Screens consume an exorbitant amount of our time. Go ahead, check your iPhone’s ScreenTime. Each progressive generation will look at how we value assets differently. For an older generation, assets are primarily in the form of tangible goods. But for a new crop, items distributed in games and digital art have the capabilities to make us rethink what we believe to be valuable.
In the case of R.A.R.E Art, they’re an early entrant into the world of authenticated digital art. Through R.A.R.E artists and buyers alike are able to guarantee the scarcity, provenance, and permanence. Of the challenges that surround art collection, provenance has been among the most difficult to manage. With R.A.R.E, the genesis of the art in addition to the path of ownership are all committed and recorded.
Psychologically, tangible goods have been an easier proposition to convey. You put money down and you get something you can hold in return. For digital art, there’s still hurdles to overcome before the art world and the regular art collector recognize the capabilities that can be offered through the platform.
We spoke with Kevin Trinh, R.A.R.E’s Creative Director as he broke down the concept of digital art and some of the challenges around adoption.
Party Hardy by Jasper Wong.
How did the idea of R.A.R.E Art come about?
Back in Summer 2017, we were experimenting with new technologies like the Ethereum blockchain and the IPFS file system. Between the cofounders, we’ve made art, collected art, and designed for art museums, and so limited-edition digital art seemed like an obvious application. We knew well how much digital creatives struggle for a livelihood, and how often they get ripped off – authenticity & scarcity seemed like just the recipe to economically empower artists.
Pink Siifu (pictured), Oyinda (bottom left) and Rayvn Lenae (bottom right) by Jack McKain.
What problem does R.A.R.E Art aim to solve?
R.A.R.E (Rare Art Registry & Exchange) aims to solve an artist’s lack of tools to protect and monetize the digital work they put on the internet. Rarely does an artist have the option to directly monetize the digital work. Usually, they are paid for commissions or the work has to become physical for it to hold value for collectors.
Digital art files have never held value to collectors because they could be duplicated without provenance, making it impossible to prove who made what. And many creators never release their works out of fear of getting copied. Our mission is to increase the total artistic output of humanity. Bringing more value to artists allows them to focus on the creation of art.
Obscura by Wing Chow.
Crux by Wing Chow.
“Blockchain is perfect for artists and digital creators. It finally gives them the power to protect, make limited, and directly value their digital works — elevating their works to fine art status all by themselves. ”
How does R.A.R.E Art aim to solve or manage scarcity with digital items?
We use the Ethereum blockchain’s permanent public ledger to help artists and creatives issue limited-edition certificates of authenticity of their digital artworks. They can sell these to their collectors, and collectors are buying a right to show off this artwork anywhere like R.A.R.E’s coming Apple TV app.
We call this “rare digital art.” The records of these certificates are verified online and permanent, so once they are made, they can’t be edited or removed. By owning rare digital art, you get to be a globally verified collector of original, published artwork.
(below, in order: 1. NoLimit, 2. WhoRunTheWorld, 3. ByWayOfLove, 4. Mt. Locust, 5. TheWorldIsYours, 6. ByWayOfLove2 by Hanatomiy)
In the beginning stages, R.A.R.E Art was marketed a bit more closely around blockchain as its underlying solution. How do you manage it now or is it a matter of communication?
The blockchain is essential to making this project work but it’s more important to communicate why it’s valuable artists and collectors. We’ve certainly emphasized blockchain during the 2017 crypto hype, hoping people had familiarity with it.
In 2019, people are more familiar but it’s still early. We manage it differently now in the sense that we first explain that it’s limited-edition art that you can own, and mention blockchain if they are curious.
“For digital art to command similar prices, we need a cultural shift towards more digital artists and galleries releasing digital art for sale and begin creating demand for their digital pieces like they do with their physical pieces.”
Can you share with us the workflow of how an artist works with R.A.R.E?
Technically: first, the artist uploads their artwork then put it on to the decentralized network, called IPFS. The network is more or less similar to BitTorrent in how file parts are shared across anonymous computers. IPFS also automatically protects the copyright and doesn’t allow an image to be uploaded to the network twice. We then create an art token, serving as a digital certificate, that is connected to that file, which can be sold and traded through the Ethereum blockchain network.
