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Exclusive Interview: Gary Vee Launches New Fine Art NFT Marketplace

Gary Vee’s ArtOfficial launches today, but the world of NFT fine arts remains fiercely competitive.  Gary Vaynerchuk’s enthusiasm for NFTs is well known to anyone who has listened to him in his many videos and appearances online in the past year.

Benzinga · 09/24/2021 09:40

Gary Vee’s ArtOfficial launches today, but the world of NFT fine arts remains fiercely competitive. 

Gary Vaynerchuk’s enthusiasm for NFTs is well known to anyone who has listened to him in his many videos and appearances online in the past year.

In his keynote speech at Consensus 2021 in May, Vaynerchuk called 2021 a “new era for creators” because of the potential of NFTs to market to and build relationships with their audiences. 

As many NFT enthusiasts tend to do, Gary Vee is going deeper into the NFT world launching ArtOfficial the “first wholly independent online auction platform created and operated by a commercial gallery.” Varynerchuk’s partner, Vito Schnabel, is Founder and Principal of Vito Schnabel Gallery. The Schnabel Gallery was founded in 2013 and has two locations in New York City and one in St. Moritz, Switzerland. 

ArtOfficial is an NFT marketplace dedicated to giving established fine artists an online platform to exhibit and sell original works, exploring new media like digital art and NFTs.

ArtOfficial’s inaugural auction begins at 9 AM EST on September 24, with the work of Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente (b. Naples, Italy, 1952). Clemente has a career going back to the 1970s and has earned a global reputation as an artist and is one of the leading figures in the Italian Transavanguardia, an Italian Neo-Expressionism movement.

The lucky purchaser of Clemente’s artwork Milarepa’s Dream as an NFT on ArtOfficial also earns a live portrait session with the artist for a watercolor painting, redeemable within one year of purchase.

See also: The Roadmap: Benzinga's NFT Show

Francesco Clemente, Milarepa’s Dream, 2021 (still). NFT Video and audio. Courtesy of the Clemente and ArtOfficial.

Gary Vee was predictably enthusiastic about the new fine art NFT platform. Vaynerchuk said in the press release: 
“This is a profound moment in the evolution of art history, with digital art and NFTs ushering in a paradigm shift. For me, the opportunity to team up...with Vito, who I view as one of our generation’s most compelling professionals in the contemporary art space, is particularly exciting. By merging our... areas of expertise, we’re creating a platform that can deliver the greatest value to artists and the community that collects and enjoys their work... I’m thrilled we are launching ArtOfficial and can't wait for our future to unfold."

Of course, in the divergent timeline of 2021, the future always seems to be right now and NFTs are one of the few pleasant surprise hits of what history may view as a gloomy year in the middle of a pandemic.

On that note, we took a moment to ask a few questions of Vaynerchuk and Schnabel.

Gary Vaynerchuk and Vito Schnabel

What is the goal of ArtOfficial? How does it tie in with VeeFriends?

We saw the opportunity for this platform to help the greatest artists have a platform to do incredible work in the metaverse and the NFT world,” Vaynerchuk said.

How does it tie in with VeeFriends?

“I’ve learned a ton with VeeFriends that we have applied to ArtOfficial, predominantly how most of the technology works and on the nuances of how the consumer behaves with drops, supply and demand, what makes the NFT collectible market tick, and how to best position the opportunities for artists.

ArtOfficial is incredibly different but at the end of the day, it's similar... At the end of the day, people are using their incredible creativity to create something that other human beings are interested in, whether that is an artist that has established themselves in the real world or whether that’s an entrepreneur that creates a character-based collectible set... We have now crossed into the world where humans want to own things in the digital environment,” Vaynerchuk said. 

How does ArtOfficial compare to other niche curated NFT Art marketplaces?

We'll be bold here and say that ArtOfficial does not compare to others because it is the first of its kind -- the first wholly independent NFT and digital art auction platform created from scratch by a commercial art gallery. It is also the only one conceived in partnership with our friend and colleague Gary Vaynerchuk, who is undoubtedly one of the visionaries of the NFT realm. The art world has thus far talked primarily to itself in its forays into the realm of NFTs. Our concept is to broaden the conversation considerably by talking to the NFT universe that already exists and is brimming with activity, to speak the language of that universe and to help our artists do the same. Our goal is to give fine artists a runway into that world,Schnabel said. 

Do you have other artists and drops planned?

