwback to the early CryptoArt days. Everyone can participate and it feels much more community-driven and much less commercial. It has its own vocabulary and culture that has developed from the ground up. It’s the organic antidote to the top-down, hypercommercialized NFT platforms dropping overpriced work by a small number of poorly curated artists.

Nick Hladek: I think that the uncurated nature of fxhash combined with the relatively low transaction costs of the Tezos network nurture artistic freedom and experimentation. The Tezos blockchain also seems to attract eco-conscious artists and collectors while eschewing proof-of-work maximalists. These attributes help emphasize the importance of art over tokenomics, utility, and other exogenous factors. 

pepe xyz, impossible cathedrals #400, 2021. Courtesy of the artist
For some reason I always find myself coming back to impossible cathedrals #400 (2021) by pepe xyz (EDG). There is something mysterious yet soothing about the outputs and I enjoy the artist’s description of the work. (Nick Hladek)

Anna Wolf: Fxhash is an open platform. Due to its unrestricted nature it has grown to be an unparalleled repository of generative art — a field of experimentation for artists and collectors alike. Low financial entry makes art collecting accessible and easy. A beginner collector can start building a collection on a low budget until they figure out what types of artwork particularly resonate with them or what they would like to focus on. Browsing through digital galleries and seeing what fxhash collectors are showcasing is thus always fun, since most of the pieces are still affordable.

A vibrant art community has come into being around fxhash, with lively discussions around art on Discord and Twitter, with collecting and curatorial collectives, artists collaborations and educational support. fxhash allows not only for generative art to flourish, but also for a larger audience than ever to engage with it. I think we are witnessing a major cultural shift here.

Clay Heaton: Within the Tezos ecosystem, prior to the emergence of fxhash, many generative artists minted work as single tokens to Hic et Nunc, Objkt.com, and other sites that are not built to support collector minting of unique generative editions. Hic et Nunc (and now Teia) allowed for some limited querying of hicdex that artists could use to customize editions to collectors, but relying on the APIs provided was a bit of a gamble. Once a piece is minted, the code cannot be changed, so if part of the code relies on an API that changes, then the piece potentially will cease to work properly.

fxhash eliminates that problem by baking into minted editions the information required for each piece to generate as a unique and deterministic output. In many ways, it is the Tezos equivalent of Art Blocks, yet with more of an open-door policy for participation. fxhash also benefits from the low gas fees on Tezos, in that it opens the door to both artists and collectors who may not have the funds to participate on other chains. As a result, a lot of the work is experimental. New and emerging generative artists can mint their work through fxhash with less risk than they can through competing generative art platforms. As a consequence, a lot of the work is less “long-form” in nature. As the platform grows, the fxhash team will need to adjust the curation and discovery tools to enable collectors to browse the different types of work more effectively.

To me, one of the more compelling features of fxhash is that it does not require minted work to be entirely “on chain,” or, in other words, to fit entirely within the metadata of the token itself. With IPFS as a backbone, artists can mint generative work that draws on non-code assets such as CSV files, other images, or music files. Some consider this risky, as IPFS assets must be pinned and/or backed up due to the chance that the token can be dissociated from the work to which it points. I believe the benefit of expanding beyond code obliged to fit within metadata will be realized through a wider variety of output, further fueling the experimental nature of fxhash as a platform. Also, I hear there’s this company called ClubNFT that is working on IPFS backups :-)

mrkswcz, Hollow, 2022. Courtesy of the artist
My favorite work is Hollow (2022) by mrkswcz (I own #31). It emotionally transports me to another world full of light and shadow and infinite space. In many respects it mirrors the experience of visiting a well-worn museum — surrounded by people but wholly alone in your engagement with the place, its architecture, and its art. Although there are tourists and birds co-existing within the cavern, the composition invokes a sense of solitude and impermanence, tempered by the timeless infinitude of the past and the future. (Trinity)

DK: Are fxhash collectors a different species? I feel like I have found my tribe — I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on what makes this community unique.

