By CLAIRE SILVER, April 2021
CLAIRE SILVER: You’re known in the NFT space as a prolific collector. What sparked your interest in NFTs?
CS: You’ve built not only a brand around punk 4156, but a culture, as well. What drew you to the concept of digital identity?
PUNK4156: Private key cryptography + blockchains + cryptocurrency, enable a form of digital sovereignty that was previously impossible. As a long-time participant in the cryptocurrency community, I was aware that it was both possible and interesting to develop a long-term digital identity that was independent from my offline identity.
The impulse to buy 4156 happened when I realized that Cryptopunks were a kind of digital-reputation-as-commodity. Instead of starting a digital identity from scratch, I could bootstrap the identity with my capital. Instead of ‘competing’ with everyone on the internet for reputation, I could join an elite 10,000 member community, and an even more elite 24 member sub-community (the apes!).
CS: How did your view of digital identity culminate in a showcase of tribute art, in addition to your collection?
PUNK4156: When I purchased 4156, it made a bit of a splash as the first punk transaction over 1 million dollars. The next day, Jonathan Mann (‘song a day man’) wrote a song about 4156 and I bought his song as an nft on SuperRare.
This was the beginning of my realization that 4156 as a meme would be interesting, especially if 4156 purchased the memes people made about her. I shared a tweet saying that I would pay up to 1ETH for art made about 4156, and very quickly people were making so much work that I couldn’t buy it any more.
Finally, Beeple made the now famous 4156 Everyday, and the rest was history. The community adopted 4156 as one of the first punk celebrities with hundreds of tributes made altogether. Including these as a part of the Ape Stage Capitalism show seemed like a great way to tell this story, and to give back to all the artists that spent time honoring 4156.
CS: You recently purchased a Matt Furie piece for over a million dollars. What made you decide to purchase the Genesis Pepe, and what did it mean to you?
PUNK4156: Copies make originals more valuable. Pepe is the most memed and copied object in the history of the internet, maybe the history of the world. In this sense the original Pepe, the one that started it all, should rightfully be our generation’s Mona Lisa. It’s my view that this will eventually be one of the most valuable digital originals in the world.
I think a lot of people don’t understand this piece yet, because they don’t really understand cryptographic provenance. It might take a decade or two, but markets are very smart and eventually they’ll figure it out.
When I realized that I won the ‘feels good’ Pepe, I was completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the privilege of owning the piece, and overwhelmed by the responsibility of safeguarding it. I intend to spend a significant amount of my time in the space focused on the conservation and management of the ‘feels good’ Pepe.
CS: Why did you want to exhibit your work in a 3D metaverse, and did it go the way you envisioned?
PUNK4156: I wanted to exhibit in Cryptovoxels to learn about the metaverse and because it seemed like it would be fun. It didn’t take long to realize that digitally native artworks deserve digitally native galleries. There are so many obvious advantages, from more accessibility and discoverability, to more engaging and creative ways to curate the work. For the XCOPY floor of the exhibition, we took 5 copies of Mortal from the collection, and built them into a prison that visitors could teleport themselves into. Those kinds of experiences can’t happen in physical galleries.
CS: Where do you see the NFT Space in 5 years? Speaking artistically, culturally, financially, or otherwise.
PUNK4156: In crypto, it’s always earlier than you think. At the same time, the huge financial incentives seem to promote very rapid innovation. What we’re seeing now is likely quite basic compared with what will happen in the next 5 years. I expect to see a lot more collaboration between artists and developers, a ton of financialization and securitization of art. If you are playing this game with ‘fiat’ art prices as your frame of reference, I think you are doing it wrong. These are the first instances of digital ‘real estate’ in the new digital economy, and they’re going to achieve valuations that blow people's minds. The mainstream still views Beeple’s ‘the first 5000 Days’ as an anomaly, but I think it’s just the beginning. By the end of the decade, all of the most expensive living artists will be nft artists, and many of them will have digital identities like me. Nfts will be one of the centerpieces of the roaring ‘20s. WM