March 14, 2022

Welcome to the Block Party

RCS speaks to the artists currently showcased at Christie’s Dubai, who share their advice for new creatives entering the NFT space
Credit: Osinachi, Man in the Window (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist
Now Reading:  
Welcome to the Block Party

RCS: Tell us about your work for the exhibition, “Block Party,” and how it fits within your wider practice. 

Osinachi: My first piece at “Block Party,” titled Man in the Window (2022) reflects on the idea of solitude in one’s space while being surrounded by nature. It is part of a reflection I often do through my practice on what it means to find oneself in a world where individualism is steadily disappearing. The second piece is titled What the Statue Says (2021). The work explores what it means to be black and female, and at the same time have the audacity to dream despite the barriers you face because of who you are. Generally, these two artworks reinforce the theme of identity, which is prevalent throughout my wider practice. 

Nicole Ruggiero: My work, How long will you love me? (2021) is an emotional exploration of personal vulnerability. The character pictured expresses pain, frustration, and sadness while casting away artifacts of her digital life, spearheaded through elements of the background forming a kinetic, chaotic motion. My life over the past few years has dealt with a lot of loss. The family members closest to me passed away, and shortly after, my pet cat of ten years died as well. I was feeling a severe sense of loneliness, longing, fear, grief, and pain when I created this piece, which is very personal to me, and fits into my body of work which focuses on digital culture, new technology, and sometimes deals with heightened emotional and intimate themes. 

José Delbo: For this collection, I wanted to do something new with my work: To honor some of my favorite fine artists throughout history and their works. I wanted to combine my comic art style with Sarah Perryman’s more painterly digital coloring to create something that feels truly unique. 

Justin Aversano: My work, Bahareh & Farzaneh Safarani (2021), fits perfectly within ”Block Party.” This exact NFT was recently auctioned off last October for $1.1 million. The artwork continues to live on, grow value, and travel to the other side of the world! While the project continues to reach new audiences through NFTs, reflecting what a photograph can be and achieve. 

Justin Aversano, Bahareh & Farzaneh Safarani, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

Sarah Zucker: “The Sarah Show” is a series of transmissions from an alternate dimension that prismatically reflects our present reality. The Queen of the Dorkside (2022) is the latest broadcast and fits within what I call the “Video Alchemy” strain of my work: Visions that make use of performance and original footage in synthesis with my analog video techniques.

I’ve developed this character over many years through drawings and VideoPaintings, and I have always referred to her as “The Light Witch.” However, a new side of her emerged in 2021. I had been editioning work as NFTs for two years when the world suddenly became aware of what crypto artists were doing. I hadn’t anticipated the backlash, much of which was predicated on misinformation. Suddenly, respected digital artists were seeing their work mocked and maligned simply because of its association with the blockchain. I envisioned The Queen of the Dorkside as a playful transmutation of the anger (mis)directed at artists. Here, The Light Witch indulges her shadow self, cackling deviously at all she hath wrought. It’s camp. It’s melodrama. It’s laughing at the edge of the abyss. 

Rewind Collective: The work exhibited here is part of our “Remember Us” series which celebrates powerful women throughout history. From Harriet Tubman to Marie Antoinette, these works shine a light on figures often not given the credit they deserve. Our different works draw upon original photography and reworking of old master paintings, challenging viewers to think about gender roles throughout history and how they might be portrayed in the future. 

Trevor Jones: Collaboration has had a huge impact on almost every artist in the NFT space, me included. I was very nervous to onboard back in 2019 as I wasn’t sure where to even start. Thankfully, the wonderfully witty and talented French artist, Alotta Money, who I’d known for some time, offered to hold my hand and help me get started. My genesis drop EthGirl (2019) was our first collaboration, and I learned so much from Alotta through this creative process. 

EthBoy (2022-ongoing) will be a five-year journey showing little Vitalik as he travels up and down through his Alotta Money-imagined world. There will be two chapters dropping a year with ten chapters in total. Alotta was able to work with me on the first chapter but sadly, after a battle with cancer, he passed away on March 4, 2022. The entire NFT community is devastated as Alotta was truly loved by everyone. I will continue to carry the EthBoy torch in his honor, and I will always be indebted to him for allowing me to work with him, learn from him, and laugh with him. There was always a lot of laughter with Alotta. RIP my friend. 

Rewind Collective, (Still from) Remember Us XXI, 2022. Courtesy of the artists


RCS: In what ways are NFTs and blockchain important to your art? 

NR: NFTs and blockchain are integral to my art practice. Before NFTs, I was unable to sell my artwork — even though I have shown in many galleries, as well as museums internationally — because my work is purely digital. Now I am able to do what I love for a living instead of taking on client gigs, and for that, I am extremely grateful. 

