Visions of the Future: A Conversation with Saatchi Art
The Collector's Guide to Blockchain Photography
Saatchi Art is an internationally acclaimed stage for emerging artists debuting into the art world. With the platform’s long standing reputation for innovation and trend-setting, Saatchi Art’s adoption of the blockchain as a publishing platform for artists to produce groundbreaking work was inevitable.
CryptoArt and blockchain photography are still in their nascent stages, and unlike independent artists (who can afford substantially more agility), few traditional institutions have been willing to risk it on the bleeding edge to push the boundaries of what defines art.
While auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s have taken steps in this direction by selling well-established collectibles into existing secondary markets, participating in primary art markets requires a fervent belief in this new medium and the opportunities for creating culture alongside artists and collectors alike. Leading the charge in adoption of new technologies is not for the faint of heart, and so we were eager to learn more about Saatchi Art’s plans for taking their work with emerging artists to the blockchain.
Today, we talk with the Saatchi Art team about their recently-announced project, Visions of the Future, which will see the selection of 50 photographs that will be minted and marketed by the platform to its enormous global audience. The open call closes July 25th, with an auction targeted for August.
PhotoVerso: To start, we’d like to go back to the beginnings of Saatchi Art and learn a bit about its origins and history. Can you talk about how the platform was founded and how it’s evolved over the course of its life?
Saatchi Art: Saatchi Art was founded on the principle of democratizing the fine art market, and enabling art lovers around the world to discover art and artists they love. Our chief curator, Rebecca Wilson, who was a director at Saatchi Gallery in the early aughts, saw a tremendous need for supporting emerging artists and recognized an opportunity with the internet.
Saatchi Art was born and we’ve been helping artists and art lovers connect ever since. Since our founding over a decade ago, a lot has changed! We’ve grown our roster to over 140K artists in about 160 countries worldwide. We’ve also added many new tools and products to improve artwork discoverability and access for new collectors.
We present The Other Art Fair, which takes place in 7 cities worldwide throughout the year. And most recently, we are growing our NFT presence as an extension of our mission to support emerging artists and provide a space for people around the world to discover and buy high quality art they love.
PhotoVerso: We’d love to hear about Saatchi’s first NFT project, The Other Avatars. How did this come to be?
Saatchi Art: For The Other Avatars, our goal was to create a collection at this very unique intersection of fine art and NFTs that would be exciting to both traditional collectors and NFT natives. We decided to make the central theme Vincent van Gogh, an artist with a vision and approach that wasn’t fully appreciated in his time. Not only does this sentiment tie into the NFT landscape more generally, but it also connects to Saatchi Art’s overarching mission of supporting emerging artists because we want their boldness and creativity to be rewarded in the present. We had 154 artists from more than 30 countries participate in the drop and they all brought their own talents and perspectives to creating 10 to 20 unique, handmade avatars.
PhotoVerso: Let’s talk about Visions of the Future, which you recently announced as an open call for photographic artists. Selected works from this open call will be minted as NFTs with the support of Saatchi Art.
Can you walk us through the ideas behind this initiative, and why the call is specifically centered on photography?
Saatchi Art: We see Visions of the Future as an evolution of our approach to NFT art. When we first concepted The Other Avatars, PFPs were dominating the landscape and we wanted to bring a fine art approach to the phenomenon. Now with Visions, we’re turning more firmly towards the fine art world, especially as we work to onboard traditional collectors into the NFT space.
In terms of the theme itself, there’s just so much artistic terrain to explore in a future-focused exhibition. We wanted to keep it very open to interpretation because we want the final collection to truly represent the selected artists’ work, process, and interests.
As for why photography, it’s such a visionary and technology-focused medium. Not only did we feel that this made it a natural fit for the theme, but it also allowed us to introduce the element of “phygitals,” so collectors can also redeem a physical limited-edition print of their NFT. By taking this dual approach, our goal is for the exhibition itself to represent a crossroads in the changing landscape of art.
PhotoVerso: Can you run through the opportunities that Visions of the Future will provide to photographers?
Saatchi Art: Marketing and getting exposure are consistently quoted as some of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of being an artist. Being selected for Visions will be an incredible opportunity for artists to reach Saatchi Art’s tremendous international collector base of art lovers, as well as getting their work in front of a panel of leading industry curators and thought leaders.
The selected photographers will be supported throughout every step of the NFT creation and auction process by our curators. We know that for many photographers, this will be their introduction to both NFTs and Saatchi Art, and we are excited to onboard them into NFTs and into the Saatchi Art artist community. It’s a unique opportunity to access our collector audience as well as NFT audiences in general.
Visions of the Future will also feature a physical exhibition at The Other Art Fair in LA. We get thousands of attendees at The Other Art Fair every year, so this will be another way for these works to find new art lovers. We also welcome any of our selected photographers to join us in person to meet other artists and provide their perspective on the creative journey of this collection.
PhotoVerso: We’d love to hear your perspective on the emergence of artwork on the blockchain in general. The past year and a half has seen a rapid expansion of NFT collecting, and with that an entirely new collector base for artists to engage in.
How do you see the future of NFTs unfolding in relation to the traditional art world?
Saatchi Art: The incredible thing about the NFT ecosystem is that it gives art a more democratic way to find a home. You could be a Romanian artist with a huge collector base in Nigeria. Discoverability is something Saatchi Art has always valued, so we see web3 as a really exciting expansion of that.
The traditional art world will continue to have an important place, it will just look different. For example, NFTs make a lot of sense as a mechanism for certificates of authenticity. Also, the ability to collect royalties in perpetuity makes NFTs really attractive to artists in any discipline. Artists with a strong individual collector base are experiencing an increase in their autonomy because of this.
We think this creates an environment where artists can be more bold with their creative choices because they can take on more risk. It also means traditional institutions are incentivized to work with them as true collaborators rather than as contractors.
PhotoVerso: To a point you made earlier about seeking to onboard traditional collectors to the NFT space, we agree that this migration will be important in the growth of art on the blockchain.
What are the kinds of selling points you touch on when trying to convince traditional collectors to look toward NFTs as a viable collecting path?
Saatchi Art: One of the reasons we landed on a phygital experience for Visions of the Future is that NFTs are more digestible as a concept when they are attached to a physical work of art. We think these types of hybrid projects will continue to be important when onboarding traditional collectors.
The other point we like to emphasize is how NFTs open up these original, insightful communities. There are exclusive Discord servers dedicated to photography or art in general, specific companies like Saatchi Art, and even individual NFT artists. You aren’t required to be in New York, LA, or London to find and create these amazing connections.
Lastly, by collecting NFTs, you are more directly giving money to artists. If you buy a painting from a fellow collector, the original artist won’t see any of that sale even if their work has appreciated significantly. If you buy an NFT from a secondary listing like OpenSea, the artist gets a percentage of the sale even if this happens ten years later. This is something that really can only happen thanks to smart contracts, and we’re excited to contribute to the adoption of the technology by collectors within the traditional art world.
We’d like to thank our friends at Saatchi Art for the lovely chat, and are incredibly excited for Visions of the Future to exhibit and auction.
For more information about this exciting opportunity, read the Artist’s Brief and submit to the Open Call by July 25th.
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Produced in collaboration with Saatchi Art.