Take a good look at it. Here’s a normal guy coming out of precariousness when everyone walks in. Call him a crypto artist, although not even he, Javier Arrés (Motril, 1982), knew exactly what that was until the end of 2019. An epiphany in the form of e-mail opened the doors of an enlightened tribe that would carry the prefix crypto for life and he would announce to his peers the advent of a new era, that of NFTs (No Fungible Tokens). Some acronyms that although they do not sound familiar are about to put order in that chaotic bazaar that we call the internet.
Until that email, Arrés was just a digital artist who succeeded with his GIFs. But it was only successful theoretically, because it sold very little despite the fact that its visual toys were reproduced millions of times. “It was impossible to certify that a GIF was a unique piece, and the collector seeks the authenticity of the work,” he says in his rented apartment in the Albaicín, in Granada. To sell, I tried all kinds of formats. “For example, a pendrive put in a box with a stamp on it, but my GIF could be downloaded by anyone on the internet and the buyer had no way of proving that his piece was the authentic one.”
“I had these problems when… plin! An email arrived from [Javier Arrés engola la voz] Danny Fu, founder and CEO of MakersPlace ”.
Mr. Fu suggested that she join his platform: “The first truly rare and authentic digital art marketplace,” announces his website. It was the first time that Arrés heard of crypto artist and NFT. “It was difficult to understand, but I had run into many barriers to authenticate my work, and I could see that there was a solution.” NFTs, created in 2017 by the Ethereum blockchain network, are the deeds of the internet. A certificate of ownership and authenticity supported by blockchain technology that distinguishes an original digital file. And although it can be downloaded a thousand times, there is only one owner and one original, which the NFT accredits. Thus, the NBA has tokenized – note that verb – the video clip of a LeBron James play and has sold it for more than 174,000 euros and The New York Times has auctioned a column for 475,000. Both the video and the text can continue to be consumed on the Internet, but they already have an owner. If you download them to your phone, you will not have the digital asset, just one of its copies which, by the way, are worthless.
In 2019 MakersPlace was looking to recruit artists. Today between 15,000 and 20,000 creators try to enter the platform every day. At the beginning, Arrés had reservations, but he was gaining confidence because he found a community always willing to heat up the bid. “I put a GIF for 200 euros, they raised it to 300, then 600. And, of course, I got hooked on refreshing the page.” He tried to convince colleagues. “No one wanted to enter and today they call me crying … But you have to risk a little in life, man!”
In the prehistory of crypto art – read the beginning of 2020 – he was among the 16 best-selling artists in the world. When NFTs were discovered by DJs, Paris Hilton and other celebrities, it fell behind in the rankings.
Arrés was a child who “drew without stopping”. Enrolled in drawing classes since he was 10 years old, he had mastered still lifes, but what interested him was Mario Bros. “I played what they let me. My mother was a language teacher, and my father, a policeman. I had at home the two greatest levels of control that a teenager can play ”. They always said that he would study Fine Arts and be a teacher. They never said artist.
As ordered, he tried to enter Fine Arts at the University of Granada, but the grade did not reach him and he had to settle for a substitute, Art History. “I never went to classes, I went to college like someone who goes to yoga.”
During the years that he calls “pseudo-university” he worked as a waiter and “lived the night”. “I have put drinks to an entire generation. That’s where I know the human condition. Everyone who has worked at night knows that there are no beings of light. I also learned that I didn’t want to be a waiter all my life ”.
In 2009 he went to England and on his return he got hired at a graphic design agency in Madrid. With his “tight English as a Liverpool waiter” he wrote to illustration companies and began to take on important assignments.
“In Madrid I have spent nine years with their stoppages. With unemployment I have made gold “, sentence. He produced to have a work in ink to show to galleries, go to fairs, win prizes. His plan was to be an artist. And what is that exactly? “Well, live off your work. Buy time to create what you want. Get them not to tell you: ‘Look like Pixar or Disney Channel’, but rather ‘I want your style, what you are,’ he defines. He remembers drawing many hours without knowing what he was doing. Now he sees it very clearly: “I created my universe long before the place where I could sell it appeared.”
In March 2020, Spain released a state of alarm and MakersPlace offered its first auction. A drop, in crypto lingo. “We are going to discover an original work of art,” they proclaimed on Twitter. “What will it be? It looks like a futuristic machine for making virtual coins, or maybe it’s a punk kettle for serving bitcoins. “
His virtual toy was sold for 13.2 ethereum, then about 2,000 euros. Arrés knows that it was bought by a great collector but not by whom; the platform, yes. “They allow them some opacity because it can be Elon Musk,” he says with conviction. Since then everything that goes up to the platform flies. The first drop marks the “digital cache”. And that of Arrés is high. At his last auction, in April, he made about 400,000 euros – half dollars, half Ethereum – with an NFT collection of 24 glasses, The Cool Glasses. Only 25 minutes was available that he spent glued to the screen: “They cut time, they generate anxiety. Now or never! Crypto 8888 came and swept everything, “he says. Crypto 8888 is one of its most loyal collectors. “It must be Asian because of the abundance of eights,” he deduces. He learned that at his second auction, when he sold a work for $ 18,888 (about 15,500 euros). “I found out that in Asia it was the lucky number.”
Arrés ended 2019 with 300 euros in the account and reached the spring of 2021 with 900,000. He is pleased that NFTs can help reduce the precariousness of artists. “Everyone looks at the amount of money I have earned, but I look at the vast range of artists who have, as I had, another job to live on and now sell their work for 500 and 600 euros thanks to the NFTs” .
For many people it is an enigma that such amounts of money are paid for something that is still available on the internet. “The collector is interested in the authentic piece, the one that will reach digital museums. You can download whatever you want, but without NFT it has no value ”, explains Arrés, who has become a kind of pedagogue on the matter. A report by L’Atelier, the digital economy subsidiary of the European bank BNP, registers that the volume of business of NFTs tripled in 2020 and that their value could be around 250 million dollars (about 205 million euros ).
This new collectibles treasures the incorporeal, it can be a GIF or a first time. On March 5, Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter tokenized the first tweet ever, published by himself in 2006: “Just setting my twttr.” In 24 hours the auction exceeded two million euros and the tweet was acquired by an Asian executive.
Javier Arrés had a similar experience on a small scale when two tweets were bought from him, each for $ 680 (about 560 euros): “Someone wanted to be the first.” Never before has a tweet of his been sold, nor a tweet in all of Spain. “Collectors create moments to acquire them and pay for them at the price of gold,” says Arrés and shrugs: “I would have sold them for 10 euros.”
“And what do you do with the money?”
—The dollars go to PayPal and the ethereum to my Coinbase wallet, where I sell them immediately. I have little of a wolf of Wall Street.
-What have you bought?
—A powerful computer and I want to spend a month in the Algarve surfing. I’m terrible and that’s why I enjoy it. If I was good at it, I would already consider it work.
—They say I’m a digital artist, that their son does things on the internet. But they have already begun to study to be able to explain it better.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.