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November 4, 2023

On the Hypercentralization of Crypto Art

As Bright Moments arrives in Buenos Aires, the local community considers the prospects for digital art in Latin America
Credit: Layla Pizarro, Buenos Aires Catedral 1 (detail), 2023. Courtesy of the artist
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On the Hypercentralization of Crypto Art

The decision of Bright Moments to host their latest event in Buenos Aires offers a unique opportunity to shine a light on Argentina’s thriving crypto art scene. While NFTs have unlocked the market potential of generative art, the decentralization of digital art in general is a chance to celebrate creator communities outside the Global North. 

With its rich cultural legacy and history of technological innovation, Buenos Aires has emerged recently as a thriving crypto art hub, fueled by a committed community and the promise of crypto as an alternative to the current economic and political landscape. To celebrate the Argentine scene, Fanny Lakoubay gathered together a group of digital artists, curators, and theorists to offer their insider perspectives on this lesser-known corner of the art world. Together, their contributions represent a hybrid ode to the city’s dynamic digital underground, spotlighting the ongoing struggle of a country through the lens of a specific community.

Installation view of “HOST DE NUESTROS SUEÑOS” with work: Sculpture 2 (2023) by Eva Cafiero. Courtesy of AURA

Hypereikon on the tension between traditional and digital art

We find it difficult to distinguish the digital from the traditional art scene. In Latin America, digital art and experimentation with computational processes derive from traditional art. From the pioneers of electronic art in the 1960s to the present, digital art is a fundamental part of contemporary art curricula. 

While we understand the difference between the traditional and NFT markets, these worlds share many points of convergence.

Digital art is fundamental to contemporary art in Argentina and Chile, and it is common to see exhibitions that establish connections between the two. The concepts and problematics addressed in contemporary digital art are similar to those questioned since the beginning of electronic art. While some artists without a traditional art background may mistakenly believe that their approaches are novel, this is simply due to a lack of knowledge of the vast conceptual and theoretical framework established in the early days of electronic art.

Installation view of “Indisciplinas” at Espacio Cultural La Leñera with work: OBSERVATORIO: latencias (2023) by Hypereikon. Courtesy of Hypereikon
Before crypto art, it was difficult for artists to support themselves. Now we can make our art full-time, sell our work locally and internationally, engage with artists from around the world, and feel that we belong to a global scene. 

We do not like to base the discussion on the premise of “emerging and hard-working artists” but rather on a latent scene that enhances the collection and circulation of art. Our art transcends current circumstances with resilience and effort, but mainly with art. It is amusing but also concerning to see how the validation of promoters and curators is concentrated within certain hubs. This reflects a somewhat myopic view of the global digital art panorama. If the discourse is based on decentralization and providing opportunities on the margins, then why is it still centered around Western capitals? Why are the same artists always curated into exhibitions and events? 

There is not one single “crypto art” community, but rather a landscape with many active sub-communities brought together out of mutual respect and artistic appreciation. We are very interested in projects like Refraction, which aim to foster horizontal collaboration, respect, and mutual admiration rather than fetishizing the margins or tokenizing demographic diversity. We all inhabit information-circulation-validation bubbles inclined towards certain types of art and aesthetics, which can be centralizing. We will need to reformulate our vision to question the status quo and change this in the future.

Installation view of Hypereikon, Conexiones Transitorias (2023) at NAVE, Santiago, Chile. Courtesy of Hypereikon

Layla Pizarro on the digital art community of Buenos Aires 

Buenos Aires was a gift to me. I had heard endless praise for the city, but it was only when I arrived last year that I really grasped its awe-inspiring charm. My first encounter with the art scene was at the arteBA art fair, where I was overwhelmed by the works and the difference from the art fairs I was used to in New York. I had also not expected such a welcoming community of artists. At first, I thought it was due to my involvement in Web3, but as the months passed, I encountered many digital artists outside of Web3. 

Argentina has a rich history in the traditional and digital arts, so it is no surprise that the crypto art community here is a diverse collection of physical artists, 3D artists, digital fashion artists, creative coder artists, and e-literature creators.

Calling Buenos Aires the center of digital art in Latin America is not far-fetched. While the digital art scene might seem small compared to the northern hemisphere, a new generation of artists is emerging here. Projects like WIP, which focuses on teaching digital art from a conceptual, analytical, and historical perspective, providing the technical skills to create artwork, contribute to this growth. I am currently taking an e-literature class with artists from Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and, of course, Buenos Aires.

