This interview dates to May 18th, 2021
Written by Nitika.
Colborn Bell, the founder of the Museum of Crypto Art (MOCA), is interviewed by Micol from VerticalCryptoArt about his crypto journey, experiences as a collector, MOCA’s genesis collection, and plans for MOCA (with a special appearance by Colborn’s cat.)
Colborn became interested in crypto after reading an article about prediction markets. He explains how an individual’s collective prediction ability is more powerful than any panel of experts. In early 2017, he did a deep dive into exchanges and distributed token models and participated in the Decentraland Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and land auctions.
Later in January 2020, he returned to virtual worlds and fell in love with Somnium Space VR‘s aesthetics. He bought land and explored the vision of such Metaverse spaces. He explains that his intention was not to commercialize the Virtual space but rather to provide a home for digital creators. He believes in leveraging NFTs to develop partnerships and long-term relationships with digital creatives and invite them into virtual spaces to create beautiful and powerful environments. It was at that point that the seed of the Museum was planted. (The first building launched April 15th, 2020.)
The idea of the Museum of Crypto Art came from an experience Colborn had at Inhotim Museum in Brazil. He felt a narrative shift from being guided in an exhibition as opposed to following the inner calling and choosing your own path. He envisioned a large open-air exhibition space recreated in the Metaverse for the digital NFT artists.
He explains that a museum is an easy mental model for people to understand and say to the world that we are preserving this history, and it’s not meant to pass; it’s meant to be collected, shared, and shown. It was also a time in history when people collectively experienced the Pandemic.
He recalls during those early months of Zoom fatigue, XCOPY’s doom party piece on Async captured the essence of what it meant to exist in digital worlds. There was a realization that there is a huge need for social engagement and a place to escape and feel connected. There was a realization that there is a huge need for social engagement and a place to escape and feel connected and Art is a wonderful medium for capturing and expressing the emotions that we were all experiencing during this period of global quarantine.
He attributes the exponential growth of crypto artists in the space to the values established by the foundational people. Everyone was open to new ideas, encouraging, and working together. He believes that “when you are open and share, it lifts everyone up,” which is key to the growth of the crypto art world.
Colborn purchased his first art pieces on feb12th, 2020, of Miss al Simpson called ‘lady luck.’ which he says is quite foretelling of his cryptoart journey.
Cryptoart, according to Colborn, provides a visual aesthetic or language to the cryptocurrency revolution in the financial world. Cryptoart transforms cryptocurrencies from an intangible object or a number on a screen stored in a cold storage wallet into a living and breathing movement with value. Today’s technological tools provide a richer context and narrative to digital artworks, allowing one to demonstrate all of the advantages of virtual museums over the traditional art world.
Talking about the MOCA Manifesto, he tells Micol that it addresses the issue of culture in cryptocurrencies, which is problematic to the outside world, but in an inward circle, it holds powerful ideas like disintermediation, decentralization, open-access network, and recognition to global talent when there aren’t many global opportunities available to them, which truly makes blockchain a democratic technology. Cryptoart opposes the dominant culture in the traditional art world, which is based on a top-down approach.
As a collector, he believes “the beauty of the crypto art space lies in open and transparent data.” The marketplaces have tools to assist those interested in digging for and discovering hidden gems. He tells the story of the piece heart(break) by a original artist maker who minted only one piece, the 151st token on Super Rare. His bid was placed on the artwork two years after it was tokenized. He is intrigued by the stories behind such artworks, where one can mint an artwork once and get a collector two years later. This work is part of MOCA’s Genesis Collection.
This brings the conversation to today’s rapidly growing cryptoart space and artists becoming preoccupied with valuing art and the number of sales of their artwork. In his opinion, when rules and economics drive art, it limits an artist’s creativity.
Crypto Art allows people to create whatever they want without limitations. The best artists he knows are more concerned with creating than with seeking value. A true artist continues to create because they believe in it.
“If you love something, you give it away for free.”
He mentions artists such as Robness and Max Osiris, who experimented with their creativity and sold some of their pieces for nominal amounts initially. It’s fascinating to see how much value it accumulated in secondary sales. When artists view art as a market, they become entrepreneurs, and crypto art inherently combines these fields.
The idea of relinquishing control with the concept of secondary markets, as well as the Museum’s future, fascinates him.
He ponders on the idea of “How do we create something that is both backward-looking and grounded in history, but also an innovation lab for the future?”
The MOCA manifesto emphasizes the fact that change is inevitable, and with technology, we are witnessing exponential changes that we do not fully comprehend. Humanity is entering a new era in which algorithms, bots, and data control our lives. With an adaptable, open mind, we can find any answers in the uncertain paths with other people.
The Museum of Crypto Art approach is open source and community-led, and it has been legally and structurally transformed into a foundation. He shares that the Genesis collection is permanent and mandated never to be sold.
The vast majority of the pieces donated to the Genesis Collection are Colborn’s collection. However, there will be an open period during which donations from other collectors will be accepted in exchange for $MOCA tokens. The idea is to create a broad buy-in and representation of artists in this space right now to ensure that there is a common good in this space that benefits all crypto artists.
He also considers Ethereum coders and programmers to be artists as they build the infrastructure for digital artists and allow creatives to build on it, resulting in a true open-source revolution. He explains that, in addition to identifying and acknowledging ownership, the powerful idea is to give up control of that ownership.
His goal for the museum is to serve the greater good. He believes that because no one knows everything or what is best for the future, it is necessary to empower passionate people to come in and experiment to see what emerges.
Colborn recalls there were a few true patrons of art, in the beginning, most of whom were anonymous, such as Moderats, who cared about the artists and believed in the crypto idea for the artists to continue practicing. There was a sense of mutual support and friendship among artists and collectors who recognized the value of crypto art early on.
As he says, “It is never too late to go back and cement these stories.”
Even a bid is a permanent record that lives on the blockchain, indicating who recognized that art’s value.
The prospects of MOCA that Colborn mentioned at the time of this interview are already in the works, such as a new website, launch of a new building for the Genesis Collection (The new building for the Genesis Collection was launched on 17th June 2021.)
An airdrop of $MOCA tokens to 36000 Open Sea active users before the end of December 2020 was already done on the polygon network, as well as the rolling out of different exhibitions. We can expect access points to collectors wings, community galleries, museum rooms, and curation competitions as some of the upcoming projects by MOCA.
Read more about MOCA here.
You can also watch the full interview here.
This month’s content is sponsored by…
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