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NFT Briefing: Breaking Down Barriers

Bored Apes may be fashionable for now, but the real fun to be had with NFTs is in the experimental art world.

NFT Briefing: Breaking Down Barriers
Cover image: @0xTjo

Key Takeaways

  • Bored Apes and CryptoPunks may make headlines, but the most interesting work in the NFT space right now is experimental art.
  • NFT technology provides novel ways for artists to experiment with both their art and their relationship with their audience.
  • Some of the artists doing experimental NFT art today could very well end up the art history books.

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The NFT space has seen an explosion of innovation since the technology boomed in 2021—it’s just that you have to do a bit of digging to find it. I’ve highlighted my apathy toward the NFT avatar trend in more pieces than I can count, but it’s worth remembering that there’s a wealth of crypto art that doesn’t follow the CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club formula.

Innovation Everywhere

A huge amount of experimentation is happening if you just look beneath the surface. It’s inspiring to see. Many artists are pushing boundaries, not only in their art itself but also in how they engage with their fans. This technology has the power to break down the barrier between creator and fan like nothing we’ve ever seen, and some artists have started leveraging that in novel ways.

The creator of the world’s most expensive NFT, Pak, showed that they understand the NFT community better than anyone as their profile rose in 2021. Besides their $91 million “The Merge” piece that was sold to around 30,000 collectors, they also created a token called ASH that could be redeemed by burning NFTs. Some of Pak’s work was only made available to ASH holders. Genius.

“max pain v2” by Alpha Centauri Kid (Source: Alpha Centauri Kid

While Pak set the benchmark, they’re not the only one to take big risks in the name of innovation. Alpha Centauri Kid recently dropped a limited edition piece and warned collectors that it would become an open edition if anyone listed theirs on the secondary market. Of course someone did, so ACK put the piece up as a 24-hour open edition. I snagged one of these, and before I knew it, the piece had transformed into a derivative (or outright copy, depending on whom you ask) of XCOPY’s “MAX PAIN.” Whatever you think of this approach, it’s hard to fault ACK on his nerve. 

In another drop that caught my attention, Tyler Hobbs and Dandelion Wist invited collectors to become creators in their collaborative generative art experiment, QQL. I’ve spoken a fair bit about this one so I don’t need to elaborate again here; I’ll just say that I think it will be recognized as an important collection in the distant future.

“This is         , Call me ~bye” (Source: @0xTjo

And in perhaps the wildest drop distribution idea I’ve seen so far, the Canadian artist Tjo is inviting fans to take cold showers for seven days straight to have a shot at minting his latest masterwork. Tjo’s profile soared last month with his widely praised “BLeU” piece that inspired hundreds of reproductions, and his latest stunt feels like another move that will send him to legendary status. 

In short, try not to pay too much attention to celebrities flaunting Bored Apes, the SEC probing Bored Apes, or skeptics complaining about Bored Apes. There’s too much fun to be had elsewhere to focus on this noise, especially with so many artists finding cool ways to invite the likes of you and me to engage with the crypto art movement.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned a variety of fungible and non-fungible cryptocurrencies, including ETH, a QQL mint pass, Alpha Centauri Kid’s “max pain v2,” and some Otherside NFTs. They were also midway through Tjo’s cold shower challenge. 

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