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March 6, 2023

Why We Need a Generative Art Award

Carla Rapoport speaks to the master collectors at Metaversal about the value of The Lumen Prize’s new Generative Art Award
Credit: Kjetil Golid, Iterations IV, 2022. Courtesy of the artist
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Why We Need a Generative Art Award
The Lumen Prize Call for Entry is now open. Artwork submissions can be made at The Lumen Prize.

Carla Rapoport: Lumen is delighted to be launching a new Generative Art Award this year, sponsored by Metaversal. Why do you feel the time is right for this award and what are your goals for partnering with Lumen on this prize?

Julia Tao: We’re the ones that are delighted! It’s a pleasure to be a part of all that you and Jack [Addis] have accomplished in championing digital artists and building a global community over the last decade. Metaversal shares a similar vision to support, amplify, and connect pioneers pushing the edges of expression and connection via cutting-edge technology. So the partnership was a perfect fit.

Right now, it feels like we are witnessing the blossoming of a once-in-a-generation art movement. This new award acknowledges the significance of that moment.

While creative coding dates back to the 1960s, generative art is finally seeing well-deserved recognition from among the traditional art community. The Museum of Modern Art is currently exhibiting an incredible AI “meditation” by Refik Anadol, who won The Lumen Prize Gold Award back in 2019. LACMA also just acquired the largest collection of blockchain artworks including generative and AI art.

Right now, blockchain technology is unlocking new collectors and supporting artists’ livelihoods. Meanwhile, coders are discovering their creative side just as creatives are discovering coding, while institutions such as Right Click Save and The Lumen Prize are shining a light on emerging developments. In fact, many of the works nominated for last year’s NFT Award could be categorized as generative art.

Nurturing a movement requires a flywheel of support. By sponsoring the inaugural Generative Art Award, Metaversal’s ultimate ambition is to shine a spotlight on this movement and the pioneering artists at its forefront. In doing so, we hope to encourage artists from all backgrounds, whether new or seasoned, to participate by submitting work. If any artists are reading this, the Call for Entry closes May 26, 2023 on the Lumen Prize website

Code unlocks dimensions that haven’t existed before, allowing the exploration of randomness, time-dependencies, curation, and co-creation, while posing the creative challenge of manifesting digitally native art as physical experiences. But beyond the award itself, The Prize provides exposure to a global community of artists, academics, art critics, and curators. Together, Metaversal and Lumen will be featuring artists across our social platforms over the coming year.

Refik Anadol, Sense of Healing — Neural Clouds, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

CR: What do you feel is the relationship of generative and AI art to the traditional contemporary art world — for example, galleries and museums. Do you feel that this relationship is changing?

Gillian Varney: Just as narratives surrounding photography evolved over time and entered the contemporary art mainstream, so too are generative and AI art increasingly penetrating the traditional art world. They are having a moment, and it’s by no means fleeting. Computer and electronic art has a distinguished history that goes back multiple decades starting with the likes of Vera Molnar, George Nees, and Ben F. Laposky

In fact, generative and AI art are critical continuations of traditional art historical canon. You wouldn’t have pixelation without Impressionism. You wouldn’t have Tyler Hobbs without Sol LeWitt. You wouldn’t have XCOPY without the haunting, frenetic paintings of Francis Bacon.

Generative and AI art were once relegated to the back room. However, works not on canvas are increasingly regarded as just as inspiring, engaging, and thought-provoking as works of traditional media. As new technologies enable us to identify and showcase emerging artists, the traditional art world will progressively take note and engage. 

CR: I’d like to ask the same question about collectors. Are generative and AI art widening the base of art collectors and/or making converts of current collectors?

thefunnyguys: It feels like we’re considerably widening the base of art collectors. For many, I believe, art collecting was something they would potentially start doing at the end of a successful career, with gray hair and funds to spend. But the barriers to entry for digital art collecting are so low, especially for the tech-savvy, that I am seeing many young people building incredible collections. There’s no need to worry about transportation, storage, insurance, and so on, and a budget of a few hundreds of dollars gets you a long way on Tezos.

On top of the democratizing effects of blockchain technology, generative art also brings new benefits to the table. Collecting art is most fun when you can own unique items — ones you can truly call “yours.” Automation makes this feasible at scale.
Erik Swahn, Farbteiler #106, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

CR: Metaversal has its own collection of generative and AI art. What is the goal of the collection? 

