Are These The New Digital Art Rockstars?

The Emergence of the Digital Art Curators...

Recently, while perusing my Christmas gift from my girlfriend — Jerry Saltz's latest book (Art is Life), a collection of essays spanning from 2000 to the present day — I stumbled upon one of his quotes that has been lingering in my mind.

“Curators are the rockstars of the art world”.

This particular essay was from the early 2000s.

I don’t think that statement is true in the digital art world. Yet.

Let’s test a simple scenario. Imagine you ask the average digital art fan to name 10 digital artists. I’d bet most wouldn’t have a problem creating such a list. Let’s repeat the process for 10 collectors, 10 artworks, and maybe even 10 galleries. I still think the general digital art fan will have no issues coming up with such a list. However, I doubt they will be capable of naming 10 digital art curators.

Nevertheless, I’ve noticed changes in the digital art scene which prompt me to believe that the average digital art enthusiast will soon have a much broader knowledge of them. Let me elaborate.

As the NFT space, in general, is waking up to the new volumes reality, and NFT aficionados realize instant financial returns aren’t the norm but the exception, the focus has switched abruptly to high-quality shows, exhibitions, and collections (thankfully).

That’s why digital curators are godsends to solve the pains of many participants in the ecosystem:

  • Galleries and marketplaces are struggling to put together high-quality and avoid stale content.

  • Collectors are fatigued by navigating the noise and low-quality drops.”

  • Artists are burned out from being marketing machines.

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The curator's emergence isn’t only driven by these needs. The maturity of blockchain infrastructure makes it an attractive hobby that could become a career. Curators can design and coordinate shows from the comfort of their homes while getting remunerated transparently and instantly. Thanks to NFTs, stressful tasks like transportation, storage space, and insurance for artworks are pains from the past. Oh, and not many people care about your credentials or studies, as similarly to all creators, whatever you put out there speaks for you.

Sounds exciting, but it isn’t all easy.

Here are some thoughts on what will drive the next generation of digital art curators.

How can digital art curators stand out?

Curators have a particularly complex challenge compared to other players in the space. They aren’t measured by sales but by relevance, sparking conversations and discussions. Their role could be defined as their ability to entertain and inspire artists and collectors. They are the ones writing the narrative; it just needs to be a worthwhile one.

These are intangibles.

Hard to measure, therefore, hard to archive.

They say artists are fantastic curators

Artists have a natural ability to curate. Recent history speaks for itself; ClownVamp curated “DeepFake” for SuperChief Gallery. Emily Xie curating Evolving Pixels in collaboration with PROOF. Adam Disbrow and the analog-to-digital “ADAD1” independent exhibition to celebrate artificial intelligence.

Casey Reas co-curating an incredible amount of shows for Feral File in collaboration with renowned curators and artists — like his latest show FeralVerse, curated by theVERSEverse team (who are artists) or the solo exhibition LeeMullican.PCX, curated by writer and experienced curator Anika Meier.

And the list goes on…

Curator’s responsibilities

Art curators — digital and non-digital — should keep some intrinsic responsibilities or duties in mind.

  1. Quality check: authenticity and including artists with a coherent vision should be at the top of their list. This is how curators build trust with their audience.

  2. Research, research, and more research: Polished facts are a must. The public blockchain has answers to many questions that arise in terms of provenance and noteworthy historical dates and sales. The blockchain, when used right, could be their guiding light.

  3. Escape the echo chambers trap: the easy road would be to work with the same group of artists. Nevertheless, once a curator's career progresses and exciting opportunities arise, the audience will be grateful to discover new faces through their work.

  4. Supporting those that don't have a voice: in a way, a noble challenge for curators is to scout and support emerging artists, significantly the underrepresented.

Tell a story

By sitting distant from sales and hype, a curator can bring to life experiences that others can’t. Being able to share unique visions and tell a story. Again, it sounds simple… But it isn’t. Here are some ways how a story could be striking and memorable.

  • Having the audacity to combine the artist’s vision with relevant political, social, and economic issues from our times.

  • A talented curator can follow not only his motives, interests, and taste but also those of their spectators—the subtle art of combining what’s good with what people want to see.

  • Attention span is changing. Content is changing. Curators must adapt their content, distribution mediums, and writing styles to keep spectators engaged. It needs to be vibrant and straight to the point. No mimics and gimmicks. No fillers.

In a way, they are connecting the dots. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires locating all the dots first. A fantastic exhibition is one that - similar to an artwork - stands the proof of time. Such an accomplishment must have a striking story behind it.

Comprehend the tech

Tools, techniques, and infrastructure are exciting but stressful topics. With the speed of progress, it is highly complex to understand, let alone know, all the tools artists use today.

What makes digital art special is the intersection between art and technology. The digital curator is someone capable of understanding both. Those confident with topics such as what it means for the code to be on the blockchain, artificial intelligence models, the difference between open and customized training sets, and today’s invention will have an edge in contextualizing the most outstanding future shows.

The “Here & Now - The Passage” show, put together by Beets and Chris Ostoich, clearly exemplifies this idea. Besides incorporating exciting blockchain dynamics and an immersive experience, they leveraged fxhash’ fxparams latest feature to enhance the artwork story.

What does it take to become a digital curator?

At this point, when digital art culture, history, and relevance are literally in the making, a curator has doors open to immerse in this blue ocean.

From conversations with top gallerists in the space, I’ve realized that traditional curators are struggling to enter this new world. They have plenty of conceived notions that don’t work. Digital art culture isn’t straightforward, and it’s hard to hit reset when you have a career in arts.

Although I don’t have a secret formula, I have one piece of advice.

Cut through the noise. Our space is full of noise. Every day I see frustrated collectors trying to navigate the space. Some enjoy the thrill of researching and finding hidden gems, but 99% of art enthusiasts don’t have the time to walk with the noise.

The good news is, you can do it

If you stayed with me through this lengthy piece and the topic of digital art curation moves you, you couldn’t have found a better time to start.

You don’t need to curate a show with Tyler Hobbs, Beeple, or Claire Silver to have fun, share a vision, elevate artists, and delight collectors.

It doesn’t need to be fancy (to get started), and physical space isn’t a must. Foundation and are extremely powerful platforms where you can set up a collaborative collection in literally five minutes.

You can follow Aleksandra’s Art steps, who, after being involved in multiple digital shows, recently curated “Code Chronicles” for bitforms gallery in New York City, including an impressive artist lineup.

Put together your idea on a document. One page is good to go.

Remember, Twitter is your friend. You can reach out to your favorite artists, which from my experience — putting together the Blind Gallery — tend to respond on the same day. Artists have complicated schedules, so be ready to be patient and flexible.

You don’t need traditional contracts, lawyers, earnings calculations, or months to get paid. It is instant, transparent, and super efficient.

Get good at writing and promoting shows. Share your story and vision. Have fun.

Then do it again.

Until next time,

- Kaloh

PD: If you liked my writing, feel free to click the ❤️ button on this post so more people can discover it on Substack 🙏

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