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December 4, 2023

Zeroone and the New Generosity of Art

A gift economy doesn’t devalue digital art but enriches it, argues Yehudit Mam
Credit: luluxxx, (Still from) 18 thousand roadtrips, 2023. Courtesy of the artist
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Zeroone and the New Generosity of Art

Despite green shoots of optimism, make no mistake, times are tough for crypto art right now. Artists are not selling, collectors are not buying, and people are getting desperate.

It has been DADA’s experience through several crypto “dips” since 2017 that when the market cools down, innovation heats up, and creativity is restored. With the incessant noise of speculation no longer a distraction, artists continue to create, weathering the storm. 

In a depressed market, the platform, zeroone, allows people to mint and collect art for free. However, it is not the first of its kind. When Editional appeared in late 2018, it was received enthusiastically with users enjoying the opportunity to collect and mint freely and for free. They also welcomed the easy-going experience of creating, curating, and collecting art with a social component, unencumbered by the frisson of spending. At that time, the crypto art community had not yet experienced an irrational bull market, which meant that the stakes were still low. 

Danielle King, Surreal Women, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Zeroone is a more appealing version of Editional, with cleaner graphics and a FOMO-inducing dynamic whereby minting one artwork allows you to collect up to ten more. While you can only mint once every 24 hours, you can continue to discover the influx of new pieces and try to collect those that you like best before they are snapped up or else you run out of time.

Zeroone creates an alternative form of FOMO that is detached from market considerations. In many ways, it is a generous experience, one that resembles what we have been doing with DADA for almost ten years, which, at its core, is about giving — you give and get back in return, with creativity as the principal currency. 

The experience feels light, engaging, and, again, generous. Since no money is involved, it also tends to be a stress-free experience. There are no prices to consider, no gas to pay, no fees required in order to mint, and no moments of tension while the transaction is verified. You can let people know you are minting, but you can also bypass social media altogether. And because there’s no money involved, it’s not a do-or-die situation. People can explore the artists they follow or discover art through the most recent mints entirely on the zeroone platform without shilling. There are no sales mechanics — it’s bliss.

Angie Taylor, Despair, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

If, like me, you aren’t a visual artist, then zeroone encourages you to create and experience what it is to mint your own art. As always, some try to game the system by minting works they didn’t produce themselves simply to collect or, in one recent case, to shamelessly plug their own platform. But overall, my faith in humanity has been restored by artists who have already made a name for themselves such as Angie Taylor and luluxxx, who choose to mint art with abandon under their own names. Their approach feels expansive and playful. However, it is disheartening that a handful of artists have expressed their distaste for such practice in quite passionate terms. Many artists, both known and lesser-known, choose not to engage with zeroone for a range of perfectly valid reasons, content to stay away and let others enjoy the ride. 

The concern of the naysayers is that zeroone conditions artists to give away their art for free, thereby devaluing the artists and crypto art in general. This might have some validity if the sole focus of art-making were financial gain. 

But other values come into play when art is not attached to a price tag: abundance and diversity, mutual generosity, the thrill of creating and collecting, the sense of discovery and validation, and of fun and expanding community — all of which feel like a welcome balm at this time of generalized hardship. 

Julien Pacaud, Zephyr Hiccup, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

I don’t believe that participating in zeroone devalues anything; on the contrary, it makes us value the art we see on the platform enough to spend our collecting credits on it. Those artists who resist giving away their art for free are ignoring the mechanics of zeroone, whereby the creation and gifting of art allows community members to collect for free. This inbuilt mutuality is different from a one-sided demand that artists give away their art, which would devalue their work. On zeroone, artists must first create a new artwork in order to collect ten. The lack of a monetary transaction makes it seem like a fair exchange of intrinsic value to me. 

The dissent derives from established artists who have already benefited from their long-term participation in the space. I don’t see struggling artists or unknown artists objecting. Why would they? Zeroone may open doors for them and get them noticed.

Of course, the debate around zeroone’s contribution to crypto art is entirely valid and valuable, highlighting the anxieties artists have about money while surfacing fears of an alternative to the free market. It also illuminates the plurality of a crypto art community that can hold important conversations about the cultural value of art without resorting to name-calling and ad hominem attacks. 

luluxxx, 55 velvet noise, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

As an inveterate skeptic and unrepentant misanthrope myself, it is in my nature to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Is zeroone a successful PR stunt? If it is, then this one’s a keeper because, up till now, it seems to have brought far more value than it has extracted. Perhaps this intangible value — and priceless contribution — should be the rod by which we measure it. 

Eventually, zeroone may create monetary value, with all the joy and grief this brings, but for now, many are receiving pure joy from it — something that has been sorely missing from the crypto art community through this long market hibernation. 

How it will become sustainable and at what price remains to be seen. If secondary sales pick up, then it will follow a familiar pattern — well-known artists will fly off the shelves first, while almost everyone else will not. I’d like to believe that some hitherto unknown artists will reap some modest benefits. Stellabelle, in a conversation about the gift economy, claimed that since she has been minting on zeroone, she has been selling more on other platforms. 

wondermundo, some kind of wonderland, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

From my experience with DADA, generosity begets generosity, connecting people and rippling out in unexpected ways. It may not pay the rent right now, but it accrues intangible value for the future. For now, discovering a lot of art of every stripe feels good. Making art feels good. Collecting art feels good. Collecting from previously unknown artists feels good. Collecting from friends feels good. Collecting from “names” feels good. I don’t see the downside.

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Yehudit Mam is the writer of Quién te manda (2022), the first book designed as an NFT and soon to be released in English as Serves You Right. She is also co-founder of, a collaborative community of digital artists and pioneers in the field of NFTs. Mam has written film criticism for La Jornada Semanal and articles for Reforma and El Financiero, as well as English-language magazines, Saveur and Out. She was born and raised in Mexico City and currently lives in New York.