Matt Miller: Metaversal aims to acquire works and support artists that will be representative of this cultural movement years from now. 

We also look actively to support artists in creative ways rather than as passive investors — we co-create commissioned projects, help amplify artists’ stories, and connect artists with creative tools to explore new means of expression.

One example is a company we have invested in called ArtMatr. They’re doing really incredible things with robotics and by giving digitally native artists the tools to explore creative avenues in the physical world that they had not been able to previously. 

CR: Does generative and AI art prompt a reconsideration of digital art as a genre? 

Aleksandra Artamonovskaja: Generative and AI art certainly prompt this question (pun intended) as they challenge conventional notions of authorship and creativity in the digital realm. 

We have moved beyond “traditional” digital tools such as 3D and design software toward algorithms and artificial intelligence, inherently expanding the definition of digital art as a genre. The advent of these systems also raises new questions about the nature of creativity, the role of the artist, and the relationship between art and technology.
Sofia Crespo, cryptic_colouring_0110, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

CR: How does your support of this new award connect to your expectations for the future of Web3?

JT: I believe Web3’s unfolding story and grounding ethos is symbiotic with generative and AI art. As Aleks alluded to, these art forms reflect much of the current Web3 discourse around human-machine interaction as well as human-to-human relationships. Fundamentally, Web3 and blockchain technology have the potential to transform power structures that have historically gatekept and siloed participants. While they have already helped collectors to build lateral relationships in order to support global communities of artists. 

Through the new Generative Art Award, we aim to further widen the participation of artists from all backgrounds, and especially from underrepresented regions of the world. We’re so pleased that ArtxCode is also sponsoring all applications by women to the Award. Interested qualifying applicants can reach out directly to their Twitter account.

In the future, open-source software such as openFrameworks, new data sets, and educational platforms like the VerticalCrypto Art Residency Program will allow anyone with an internet connection to explore and expand their creative toolkits. Generative art shares this appeal to openness, as exemplified by pioneering collections like QQL (2022) by Tyler Hobbs and Checks by Jack Butcher, which foster new levels of interactivity between artists and collectors. In the process, they remind us that, if co-creation is Web3’s new frontier, then generative art is the space for that culture to emerge.

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Aleksandra Artamonovskaja is the Founder of Electric Artefacts studio for digital art, and partnerships lead at, the co-creation platform for Web3 communities. She has led award-winning Web3 art projects and is a prominent speaker, writer, and educator on the role of decentralized technologies in the creative industry.

Matt Miller is a lead art collector and investment analyst at Metaversal. He brings a real estate and finance background with a passion and enthusiasm for digital art and, in particular, generative art. He also co-hosts the Twitter Spaces, Art Unfiltered alongside VonMises, ayyybee, and esteemed guests.

Julia Tao leads marketing, content, and partnerships at Metaversal. She writes and advocates for inclusivity, partnership, and a human-centered approach to building the creative and technological revolution of Web3. Prior to Metaversal, she was a founding member of a Web3 female-led startup incubator, a service design and change management consultant, and a marketing strategist in tech corporations and startups.

Thefunnyguys was Metaversal’s first investment analyst and currently serves as a trusted advisor. He is a Belgian generative art collector who shares his collection with his two brothers. He has been collecting NFTs since late 2020 and, since discovering Art Blocks, generative art has been his main passion. He is the Founder of the generative art fund and institution Le Random.

Gillian Varney leads strategic projects at Metaversal. With roots in the New York, Paris, London, and Los Angeles art worlds, she brings a uniquely global perspective to her work in Web3. Gillian has managed art and fashion collections for blue-chip clients, collected art for hedge fund executives, and directed global client service strategies for multicultural operations teams. She is passionate about preserving our shared cultural legacy across mediums, and looks to the metaverse as the future of creativity.

Carla Rapoport is an interdisciplinary arts entrepreneur, speaker, and writer who aims to create new audiences and opportunities for artists creating with technology around the world. In 2012, she founded The Lumen Prize for Art and Technology following a career as a financial journalist working for the Financial Times, Fortune Magazine, and The Economist Group. In 2018, she founded Lumen Art Projects to manage both the prize and a growing business that provides consultancy, exhibitions, and commissions featuring artists in the Lumen community to a global roster of clients. This community now numbers over 500 artists who have been longlisted, shortlisted, or won The Lumen Prize.