By Shanti Escalante-De Mattei
The crypto slump isn’t slowing down Pace’s Web3 ambitions.
The blue-chip gallery announced a partnership with leading generative art NFT platform Art Blocks on Tuesday in an effort that promises to give each organization access to each other’s very different collector bases.
“Our priority is to connect our artists to new collecting communities, and this [NFT community] is one of them,” Marc Glimcher, President and CEO of Pace, told ARTnews.
Art Blocks was founded by Erick Calderon in 2020 after years of trying to get his novel idea off the ground: a specially-designed NFT platform that caters to generative artists.
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“Pace Verso is embracing the technology that we have spent the last 4+ years exploring and developing,” Calderon told ARTnews. “[That will] hopefully give fine art collectors, particularly skeptics of the viability or technology behind NFTs, a reason to dig deeper into what we’re building, and why we are building it.”
Here’s how Art Blocks works: First, artists upload their artistic algorithms to the platform and mint one or two examples of the visuals an algorithm can produce, which are random and never repeatable. Think about it like a pinball machine, hitting and passing through a set of passageways and obstacles. When collectors select an artist they like, they can mint an NFT, which prompts the algorithm to run and create a new work, whose processes are entirely recorded on the smart contract.
The platform has become a major success. At its peak in August last year, Art Blocks generated an absurd trading volume of nearly $500 million, according to Decrypt. In fact, the model was so successful, Calderon said, he purposefully made adjustments to the bidding model to slow down the rate of transactions.
[As Sales Exploded on Art Blocks, Its Founder Looked for Ways to Cool the Fervor]
For Calderon, Pace’s co-sign is a heady moment of validation, not just for Art Blocks, but generative art more broadly.
“Only a year ago it would have been beyond the edges of my imagination to think that we would be announcing a collaboration with Pace, a top-tier gallery with an incredible roster of artists, many of which have been meaningfully inspirational in my life,” said Calderon.
“As a platform, everything we do is in service of moving the practice of generative art forward. This is a transformative moment for everyone in the Art Blocks ecosystem, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Through this partnership between Pace, the gallery’s NFT incubator Pace Verso, and Art Blocks, Pace’s roster of artists and a selection of digitally-native artists will have access to the platform’s technology, as well as a premier team of engineers and experts who will help with the development of NFT collections. The collaboration will also include in-person and digital programming that will occasionally take place at Pace’s galleries around the world.
For Calderon, who has experienced the full intensity of the NFT market, now seems like the perfect time to launch this partnership.
“The market has experienced some insane ups and downs, and right now we are in a period where it feels like collectors might actually be purchasing art for the sake of art itself,” Calderon said. “This is a time to build, to explore collaborations, and to advance the narrative of generative art. It would have felt wrong to launch something like this during the insanity of late 2021, and I am really appreciative of Marc and his incredible team for their willingness to be patient.”
Though the project is just now coming to fruition, Glimcher and Calderon met early on in Art Blocks’s history, brought together by a common love of rule-based art and, of course, a deep interest in NFTs. In fact, this isn’t the first time Pace Verso and Art Blocks have collaborated, having already worked together to release Leo Villareal’s NFT collection in January.
By then, Pace already was quite aggressive in its adoption of blockchain technology, especially compared to the hesitancy of most blue-chip galleries. When asked why Pace stood out in this way, Glimcher responded in typically stylish French fashion,
“Artists are not about playing it safe. Representing artists is not about playing it safe,” said Glimcher. “We trust our artists and if our artists are interested and want to take chances, it’s our job to take chances with them. Dubuffet said that the only proper condition for art is one of permanent revolution and we always try to follow his advice.”
It will be interesting to see how Pace’s roster of artists, many of whom do not have a background in rule-based art, or digital art, use these new tools. Whether they genuinely explore the medium as a new part of their practice or simply use it for easy sales to the crypto crowd remains to be seen.
To inaugurate this partnership Pace and ArtBlocks will release Petro National, an NFT collection by John Gerrard, a digital sculpture artist who joined Pace in 2019.
Gerrard’s collection of 196 NFTs will explore the effects of burning 100 million barrels a day of oil. This marks Gerrard’s second climate conscious NFT project. 25% of proceeds from Petro National will go to regenerate.fund, a crypto fund Gerrad set up to support sustainable agriculture and soil restoration in Ireland and has the added benefit of acting as an offset mechanism for the energy consumption that comes with minting and transacting NFTs.
Petro National will be released on Art Blocks on June 21st, and will be on view at Pace from June 21st to 23rd to align with the NFT.NYC conference which draws crypto enthusiast from around the world.
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