JA: NFTs are extremely important to an artist simply because of the royalties involved. This is a major paradigm shift to protect artists’ work and livelihoods in perpetuity. The power is given back to the creator. 

RC: Blockchain technology has enabled mass adoption of digital art and this also means important issues that our art addresses, such as equality. The enabling of royalties is also a revolution for all artists who typically do not see any proceeds from resales of their work. 

JD: These days, NFTs are all I am doing. When the pandemic hit, it became much harder for me to exhibit my art physically as I had done previously. Having this new opportunity to create digitally challenged me to evolve my art from traditional comic art into something new.

SZ: When I first started learning about blockchain in 2013, there were discussions being held at organizations like Rhizome and Eyebeam about the technology’s potential to edition digital art. As I’ve been primarily creating digital art since 2011, I knew the emergence of this technology would be a watershed moment for me. 

Photography was my first dedicated art practice, which is how I learned about editioning techniques for image-based work. I suppose this is why NFTs, as a container technology, inherently made sense to me. On a more ideological level, I’m very invested in the notion of individual sovereignty, which is reflected throughout my work. The blockchain, while still quite experimental, seems to be questioning the uneven distribution of societal power, and providing new tools for individuals to empower themselves. 

TJ: NFTs are important to my art in a variety of ways especially since they’ve provided artists like myself a seemingly endless supply of opportunity to explore and develop our creative practices. Just as importantly, perhaps, the technology has created a fast-growing community of tech savvy collectors and investors who are now driving this digital renaissance in a way that legacy galleries would never have done for my “traditional” paintings. 

O: I am a digital artist. Prior to now, players in the traditional art space had argued that digital art was basically worthless because there was no way to prove scarcity, show provenance, etc. The blockchain has changed this through the concept of NFTs, which add value to what I create. So, I guess without the blockchain I would still be out there, cap in hand, begging for two things: A little money to put food on my table and a seat at the table of the art world. 

José Delbo (with coloring by Sarah Perryman), Cezanne, 2022. Courtesy of the artist


RCS: Are you able to distinguish your traditional collectors from your crypto collectors? If so, how do you respond to their different priorities?

JA: Yes. The traditional collectors like to collect my physical work. The crypto collectors like to collect my NFTs. However, the crypto collectors are starting to cross over into physicals, as the traditional collectors spill over into NFTs. 

RC: Yes, because traditional collectors do not typically have cryptocurrency or even NFT wallets set up, but there is a shift occurring and both groups are beginning to merge. 

TJ: My traditional collectors no longer buy my work. 

O: The beauty of my practice is that I can straddle both the NFT and traditional art spaces. However, at the same time, I see what I have as a single art career — not an NFT space career distinct from a traditional art space career. My career priority is making good art, art that is better than it was, say, a year ago. As an artist rooted in the crypto art space, the blockchain is the first place I release my work. Occasionally, I put out limited edition prints for the collectors who prefer to have a work they can touch physically. That’s about it. 

NR: In the past, I was asked for commissions or would just do client work for music videos or TV. Now my relationship is different because NFTs catalog my collectors, whereas previously, I couldn’t sell something digital because there was no way to verify ownership. I’m so happy to be able to make a living as a true artist now. It’s great. 

JD: I think, traditionally, my collectors were the comic book audience. While many of the same collectors have purchased my NFT art, I have been fortunate to have my work collected by many of the biggest fine art collectors in the crypto space. For me, the most important thing is to let them know how grateful I am for allowing me to continue to do what I love at this late stage of my life. 

SZ: My art practice has been almost entirely digital for the past decade, so my collector base is almost entirely digital as well. I like to connect with each of my collectors according to their interests, and I have seen some of the collectors who began by collecting my NFTs become collectors of my physical artworks. It’s a beautiful dance of symbiosis between an artist and collector, as we can each confer something precious on the other and build something of lasting value in the world. 

I have long had an interest in sculpture and installation, and my work is organically blossoming into a wider range of disciplines. As the world reopens and I see more support for my digital editions, the more emboldened I feel to branch out into object-based work. 

Sarah Zucker, (Still from) The Queen of the Dorkside, 2022. Courtesy of the artist


RCS: What, in your opinion, has been the catalyst for your success in the cryptosphere? 

JA: Community. 

JD: I have been honored by the overwhelming support I have received in this space. I am not sure I can pinpoint the catalyst, but I know that I put everything I have into making each piece special. 

TJ: Who knows?! I imagine there are a number of factors including being very early to the space, but also the fact that, even though I came from the traditional art world, I’ve been fascinated with the integration of tech with paint for over a decade. My work has been waiting patiently for this moment in time. 

