By KT HAWBAKER, November 2021
When Crypto Art Fair holds court on one of Time Square’s massive billboards, it will reintroduce some new, creative blood into the heart of New York. On November 2, 2021, the fair takes over a 15,000 square foot billboard and hoists up a rotating curation of NFTs from more than 70 artists, including Aeforia, Android Jones, Madebystudiojq, 0010x0010 with Xumiiro Gallery, and many others. It’s bound to be a spectacle: The billboard wraps around the corner of a building, facing multiple streets and Father Duffy Square, where patrons can linger.
Launched by brothers Rodni and Xhois Baja, founders of NFT Magazine, Crypto Art Fair is about creating a physical presence for digital artists and introducing a wider public to the often misunderstood concept of NFTs. Their goal is to go beyond the isolation of computer screens and activate the truly accessible qualities of digital art. Apropos of its tech-driven media, Crypto Art Fair is all about “disruption” — Silicon Valley’s all-time favorite word. Of course, the event isn’t just disrupting Times Square; it’s out to shake up the art market’s ecosystem.
“I think NFTs and Crypto Art Fair create a cool power shift that gives a lot more power to the artist,” Rodni continues. He says that many digital artists grind for decades only to make money off of commissioned work. He believes that NFTs put a lot of power into artists’ hands — “You can go viral on TikTok or on Instagram, and hold private sales for your NFTs as a result.”
The concept of the NFT (“non-fungible token”) is much simpler than byzantine crypto-blogs might have you believe, which makes the public venue an even more fitting space for this fair.
“With something like a Picasso, you have the artist’s signature in the corner. You can then bring it to an expert who can verify that it's an original Picasso,” Rodni explains. “But with a digital piece, it's obviously a lot harder. When blockchain technology came around, it gave artists the ability to post a signature on their digital artwork. In its most basic form, the NFT is a digital signature that you can put on your artwork, which lets you prove ownership of the assets and prove who created the asset.”
This changes who handles the money and where it goes.
“Online, you don't have to book a venue, and you don't have to be represented by a gallery who takes a certain percentage of your sales,” Rodni says. “Instead, you can just blow up on social media, promote your work there, and then sell your work online. I think that's really fantastic. It puts a lot of control and power back in the hands of the creators.”
Launched by the Bajas’ NFT Magazine, this year’s event will be the very first. The magazine itself is also relatively new but has grown with unstoppable virality. The online publication will be one year old this winter.
“When we started, our first goal was to create a strong social media presence. When we started back in January, there still weren't a lot of platforms to sell NFTs,” Rodni describes. He says these platforms were often prohibitive, with long waiting lists. In turn, only small groups of artists benefited from this new boom in digital art. At the same time, the medium faced stigma from its association with memes and other flimsy online content. “There were a ton of fantastic digital artists that weren't getting a chance to showcase their work and get exposure. We saw an opportunity.”
With NFT Magazine, the Baja brothers set out to give these artists a chance to showcase their work without the gatekeeping of larger platforms. Rodni says they never paid for any advertising but just focused on the curation and aesthetics of the page.
“We were really, really happy with the response,” he says. “In March, we grew by over 50,000 followers. It showed us that we were doing something right.” He says they then started getting celebrity followers interested in the medium. As of today, they have over 170,000 followers and counting.
Moving forward, the idea is to continue influencing influencers while prioritizing the power of artists — an alternate reality made tangible by Crypto Art Fair.
Crypto Art Fair is also partnering with SuperWorld and Pollinate to provide an AR (“augmented reality”) experience around Times Square, where visitors can use the SuperWorld app to see additional NFT artworks anchored to specific locations throughout the event.
With Crypto Art Fair, NFT Magazine is demonstrating how NFT artists and their work do not have to be wholly confined to the constraints of digital media. Our physical and digital realities are becoming evermore intertwined and accessible, as Crypto Art Fair begins what is sure to be the first of many such endeavors.
For more information about Crypto Art Fair, please visit here.
Follow and learn more about NFT Magazine: @nft.magazine WM
Originally from rural Iowa, KT completed their undergrad degrees in Gender Studies and Nonfiction Writing at the University of Iowa, stuffing themselves on comics, food politics, and abortion narratives. In 2015, they came to Chicago to study New Arts Journalism (MA 2017) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where they developed podcasts, zines, video art, and a freakish love for visual art criticism. While they do their 9-5 at a nonprofit, KT also writes for spots like Artforum and the Chicago Reader. They are on a first-name basis with the taco place around the corner; they are probably binge-watching British crime dramas with their husband Dominic.
view all articles from this author