Understanding an artist’s country of origin and residence is essential to understanding their artwork. As in many parts of Latin America, Argentina suffers from political and economic turmoil that leaves a lasting impact on each of us. It is a record implanted through generations of struggle and resistance. Our unique stories and experiences are shaped by that history, which is consciously or unconsciously reflected in our art. While I am still getting to know Argentina and its economy and politics, the art scene is something I don’t need to understand intellectually — I feel it, I live it. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Layla Pizarro, Buenos Aires Catedral 2, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Julian Brangold on the problems and solutions of crypto

The crypto art scene in Argentina is a captivating reflection of the country’s economic and social realities. In the early days of crypto art, Argentinians were quick to embrace blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to circumvent economic instability and currency devaluation that had plagued everyday life. 

The allure of cryptocurrencies, with their potential for wealth preservation, was particularly appealing in a country grappling with hyperinflation and stringent capital controls. Artists turned to crypto art as a new way to make a living and engage in a global artistic community from a seemingly peripheral country.

As the bull market in cryptocurrencies soared, the dynamics within the Argentine crypto art scene began to shift. A speculative frenzy overshadowed the initial excitement surrounding the economic potential of these digital assets, as many individuals rushed into the market to capitalize on short-term financial gains. The intrinsic value of the art and the community that had initially driven its growth seemed to be lost amid the thrust for quick profits.

Julian Brangold and Frenetik Void, PsipsiKoko, 2023. Courtesy of AURA

Only a few groups survived the hype cycle, including CryptoArg, a self-organized community that preceded the NFT explosion. However, as the bear market began to impact sales and people’s interest, organizing a sustainable and cohesive crypto art community in Argentina proved difficult, especially because artists had to find full-time jobs unrelated to their practice. Slowly, the energy they could dedicate to collectivity and blockchain-based projects began to diminish, while those technologies that promised organizational improvements and transparent decision-making also became hard and expensive to implement. 

As Argentina’s artists continue to navigate these challenges, the enduring spirit of creativity and resilience remains a testament to the culturally rich output of the Global South.

Indeed, as crypto art’s initial hype dies down, the distinction between crypto art and digital art in general becomes increasingly irrelevant, and a more organic, interdisciplinary, and niche approach to the use of technologies becomes increasingly imminent.
Installation view of “HOST DE NUESTROS SUEÑOS” (2023) with works by Eva Cafiero and Queerborg. Courtesy of AURA

AURA on the synergies between traditional and digital art

Crypto and traditional art scenes maintain tremendous strength, existing together rather than in opposition. Today’s immense technological apparatus has given rise to new forms of audiovisual production, and it is important to provide appropriate support and exhibition formats for each project. We aim to break away from traditional methods of curating contemporary art at Argentine fairs. We use screens, sculptures, robots, 3D prints, and performances that traverse entire pavilions, as witnessed in our participation in the Utopia section of arteBA 2023.

We aim to strengthen the connection between art and technology by building collaborative hubs that redefine current production and exhibition models. It is crucial to foster intergenerational and interdisciplinary dialogues around these spaces, and, as a Latin American venue, we are thrilled to shed light on the digital art scene here. 

Many exhibitions will be taking place around the same time as Bright Moments Buenos Aires. These include our show, “Ferales,” which features the works of Trinidad Metz Brea, who works in hybrid territories, combining large-scale 3D prints with traditional sculpture techniques. It is also an opportunity to collaborate with Argentine curator Sofía Dourron, who is currently serving as Associate Curator of the 12th edition of the Seoul Mediacity Biennale and curator of the upcoming Argentine submission to the Venice Biennale 2024.

Installation view of Hypereikon, Conexiones Transitorias 2 (2023) at NAVE, Santiago, Chile. Courtesy of Hypereikon

Cristian Reynaga on the need for international collaboration

The present moment can be characterized by extensive connectivity and a pervasive Western-centrism that directly influences the art that gains access to global platforms. In the local traditional art scene, one can encounter artists exploring ancient techniques and themes originating in South America. However, such work is liable to be perceived as “exotic” when viewed through the lens of traditional Global Northern institutions. 

Buenos Aires is home to a strong community of digital artists with decades of experience in creative coding and a willingness to share their knowledge, opportunities, and resources. However, this community faces challenges due to the lack of specialized galleries and curators and minimal recognition from public or private cultural institutions.