RC: There were not many people focused on women and minorities when the cryptosphere launched. There has now been a growing shift towards inclusiveness with projects such a World of Women, Boss Beauties, and Long Neckies, all of which shine a light on women and minority-led crypto art projects. 

SZ: In some ways, I was just in the right place at the right time. But that can only be true because I was also the right person. I’m incredibly grateful for the visibility and support this space has afforded me, but I also know I had to self-elect to receive these blessings. I came to this space with a vast body of digital work and some street cred from the Web2 era. My support reached critical mass when Jason Bailey began collecting my art in early 2020. He tweeted his enthusiasm for my work and provided context for the lineage of my video art practice, which was (and remains) unusual. This brought a lot of new eyes to what I was doing, and interest has snowballed ever since. 

Ongoing success for any artist in this volatile landscape is typically due to a confluence of creativity, a unique knowledge set, perseverance, and a desire to better one’s community. Kindness, grace, and compassion also go a long way, inside or outside the cryptosphere. 

O: I think I would say authenticity. I know the saying goes that too many cooks spoil the broth. However, I see the art world in general as one big pot of broth made by an uncountable number of cooks, with each adding their own authenticity to the broth. Where authenticity is lacking, one is certainly going to see an endless repetition of ideas. This is why artists need time to develop their practice, to find their own voices or, if you like, their own particular ingredient. 

NR: I think getting involved in NFTs early on has helped my success, but I also think it’s important to have been involved with digital art communities for years. I have run a Discord server for about four years now, I used to run a curated art collective called Post Vision, and I have been consistently making and showing digital artwork since 2015.

Trevor Jones, Alotta Money, Don Diablo, (Still from) EthBoy Chapter 1, 2022. Courtesy of the artists


RCS: What might be the lessons of your story for other emerging artists entering the crypto space right now? 

NR: To emerging artists entering the crypto space: Try to get involved in communities. Look at where the art you like is being sold or curated and make friends with other people who are selling there. Mint your work and try not to be too worried about what to do and what not to do. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn from them. Just make sure you stay secure with a hardware wallet and password manager, and make sure to verify who you’re talking to by looking at who follows them, and you’ll be good! 

RC: Never stop creating. 

JA: Never give up. Make quality work. Tell your story. Contribute more than your artwork can offer. Build community. Always do your best! 

O: I think they should learn to build their practice patiently, carving out a unique voice for themselves, making art that is important to them first of all instead of the unhealthy obsession with what sells or what is selling. Those who resonate with their work will find them naturally. 

JD: I think in my case, one lesson is that you are never too old to try something new. My family helps me a ton, but I never thought I would be creating digitally until the opportunity arose, and I ran with it. I don’t think anyone should be afraid of trying something new. 

TJ: I graduated from art college 14 years ago at the “old age” of 38 and never did I expect to find this level of success through my art. However, even during the many years living hand to mouth, I never stopped painting and I was always exploring ways to differentiate myself from other artists. My advice is not to create art for “fame” or “glory” but because it defines you as an individual. Be different. Never give up. 

SZ: The lesson of my story is that, ultimately, you have to be the artist you are and make the art you make, and be patient in waiting for the support to show up. I often joke that I’m a ten-year overnight success, as I have been developing my art and voice since long before I began editioning my work on the blockchain. I have always been very dedicated to my own inner vision. It takes longer to project that into the world, rather than creating what you think others want to see. 

Nicole Ruggiero, How long will you love me?, 2021. Courtesy of the artist


RCS: How is the year shaping up for you? What are your goals for 2022? 

JD: So far, so good. I just hope that I can continue doing what I love and creating art.

JA: The year is shaping up quickly! A lot of ideas are manifesting through my NFT platform Quantum.Art. My aim for 2022 is to have a solo-exhibition at a major museum for Twin Flames and Smoke and Mirrors. 

SZ: This year took off like a rocket for me, and shows no signs of slowing. I started the year with the release of “Promethea,” a VideoPainting series on Nifty Gateway, which was well received. I am participating in a number of group exhibitions at the moment, including “Block Party.” My aim for 2022 is to marvel at the unfolding. I’ve hit a beautiful stride in my current work, that ecstatic state we often refer to as “flow.” I don’t want to scare it off, but coax it to go deeper. 

TJ: Busier than ever! A few of the plates I’m spinning at the moment include a partnership with Coinbase NFT and an edition of 21 bronze-cast sculptures and 200 bronze resin sculptures with NFT counterparts. Even though I love the excitement and endless possibilities of the digital art world, I will never let go of the long history and tradition of art. I’ve also hired Stirling Castle in Scotland to throw the most exclusive crypto art party of the year this Summer with one of the world’s top DJs, Don Diablo, ending the night for 400 guests. This will be an annual event at a different castle in a different country each year, open only to owners of my Bitcoin Angel NFTs and Archangel reward card holders. 

