With cryptocurrencies in a state of turbulent flux, the fine art world’s non-fungible token (NFT) naysayer demographic might feel comfortable finally declaring that the industry is in the reckoning.

Meanwhile, artist, critic, dealer, educator and outspoken NFT supporter Kenny Schachter is celebrating the closure Slow food — his first New York art show in 25 years — at NFT Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, fresh on the heels of caption ZRH’s NFT Art Day in Zurich, Switzerland, which coincides with the iconic annual art fair Art Basel, less than 50 miles away.

In June 2022, Schachter had just presented the first ever NFT booth wall at Art Basel with the Nagle Draxler Gallery, which expanded NFT acceptance just before profile pictures became the face of their demise. Soon after, Schachter was spotted among the art world’s elite in Hydra, Greece, celebrates Zeitgeist sculptor Jeff Koon’s first token drop with Pace Gallery.

Schachter told Cointelegraph that while his commitment to the intersection of blockchain and art hasn’t wavered since then, “it’s hardened.” The cantankerous troublemaker of the art world comes from a working-class family in Long Island, New York. He studied philosophy and then law – working in fashion and the stock market – all before setting foot in his first art gallery in his early 20s or making a name for himself as an art market reporter. Schachter became an artist before the turn of the millennium, exhibiting his first computer animation in 1993 and producing digital prints for the next decade.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m into art,” Schachter said. “That’s all I care about, more than almost anything, except maybe my children.” Rather than encapsulating all of Schachter’s work, Slow Food, which ended on June 17, focused on the artist’s latest forays into blockchain: a collaborative, evolving rumination called Open Book, his new blockchain-based game. The principle of pop, and a sculpture about the insidious trend of dinosaur bones being sold through art auction houses. The NFT accompanied each piece of art – supporting them all.

Riding out booms and busts

When Schachter caught wind of NFTs in 2020, he brushed them off as another form of money before recognizing the solution to the problems that accompanied his practice—wrapped up in blockchain.

Of course, digital art has long languished without a practical means of selling and trading it. As of 2022, a number of galleries offering digital artworks at their booths at Art Basel were still handing over pieces after purchase as a flash drive file, verified based on file size.

Even before NFT, digital art was pigeonholed in the manner of other media such as performance art. Although NFTs gained notoriety only after artists started making big money, Schachter saw a greater chance to expand his audience beyond the confines of the narrow art world.

Several individual artworks complemented Schachter’s larger projects across Slow Food, such as “NFT Gimmicks,” a two-part piece including an art print that immortalized the humiliating tweet Schacter created in response to Dot Pigeon’s announcement in April that the artist was quitting NFT due to rampant growth. speculation — Schachter can be seen in the post next to the real hood.

“NFT Gimmicks” artwork seen at Slow Food. Source: Vittoria Benzinová

“First of all, he’s probably made millions on his NFTs,” Schachter told Cointelegraph of Pigeon’s headline-making move. “If I sell an NFT, whether it’s $5 or $25,000, it’s a social contract between me and the collector. I have an obligation to support what I’ve done.” He noted that Crypto Mutts, a collection of profile pictures Schachter started to mock the Bored Ape Yacht Club, will likely end up in his will to ensure the project lives on after he’s no longer around. to maintain it.

The money is nice, but Schachter swears up and down that it doesn’t drive him — he recently decided to forego royalties on resale sales. Instead, the artist emphasized that his faith depends on the community that NFTs are building around his practice and connections to which the space lends itself.

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The artist had to quickly learn about blockchain in his efforts to get involved. He initiated a virtual mentorship with an avid NFT collector and a Google executive based in Singapore. “Every two or three weeks I would sit there like a kid with a pen and paper,” Schacter recalled of their sessions. “Eventually I made him an artist and put him in the NFT show I curated at Nagle Draxler in Cologne in 2021.”

Similarly, Schachter’s more far-reaching projects across “Slow Food” require people to operate. Open Book started last summer when he was co-author NFT book. Inspired by the social media responses he received while helping to write the book, Schachter selected 20 diverse artists to contribute their views on NFTs—some positive, some critical—for Open Book. These quotes oscillated on screens across Slow Food, some from Schachter himself. The show set aside a room for guests to contribute before it launches on the NFT Async Market this month.

Schachter calls the project “a book that has no end, no middle. But there is a beginning. It tells the story of a field that is radically changing in real time.”