NH: Not necessarily, though I do think that the openness of the platform attracts collectors who are more interested in finding great art than turning a quick profit. 

T: I’m not sure we are that different, other than our close connection through Discord and Twitter. We certainly are incredibly engaged with the platform beyond what I’ve seen elsewhere. 

I do see a unique level of passion and fervor for collecting specific projects or artists, which I partly attribute to price points that are much friendlier to the wallet than what you might see on ETH. You see some collectors with dozens of editions of a single work that they truly love, either minted directly or purchased on the secondary market, and I’ve had countless conversations with friends who are debating just one more g l a s s (2021) by punevyr or another Dragon (2021) by William Mapan.

AW: Having a survey of fxhash collectors and collectors on other NFT platforms would be a really interesting way to answer this question. From my experience, I would say so. It seems that most fxhash collectors are new to collecting art in general, and generative art in particular. Until I discovered fxhash, I was interested in collecting generative art on a curated platform, but I was hesitant to make the investment. I also wasn’t sure how my tastes would evolve. Minting on fxhash was such a low-budget investment that I simply started collecting when I discovered it. Luckily one of my first mints was Contrapuntos (2021) by Marcelo Soria-Rodriguez that I still own. It was a valuable experience in that it gave me the confidence to trust my own judgment. 

One of the most amazing things about fxhash is that there is no authority telling you what is good art, and what is not good art. Drops are not curated. I believe this is one of the reasons why the fxhash community is so vibrant. There is a need for collectors, including artists, to discuss a piece’s story and meaning, and assess and evaluate its cultural value as well as its market value. It is amazing to see how people who initially started collecting art on fxhash for short-term profit have become collectors, meaning they have begun to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for the artwork itself. Therefore, fxhash has evolved into a unique global platform with an open negotiation process about the significance and value of art. It differs fundamentally from curated platforms, where this negotiation process is reserved for a very limited number of individuals.

William Mapan, Dragons #203, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

CH: The early months of fxhash were dominated, in part, by artist-collectors who were both thrilled to have access to the platform and who collected work to show solidarity with each other and to support Ciphrd, who created the platform. By mid-December 2021, many collectors and artists active on Tezos had noticed and started participating in the fxhash ecosystem.

With a few notable exceptions, until recently, I always felt that the world of NFT collectors could be split broadly into those who view NFT art as an investment opportunity and those who collect out of appreciation for the art and to support artists. Overall, Tezos always felt like 80% appreciation and 20% investment to me, while Ethereum, for example, felt like 80% investment and 20% appreciation. Fxhash collectors initially followed this split.

Leading up to the end of the fxhash beta in March of 2022, I sensed this split shifting. The fxhash collector base feels more like a 50/50 split now between appreciation and investment. Yet, through it all, the Tezos culture that defined the original fxhash user base remains. Fxhash is still the best NFT generative art marketplace for experimental and exploratory work. I believe that the collectors interested in this type of work are still participating in the platform, though they may not be represented in “Top 10” lists or interested in minting or collecting the most popular tokens.

JB: Fxhash collectors are a bit nerdier than your average NFT collector. We are drawn in by art, programming, and math. Keeping the prices low and transaction costs down has drawn in an audience of artists interested in making their art available to a wider audience and collectors who want to collect affordably on a regular basis.

pepe xyz, Stitched: Trauma, 2022. Courtesy of the artist
There are so many pieces of art that I admire for different reasons. However, there is an artwork that incorporates several of these, and that is Stitched: Trauma (2022) by pepe xyz (EDG). Stitched: Trauma is genuinely generative, not only because it is made with code, but also because it cannot easily be reproduced with other techniques. The work explores the uncontrollable, chaotic aspects of life, inviting us to embrace its beauty, diversity, and organic nature. In this sense, this work invites the viewer to accept themselves, their life experiences, and their existence. (Anna Wolf)

DK: What is your personal collecting strategy? I feel like I don’t have a strategy per se, and could use a little more structure guiding my decisions. I mostly just go with my gut.