The traditional art scene tends to take notice of digital art only when there is a fear of losing privileges to the NFT market or a need to protect intellectual property against current developments in AI.
Installation view of “AURA VTV” (2023) with works by Franco Palioff. Courtesy of AURA

Digital artists are often subjected to superficial inquiries about their work along with low-budget events. At the same time, traditional art institutions tend to show interest in digital culture only to secure international funding for projects where the benefits go primarily to them rather than to the digital art community. Buenos Aires has a long tradition of artists working with technology, including video artists in the 1990s, but they have not been inclined to share their knowledge until now. 

While there are numerous academic institutions and independent organizations offering digital art programs here, the presence of galleries and institutions dedicated solely to digital art is limited. Buenos Aires may be renowned for its independent artists in theater, music, and literature, but many projects still struggle to secure funding and maintain long-term sustainability. What we need now are local medium-sized and large-scale projects operating under stable conditions. The burgeoning community of young digital artists as well as the “OGs” are well-prepared to collaborate with international collectors, galleries, and researchers. That is now of the utmost importance.

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AURA is a platform and gallery based in Buenos Aires that focuses on the intersection of art and technology. The project explores contemporary forms of visual, audiovisual, and digital production using exhibition formats suitable for each artistic element. The goal is to support multidisciplinary artists who challenge the relationship between virtual and physical mediums. The exhibitions produced by AURA connect with cutting-edge local, regional, and global art, addressing the key themes of the current art agenda.

Julian Brangold is a multidisciplinary artist whose approach encompasses painting, collage, computer programming, 3D modeling, video installations, and other digital mediums. His conceptual research investigates themes such as technology, artificial intelligence, and the online self. In his work, Julian invites viewers to contemplate their place in a world of constant technological advancement and new natural landscapes, blurring the division between the digital and the human. Since June 2020, he has been exploring crypto art and tokenizing digital artworks on the blockchain. Julian is also the Director of Programming at the Museum of Crypto Art (MOCA), a Web3 native cultural institution. He currently lives and works in Buenos Aires.

Hypereikon is a digital artist duo based in Buenos Aires comprising María Constanza Lobos and Sebastián Rojas. With a focus on dreamlike spaces and the idea of digital becoming, Hypereikon creates immersive and experimental digital artworks that challenge conventional notions of creativity. Through extensive research and practice with AI techniques, they engage in a sensitive and imaginative practice, synthesizing thoughts, texts, algorithms, and images to create visually stunning and meaningful experiences. Their work spans multiple mediums, including generative art, AI, immersive and interactive video installations, and VR experiences. Inhabiting the internet as part of our post-natural world, Hypereikon operates as an imaginary prosthesis that explores new visual-technical imaginaries and creates captivating artworks.

Layla Pizarro is a Chilean artist based in Buenos Aires. Her practice ranges between figurative realism and non-representational abstraction, adopting analog and digital painting, digital and experimental photography, and experimentation with AI and creative code. She is also the creator and co-host of the Arte y Labia podcast, and co-host of SOBRE ARTE, a Twitter space dedicated to discussing artistic influences. Layla has exhibited globally and has participated in events, including NFT.NYC, Originales Digitales NFT, CityLab, Cripto Arte, and the Women in the Blockchain Conference 2022.

Cristian Reynaga is an art curator, educator, and technologist specializing in digital art and culture. With over 15 years of experience in the field, he has researched in various formats on Argentine digital art. Since 2015, he has directed the independent project, +CODE | Cultura Digital, organizing festivals, workshops, and exhibitions featuring Argentinian artists such as Manolo Gamboa Naon, Lolo Armdz, Guido Corallo, Leonardo Solaas, as well as international artists including Lauren Lee McCarthy, Paul Prudence, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Aram Bartholl. He has also collaborated with local public and private institutions on specific projects related to digital art, VR, and Web3.

Fanny Lakoubay is a French-born digital art advisor, collector, and curator with over 15 years of expertise in the realms of art, technology, and finance. After spending the majority of her career in New York, since 2018 she has provided guidance to numerous artists, collectors, museums, and start-ups venturing into Web3 through her company, LAL ART. She is an active board member and advisor for prominent Web3 projects, including The RareDAO Foundation,, and The NFT Factory. She has played a pivotal role in the growth of various NFT initiatives, including CADAF, Editional,, Green NFT, The Blockchain Art Directory, and has led communications for RadicalxChange. She regularly contributes op-eds on art and technology to publications such as Right Click Save, NFT Evening, and Le Quotidien de l’Art. Fanny lives with her family between Argentina, France, and the US.