Keep playing

His blockchain game, The principle of pop, runs on a high-end digital art streaming service and collects source data. It was formed at the beginning of 2022. It was originally called Digital Showdown: Crypto vs Canvasthe new iteration of the game pits teams of vocal NFT supporters and detractors from the visual art world—artists, writers, curators, dealers, and influencers—against each other.

Every round The principle of pop will introduce new teams with new characters on both sides, all available to mint in open editions. Collectors mint as many of their favorite characters as they can afford to support that character and their team. The team that collects the most coins wins, but the real crown goes to the collector who has the most copies of the winning character – that collector gets a unique real-life Schachter statue. Celebrate The principle of pop in the initial round, which ended on June 17, the top 50 holders all received a staked NFT.

“The concept has changed from a battle to a reflection of the fact that life — in art and beyond — has been reduced to a popularity contest,” Schachter said, “as measured by likes, followers and money.” While there’s no role-playing or one-on-one combat involved, it was fun watching art dealer Larry Gagosian, whose galleries are considered by some to be the evil realm of the art world, throw piles of bills at opponents like famous artists Refik Anandol and Beeple in a montage to see in Slow Food. Sculptures of the cycle’s protagonists punctuated the show — Beeple greeted visitors, while bandmates Anandol and Nigerian artist Osinachi spoke to the cycle’s only neutral, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, near the back of the show.

Statues of Osinachi, Obrist and Anandol on the back of Slow Food. Source: Vittoria Benzinová

All the characters had big eyes, an eye for detail and a real zest for life. They felt like Schachter’s distinct take on the signature style of infamous artist KAWS, though artists are notoriously stupid when comparing the two. Schachter’s signature fabricator in China brought his digital designs to free-standing 3D existence.

Perhaps surprisingly, David Hockney has yet to consider this The principle of pop. In 2021, Hockney, the most valuable living painter, he called NFT “stupid little things” for “swindlers and scammers”.

However, Hockney’s recent series of iPad drawings – the subject of a much-hyped Pace Gallery exhibition in Chelsea, Manhattan, in winter 2022 – would likely benefit from blockchain elements.

“Would you rather own a $100,000 photograph,” Schachter asked, “or would you rather own the high-resolution file that made it, in which case you could make a tapestry, you could make a painting in China for $100, you could take a photo or a lightbox or a projection or keep it on your phone, do what you want?”

This is exactly how the “Missionary Pose” was created, a tapestry at Slow Food depicting Mother Teresa in a robe decorated with Ethereum insignia. Through his network, Schachter got in touch with an Albanian craftsman who turned his digital design into an art object.

“Missionary Position: ETH (tapestry version)” by Slow Food. Source: Kenny Schachter

Fine art is making a comeback – even with practical applications

NFT art may never flourish at the same height it once did. Schachter says that’s a good thing. It could benefit the space by shifting the focus away from the very behavior from the traditional art and financial spheres that NFT proponents claim they are trying to climb out of – refocusing on the possibilities. Blockchain offers many practical applications related to fine art beyond mere hype, revenue, new audiences, and a new understanding of art as an idea rather than an object.

For example, it can create an irrevocable record of provenance that could contribute to greater transparency about how many—and perhaps whose—hands an artwork has passed through.

So why are some in the art industry trying to dance on blockchain’s grave?

“The art world is like a smelly dog ​​peeing on a tree,” Schachter said. “When they see another dog coming by, the first thing they want to do is pee on what the other dog just did.” When the art world sees a new medium, a new technology, sees platforms that are fully functioning without their input, they become very defensive and very territorial.”

“Art, generally speaking, is a zero-sum game where one person or entity succeeds at the expense of another.”

More money for the Nifty Gateway means less money for the galleries – unless they’re creating new audiences. But art is ephemeral, relational. Awards are based on previous awards and recognition comes from being close to superstars. There is much at stake in the ruse that these emperors are clothed.

“When I learned about the art world, the first impression I had was that people were swinging from a chandelier, drinking absinthe and going to orgies,” he said. “Boy, I got slapped.

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But that doesn’t matter. Schachter pushes forward. “Slow Food,” he said, was the dry run for his debut solo museum exhibition at the Francisco Carolinum in Linz, Austria, which opened in September.

“When I was in the art world for 30 years, nobody offered me a show,” Schachter quipped. “I was offered a gig and had success in the NFT space. In the world of art, success confirms success. I will pursue my interest and my goals by any means necessary.”