NR: This year has been great so far. I have a lot of new work coming out in March, including a single edition and utility-driven project. I showed a long-term VR and portrait project for the first time last year at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and House of Electronic Arts Basel (HEK) during Art Basel, and I will be continuing to show that. I haven’t minted it yet because I’m looking for the right opportunity. I am really excited about doing more VR inside the crypto space, or metaverse, and continuing to use the new utilities that the blockchain develops. 

O: I have a number of projects in the pipeline, each of which brings challenges that end up making me an even better artist than I was yesterday. And maybe (just maybe) a generative art project before the year runs out.

RC: We have a number of exhibitions and projects launching, and we are honored to be a part of “Block Party” in Dubai, our first exhibition in the Middle East. 

🎴🎴🎴

With thanks to India Price.

“Block Party” presents the world’s leading NFT art experimentalists for a special edition of works to be showcased for the first time in Dubai. Curated by Daria Borisova and hosted by Christie’s, the exhibition brings together leading practitioners of the NFT art movement at Christie’s Dubai from 7 to 29 March, 2022.

Justin Aversano is co-founder and CEO of Quantum Art, a platform focused on curating digital culture through NFTs. Before Quantum, Justin launched Twin Flames, a photographic collection of 100 sets of twins. Justin is also the co-founder and creative director of SaveArtSpace, a non-profit dedicated to bringing community art to public spaces. A humanist and a social entrepreneur, Justin connects his art with the world around him by capturing moments, faces, and communities that surround him, bringing them together through the lens of his camera. Justin is currently based in Los Angeles.

José Delbo is an Argentinian-born comic and fine artist who published his first professional work at the age of only 16. Having brought a host of television shows to comic book form with titles such as The Twilight Zone, The Brady Bunch, Hogan’s Heroes, Buck Rogers, The Monkees and the Mod Squad, José then worked for DC and Marvel Comics, penciling the published adventures of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, The Transformers, and The Thundercats. Other works include illustrated comic books featuring some of our culture’s most iconic women such as Raggedy Ann, Little Lulu, Barbie and Wonder Woman. In July 2020, at the age of 86, Delbo released the first original comic NFT on the blockchain. He is one of the most collected artists in the NFT space.

Trevor Jones graduated from Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art with a Masters in Fine Art in 2008. He was subsequently the Director of Scottish charity Art in Healthcare and a teacher at Leith School of Art. Jones has been working at the intersection of art and technology for over a decade and was one of the first painters to incorporate augmented reality into his work. He’s been involved in the crypto art scene since the beginning of 2018, establishing himself as one of the most successful traditional-to-digital crossover artists with record-breaking drops on five of the top NFT marketplaces.

Osinachi, considered Africa’s foremost crypto artist, is a Nigerian visual artist whose work examines personal experiences within a technological environment. In 2018, he became the first Nigerian artist to exhibit at the Ethereal Summit in New York. In 2019, he was a finalist for the Bridgeman Studio Award, and in 2021, was the first African artist to sell NFT works in a public auction through Christie’s in conjunction with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Rewind Collective are one of the first artists to create an NFT subsequently acquired by major museums, with their work now in New Orleans Museum of Art, South African National Gallery, and Fundación MEDIANOCHE0 in Spain. In May 2021, Christie’s made history by offering traditional paintings accompanied by NFTs, created by Rewind, in their Post-War & Contemporary Art day sale. Also in 2021, along with three gallery shows, Rewind became the first NFT artists to create an NFT for an international beauty brand, Givenchy Beauty, raising money for a charity supporting LGBT youths.

Nicole Ruggiero is a New York-based 3D visual artist whose practice centers around animations, stills, visuals, augmented, and virtual reality which intersects identity and sexuality based in the internet age. Ruggiero has exhibited globally, collaborating on music videos for Lady Gaga, Rico Nasty, and Calvin Harris and The Weeknd. She has also created original artwork for brands such as Adult Swim and The New York Times and has been featured in Die Ziet, Highsnobiety, and on the cover of Kunstforum.

Sarah Zucker is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles. She has been involved in crypto art since early 2019, tokenizing single and limited editions of her screen-based artwork on the blockchain. In June 2021, her work was was included as part of “Natively Digital,” the first curated NFT sale at Sotheby’s, and “CryptOGs,” the first curated NFT sale at Bonhams in conjunction with SuperRare. She showed as part of “The Gateway” presented by Nft now and Christie’s at Art Basel Miami 2021. Sarah is the co-founder of YoMeryl, an art and animation studio, and she runs the curatorial project Fancy Nothing.