JB: Regardless of the platform, my collecting strategy is always the same and it has served me very well:

  1. Buy art you love
  2. From artists you want to see succeed
  3. For prices you can afford
  4. With the assumption you will never be able to resell it
  5. And you will always be happy

I should say that I broke these rules on the launch day for fxhash 1.0 and pretty much minted everything I could get my hands on. Even the most disciplined collectors have the occasional moment of weakness.

AW: Art, to me, is innovation. It is about discovering something new that inspires me to look at things differently. Long-form generative art feels uniquely alive to me. Within a collection, there is one coherent concept, but then there is a potentially infinite number of random outcomes. Each of them feels unique and beautiful, yet they are all part of one whole. I feel as if they are uncovering some kind of hidden potential within the world around us, and with each iteration they create and reveal something new about it. This is a quality in generative collections that I find particularly appealing.

T: I’m a big proponent of buying art that you like and developing a connection to it. If this is your strategy, you will never “lose.” I also try to collect work by artists that I like and with whom I have built connections because it is intrinsically rewarding to support friends. It’s also another way not to lose. 

However, I am pragmatic about buying and selling. Last year, I purchased a set amount of Tez and I’m committed to staying disciplined and not buying in more. When an opportunity to profit presents itself, either in the short or medium term, I will absolutely flip a piece to ensure my continued solvency. It’s also important to me to take a long-term view. There are certain pieces that I feel extraordinarily confident in and/or just plain love, and I plan to hold onto them either indefinitely or for multiple years because I know that selling for a profit now would be ill-advised. If you are at all familiar with the Stanford marshmallow experiment, I would be the kid who always waited to eat the marshmallow or save it to eat later, “just in case.”  

Robert Hodgin, Growth v02 #374, 2022. Courtesy of the artist
I would say that Robert Hodgin’s Growth v02 (2022) works are my favorites in my fxhash collection. They really stand above everything else on the platform for the high quality of draftsmanship, animation, and the thoughtful use of color. They are also as rich in concept as they are in execution, with Hodgin pulling visual cues from artists ranging from William Morris to Kehinde Wiley. They are lush, magical, and my fascination with them has only grown with time. (Jason Bailey)

CH: My strategy is driven heavily by my long history as a generative artist. For years, the generative art community, lacking a cohesive marketplace, supported each other through Open Processing and the Processing community, discussion forums, Listservs, GitHub, Reddit, etc. As a group, we always shared techniques and built upon each other’s work, attracted to cool new algorithms like moths to a flame. “Oooooh, that’s cool!” is a significant part of my collecting strategy. 

I love experimental work and I love to watch as artists develop new algorithms and bring them to life through their work. Perhaps the companion site to Right Click Save should be “Right Click Inspect” because that’s what a lot of generative artist-collectors do when they encounter new and interesting work. We dive right into the source code to see how our peers achieve their magic. These are not always immediately obvious. Indeed, I am often attracted to small implementation details: How did she create that grain texture? How did they layer and animate those textures simultaneously? Or simply: How did he make that work completely size-agnostic, so that it displays as well on mobile as it does on a 4K TV?

I have a deep appreciation for the more well-known artists’ work: Zancan, Tyler Hobbs, ippsketch, but in general, I don’t aspire to collect it. I have always enjoyed sharing methods, teaching new programmers, and introducing people to generative art. As a result, perhaps, I tend to support and collect emerging artists because I like to help lift them up and I want them to know that I appreciate their hard work and the results of it.

NH: I aim to collect pieces that make me feel something and consider whether or not I would display them in my home or elsewhere. It is also important to support diversity within the space. While I wish I could collect art without limitation, the reality is that there are financial considerations for me when collecting. Finding a balance between building a long-term collection that I am happy with and selling pieces that allow me to continue collecting is key. 

punevyr, g l a s s #415, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

DK: Are you conscious of generative art history when you collect? What metrics, aesthetic, technical, or otherwise do you use to evaluate each project? 