Fortunately, we make it super easy for artists by giving them a simple interface to upload their work on the platform, adding its details, setting the price and edition and putting it to market. And we’ve made it easy to buy the art with just a credit card.
Papaya (top left), Chili Mango (top right) and Red Ochre (pictured) by Navid Ruins.
How can this open up new financial opportunities to artists?
Blockchain is perfect for artists and digital creators. It finally gives them the power to protect, make limited, and directly value their digital works — elevating their works to fine art status all by themselves.
Artists can create a whole new revenue stream by monetizing their digital art on our platform because of blockchain. They can also create more value offering digital editions that mirror or compliment it their physical pieces.
For collectors, it’s a new authentic asset from the artist, that they can collect and keep, and show off online and devices,. Additionally, they’ll be able to trade it—all online. From a social aspect, being a collector also opens up new types of connections for them that didn’t exist elsewhere.
What are things that most people get wrong or misunderstand about what R.A.R.E Art is or does?
The blockchain part for sure. Also, “What is digital art?”. Once they understand what digital art is, they get R.A.R.E.
We also have questions if it’s something that people can’t copy and paste. Once something ends up on the Internet, the file or a version of that can be copied. But, without the ownership of the certificate, it doesn’t hold value.
Tell me a bit about your recent event? What interaction will digital art need to have with the physical world?
Our event R.A.R.E (IRL) was a group exhibition of our favorite artists in DMV area. They are made of rising stars and established artists who have legendary careers like @naturel. Along with showcasing physical pieces, we issued digital editions of their work that visitors can scan QR codes to find on our platform to buy. We gave visitors an incentive to own by offering buyers a signature tote and physical print for buying the digital artwork first.
Creating more real-life experiences for people to experience digital art together in spaces and cultivate conversation is necessary to add more legitimacy behind the genre.
We also followed up with a bonus event in the same space with skate brand Utmost, where we featured expressions from artists from their community. We also featured two images from photographer Giancarlo D’Agostaro that you could buy on RAREart.io and receive a physical print in person.
Horse Gallop (video), Chain Studies (bottom left), Jordan Vs Iverson (right), and by Naturel.
Is there a time when digital art can command similar prices to the real world? What is required for that to happen?
There have been a few cases of headline-making prices created for digital art like Cryptokitties and Kevin Abosch’s Forever Rose. However, most prices are much more attainable. For digital art to command similar prices, we need a cultural shift towards more digital artists and galleries releasing digital art for sale and begin creating demand for their digital pieces like they do with their physical pieces.
Speaking of shifts, does culture and society need to change in terms of how we think for digital collectibles to work? The main question is around tangible goods. We’ve seen print magazines thrive for the very reason digital content has been a challenge, the ability to hold it in our hands.
I think that is mostly the case. I think that holds true for any new idea to stick. Most younger audiences accept digital collectibles fairly easy, especially ones who are exposed to gaming. For others, it may take extra time to see how collecting a digital item is worth it.
I believe a digital collectible at the moment serves as a great companion to tangible items. When paired, they create a new relationship that seems novel at first but can enable new perks and a new bond and culture that only exists because the digital collectible exists.
One of my favorite use cases of a digital art collectible is one that’s linked to something tangible that gets used and fade out over time (skateboard, mural, merch). After the art is unrecognizable, you still to get to hold on to the artwork and have it worth something.
For rare digital art, since not enough creators know about it, yet, it will take them time to begin trying it out for themselves and playing around with their peers, seeing value in it, and sharing it to their peers, then we will start changing culture around.
“Digital art files have never held value to collectors because they could be duplicated without provenance, making it impossible to prove who made what. And many creators never release their works out of fear of getting copied.Our mission is to increase the total artistic output of humanity. Bringing more value to artists allows them to focus on the creation of art.”
Do you think that stealing art from the R.A.R.E Art platform is going to become a problem at all? Do you have any safeguards in place for dealing with this potential future problem?
I think people are always going to try they take a thumbnail and steal the artwork. However, taking a screenshot or the thumbnail doesn’t actually hold any value. They also are clearly stealing from the creator. The valuable object is the certificate of authenticity that’s sent to a secured blockchain wallet that’s near impossible to crack. We also have multiple vaults that hold the art certificates before they are sold.
(This question was submitted by Vanessa T. through the MAEKAN Community)