Absolutely. We already have a number of NFT and digital works -- visual works and musical works by major fine artists, including the first-ever opera NFT, Mason Bates' (T)he Revolution of Steve Jobs -- in the pipeline. We'll be offering these in sequence in the coming weeks and months,” Schnabel said. 

What unique opportunities are you offering the buyer? What unique opportunities are you offering the artist?

The NFTs we offer are genesis works, the very first in this form ever created by the artists who've made them. This is of course incredibly exciting for artists, who are by nature pioneers and explorers.  

Given that these are artists of international stature whose work is coveted by top private and museum collectors globally, we are also offering something exceptional to our buyers on ArtOfficial. And we think we're the first to offer buyers of the one-of-one NFTs on ArtOfficial unique in-person experiences with the artists who made those NFTs,” Schnabel said. 

How much do you have to connect with an artist or their work to feature them?

This is another special aspect of ArtOfficial in that all of the artists are part of a 'curated' process, chosen for their inventiveness and cultural relevance as well as their market strength. We work very, very closely with the artists, dreaming out loud and encouraging them to create something for ArtOfficial that advances their wider practice, expands their oeuvre in real ways, and becomes part of the history of their art and of art more broadly,” Schnabel said. 

See also: NFT Release Calendar

The fine art of being “first”

Vaynerchuk and Schnabel seem to be carving out a very specific space where their NFT marketplace can claim first place on its own terms. The unique value of the platform is summed up by the credentials of the two partners -- NFTs with the fine art credibility of Schnabel Gallery backed by the all-the-time hype machine that is Gary Vee. 

ArtOfficial may be the first fine art gallery to launch their own NFT marketplace, but they aren’t really the first foray into fine art in NFTs. For example, HOFA has the distinction of being the first gallery to accept crypto as payment in 2018 and the first to launch a tokenized exhibition in 2020. And though they handle their NFT drops more like special exhibits and auctions, they have been making waves all year. 

Currently, HOFA Gallery is hosting a special exhibition titled “Portrait of an Era” which they will be hosting at their London Gallery from September 23 through October 7. They are billing the exhibition as “the world’s most valuable gallery NFT exhibition”.

The exhibit stars “blue-chip NFT collectibles”, including highly sought after NFTs such as CryptoPunks, Autoglyphs, Meebits, and Fidenza. As a special feature, the exhibit includes 6 of the 24 Sealed CryptoPunks works in existence, which are printed as unique lithographs and signed by Larva Labs Co-Founder, John Watkinson. 

And, of course, Fine Art NFT Marketplace Dissrup launched last week, showing what a frenetic and competitive space the NFT market is. Dissrup’s founder Yam Ben Adiva, is an artist and owner of Yambo Studios, a CGI-driven design studio. We took time to interview “Yambo” about Dissrup and his relationship with the art and artists on the platform. 

Yam Ben Adiva

What led you to create Dissrup?

“Dissrup started around October 2020, when the whole NFT space was very new. I wanted to bring innovation into the space, using a lot of the ideas that were slowly gaining traction, things like phygital design, dynamic NFTs, the power of the DAO as a decentralized creative authority. Interest in these ideas eventually culminated in the Dissrup platform — a space that utilizes our team’s years of experience within the digital art space to bring together digital and traditional artists to push creative culture forward using blockchain technology, specifically NFTs,” Ben Adiva said. 

How long have you been working as an artist?

“I have been working as a digital artist since 2010... I started Yambo Studio in 2015 with the main goal of setting up a CGI-driven design studio, based on the idea of global collaboration,” Ben Adiva said. 

Are the artists on your platform a driving reason for the platform? 

“Absolutely! We wanted to create a platform where artists have the space to curate their own experience, in the same way they would with their portfolio or website. We want Dissrup to match the level of design talent that we work with; a platform that, itself, looks as good as the work on it. 

With the Dissrup Drops, the artists that we work with define the quality of the drop, and so by bringing in incredible talent, we get some really imaginative, unique, and high-quality content. When creating and running a platform like Dissrup, the needs of the artist must remain in focus at all times, as the content lives and dies with them,” Ben Adiva said. 

How would you characterize your relationship with the artists vs. larger platforms that have curated features (like Nifty Gateway)? 

“The relationship we have with our artists sets the tone for the whole platform. For this reason, we keep in contact with them to the greatest extent we can. On a larger platform, artists might get a bit lost in the noise. Our objective is to ensure that everyone who exhibits with us always gets exactly what they need from the platform. This is why we curate Dissrup -- we work with artists whose work we love, which means we are always familiar with their work and invested in their projects,” Ben Adiva said. 