AW: Being able to situate a work in the context of generative art history (and art history in general) definitely adds an extra layer of appreciation. Many of the works explore new forms and possibilities that are often impossible to categorize within known contexts. I’m definitely guided by the aesthetics and overall concept of a work more than by its technical aspects, but the idea of being able to read and understand the work within its relatively brief history is something that I’m exploring more and more. 

CH: I’ve long been a follower of generative art and greatly respect the advances made by those who didn’t have access to the same technologies that allow me to create my own art. Can you imagine trying to create generative art back in the 1960s or 1970s — creating punch cards and using magnetic tapes, coercing programming languages to do things they were not meant to do, and then trying to get them to output properly to plotters, oscilloscopes, dot matrix printers, or other business-oriented technologies?

In the past, there was an attitude of not questioning whether something was possible, but just fulfilling a vision. Most important, perhaps, was the total lack of fear. In the NFT-enabled world, minting a piece that doesn’t sell out can be a huge hit to momentum and confidence. For those who created the art form, failure was just part of the process of realizing a vision.

These days, a lot of the more well-known generative artists remain active on Open Processing or other, similar sites such as CodePen and Shadertoy, creating and sharing far more work than they ever mint as NFTs. As a collector, that’s a really great signal to me that an artist is here to stay, not afraid to fail, and is willing to support the community. Hence, I don’t really pay much attention to metrics when I collect work. I do pay attention to the artists and their willingness to share with the community and continue the traditions of experimentation that brought us to where we are. I also really like bright colors. Working with color in generative pieces is an enormous challenge. I appreciate the effort artists put into developing generative palettes and enjoy the aesthetics of bright happy colors. 

Metamoar, Zebra’s Mirror #1 [p5.js] #17, 2022. Courtesy of the artist
In the realm of the experimental, my favorite collected piece is Zebra’s Mirror #1 [p5.js] #17 by Metamoar. It’s animated, colorful, subtly interactive, imperfect, silly, and fun. It represents a lot of what differentiates interactive generative art from other art forms. (Clay Heaton)

JB: I’m conscious of art history in general when collecting. But I ultimately collect what I love. There are no real calculations, it’s a matter of the heart. I can tell within a fraction of a second if a work belongs with me and if I will regret not picking it up. I was not the most confident person growing up but I have always had a ton of confidence in my taste in art. I know what I like and I have never cared what anyone else thinks. A lot of that comes from having spent a third of my life in the studio painting, drawing, printmaking, and coding, as well as my deep passion for art history. I’m better known for starting trends than for following them. To my mind that is a better way to collect. 

NH: I am not terribly well-versed in the history of generative art, but I would love to learn more. I typically aim for feeling but do enjoy seeing novel coding tricks and unique technical approaches. I like to see artists continually progressing and experimenting. 

T: I’m still new to the world of generative art, and while I’m committed to learning, it’s clear that this is an incredibly deep space. One of the many reasons to enjoy Casey Reas’s CENTURY-XXX (2022) is that it speaks to history and icons that we should know. 

When collecting work, aesthetics are critical, and I’m drawn to work that has been made with incredible care and includes the emotional texture or intangible “it-ness” that is always personal and impossible to quantify. In some, but by no means all, cases I will look toward the resilience of an algorithm to see how much diversity it can support. However, I will rarely look at the code itself. While there are some projects that represent incredible feats of mastery, I may skip them If I don’t personally enjoy them.

Marcelo Soria-Rodriguez, Contrapuntos #27, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

DK: What do you think makes generative art a special kind of NFT market?

CH: Minting a new generative piece is a bit like gambling. It’s nearly impossible for a generative artist to guarantee variety in the output of their algorithms whilst also guaranteeing consistency in the quality of the work. As both an artist and a collector, it is enormous fun to click the mint button and wait to see my unique token appear. Will I get a color palette I like? Will the shapes appeal to me? Does the piece animate in an interesting way? All generative art collectors are obliged to participate in this game of art roulette. 

When high-profile artists mint new work, the investment-minded collectors have to make the same gamble. There’s always a chance they end up with an edge-case piece that is more (or less) valuable in the context of the entire collection. The risk involved makes the process fun. This same mechanic applies increasing pressure to artists as they continue to develop their portfolios. While it becomes less acceptable for the big names to publish generative work that isn’t close to 100% consistent in the quality of the output. Yet, they also feel pressure to increase variety.

There is no such thing as a perfect generative art piece. As the space continues to evolve, I hope we find a safe way for the big names to share more of their intermediate projects and processes. Artists like Ben Kovach, Ahmad Moussa, Raphaël de Courville, Robert Hodgin, and Tyler Hobbs, amongst others, are excellent at documenting their practices. It is an enormously time-consuming task, requiring a lot of planning, to provide high-quality documentation of the development of generative art pieces. These are the people, however, who are providing the information and tools required by the next generation to continue to evolve the art form.

NH: Generative art is an excellent use of the medium. Generating unique art using a transaction hash is an excellent way to showcase what is possible with the technology. Fxhash is typically my way of explaining NFTs to those who are not already engaged in the space.

Ciphrd, RGB Elementary Cellular Automaton #121, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

 

JB: Because generative art allows for near-infinite variations on a single theme, you can create a large edition of high-quality works at a low cost to collectors. Rather than buying a single 1/1 work for $5,000 and feeling good about how nobody else got that one, with generative art and fxhash you can buy 500 ten-dollar works similar to those your friends bought and then you can all discuss and compare with each other. It has the communal qualities of PFP NFTs with the high-quality art of the 1/1 market.

T: Compared to some of the other NFT markets, collectors of generative art are quite literally here for the art above all else. (Some are here for money, but it’s an inherently less profitable arena than others.) I know that some people love curated outputs, but there is something magical about the process of minting to see what comes out of the box, as well as the joy in sharing your output with others in the community. Anecdotally, artists have expressed their own delight in seeing the variations that arise, whether expected or unexpected. While they have created an algorithm, it isn’t foretold what surprises could emerge from the edges of probability.

Generative art also enables a special experience on the secondary market, where you can seek out traits that speak to you as a collector. You are able to curate your own experience, which is something that we’ve been seeing increasingly with the proliferation of gallery platforms like Deca

AW: With blockchain technology disrupting many different industries, it is no surprise that it has made its mark in generative art, specifically by introducing “long-form” generative art. As with PFP collections, long-form generative art also generates a community around it. An art community can also provide positive feedback as well as constructive criticism of the artwork. 

Artists benefit tremendously from having a community that supports them. Observing their work through the eyes of others may help them evolve their artistic praxis. A community can also be a place for artists to network, which can lead to collaborations, exhibitions, and other opportunities. All of these factors add cultural as well as financial value to generative art.

🎴🎴🎴

Jason Bailey is the creator of the art and tech blog Artnome.com and founder of GreenNFTs and ClubNFT where he serves as CEO.

Clay Heaton is a data scientist and creative coder from Raleigh, North Carolina. He taught himself to program with Processing over 15 years ago and has been creating and collecting NFTs since the #sketch4processing fundraising event in 2021.

Nick Hladek is an NFT collector, artist, and open-source contributor who currently serves as Head of Data Science at ClubNFT. 

Trinity is a product strategist and generative art maximalist who lives, breathes, and dreams about human-oriented experiences for Web3. She is also a co-host of Waiting To Be Signed, the premier podcast dedicated to the art and happenings on fxhash.

Anna Wolf is an economist based in Munich, Germany. Holding a PhD in economics, she has over 15 years of experience in economic forecasting and the measurement of economic expectations. Beside her professional activity as economist, she has been intensively involved in art projects and has curated cross-border art collaborations, among them with Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. NFTs have brought together her great passion for art and culture with her interest in social and economic transition. While exploring the use of blockchain technology in the art space, she offers advice to companies, cultural institutions, artists and collectors about how to enter the world of NFT art.

Danielle King is the CFO/COO of ClubNFT, and the former manager of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.