What are the most interesting drops that accompanied your launch? 

“Our first drop, Acid Pool, was our way of introducing one of the main focuses of Dissrup’s own creative output: digital fashion. This is an area with enormous potential. Acid Pool was created in collaboration with the amazing digital artist UV Zhu, and was comprised of a collection of blockchain-tokenized, digital fashion collectibles -- including an oversized coat, a pair of trainers, two masks -- one of which we created in collaboration with 33nft, and the Dissrup Duck. The collection embraced the idea of metaverse dream worlds, in which fantastic events take place in weird and incredible landscapes. I think the collection resonated with people, and we had a particularly overwhelming response to the Dissrup Duck!

Alongside our first Dissrup Drop, we’ve had an incredible range of artworks minted on the platform, including pieces by Bumpy Junkie, Shir Pakman, Gonzzzalo, and Karborn. We are very proud of the quality of the work we have on the platform, and we are thankful to the artists for putting their trust in us,” Ben Adiva said. 

UV Zhu & Dissrup

Are you looking to compete with large mainstream platforms or do you expect your journey to be more like a traditional gallery/dealer? 

“Dissrup is an ambitious project that we hope is going to resonate with a lot of people. We believe that the quality of our output, and the work that our community of artists is producing, really is second to none...

Our long-term aim is to build a platform that makes NFTs and digital collectibles accessible to the masses, and we will continue to work with this goal in mind, without compromising that personal touch that remains essential to the brand. Our artists and the community will always come first, and we endeavor to grow the platform in a way that benefits everyone involved,” Ben Adiva said. 

How many artists are you supporting? How large do you see that number going? 

“Currently we have only 30 artists exhibiting on our marketplace. We are comfortable hosting a relatively small cohort of creators for the time being, but we have plans to expand our artist community once we start bringing more collectors to the platform. It is important to ensure we have a balance between artists and collectors, to enable the ecosystem to function properly,” Ben Adiva said. 

What is your platform able to offer that no other NFT Marketplace can or is offering?

“We offer a much more personalized exhibition experience that artists need to effectively tell the story of their practice… Given the close-knit nature of our artist community, we are able to cater to the specific artistic needs of our creators, and help is always available to those in need of assistance or advice.

Dissrup also offers great facilities for minting and selling phygital artwork, with the option to include a range of additional photos of physical work in the listing itself. Alongside this feature, we also offer support for the creation of dynamic NFTs, and we will be introducing the ability to mint runs of digital collectibles on the marketplace at some point in the near future. 

Our community of artists is also the first place we look to when searching for new collaborators for Dissrup Drops, which is a great way for artists to collaborate outside of their own discipline, and introduce themselves to a large audience of potential collectors. 

I think it’s the personal quality that the platform has that draws people to it. We are very actively engaged in the NFT community, and as an artist myself, I understand the requirements of a good platform from the other side. We are constantly working to improve the platform experience for both our artists and collectors, and I think our enthusiasm for the space is evident in the aesthetic of the platform, and all the things we create,” Ben Adiva said. 

Conclusion

When there are so many technically and artistically creative people entering the NFT space, it's the audience and consumers that ultimately win. The prize for the buyer lies not just in the creative range of NFT art made available, but in the innovative ways people are identifying artists and blending the fine art and digital art worlds. 

ArtOfficial is bringing the clout and sensibilities of an established gallery promoting known artists; HOFA focuses on household name recognition and high-value pieces but works only in special exhibits; and Dissrup functions more like an artist’s collective, helping to find and develop artists.

Which approach is correct? If Art NFTs keep the astounding momentum they have had throughout 2021, then all approaches are valid depending on the needs of the buyer.

Financial experts, such as Vlad Tirla, CPO of Chainge Finance, are placing emphasis on NFTs that are tethered, as these use cases are, to real-world assets such as pieces of art. 

“I see NFTs to play an important role when it comes to asset authenticity, whether digital or offline... I see a world in which any valuable assets such as your apartament, jewelry or artwork can be NFT-ized, traded, and valued in this new world of finance,” Tirla said.

Certainly, the trend of connecting NFTs with real-world art and experiences is only gaining momentum. Perhaps Gary Vee is right and 2021 is truly a great time for creators.

See also: Are NFTs a Scam or Digital Bubble?