Interview by Nicole Gordon - Images Provided by SuperchiefNFT - ThirdRailArt - Nathalie Levey
Superchief Gallery co-founder Ed Zipco
Not a day that goes by where I don’t think about the hottest fresh art trend – NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Either because of headlines about record-breaking sales or because an artist in my Instagram algorithm has created a post on where to bid on their NFT. Artists and collectors appear to be moving faster than the speed of light in both creating and selling NFTs, with new releases every day. Given this dizzying array of ongoing developments, I figured the best way to learn and understand more about this this modern phenomenon was to go straight to the source. Superchief Gallery NFT was my first stop in my quest to learn about the NFT craze.
Superchief Gallery NFT is the first, permanent gallery of its kind (not to confused with Superchief Gallery SoHo, their downtown flagship.) As the name alludes to, Superchief Gallery NFT is part of the Superchief franchise, focusing exclusively on NFTs. I interviewed Superchief Co-Founder Ed Zipco, who is also the Director of the NFT division, to get a grasp of what NFT’s actually are and why they are so damn popular. After spending a couple of hours talking about what his roster looks like - I left the gallery eager to explore the world of NFT’s with my new crypto-currency wallet!
MASHKOW x P.Motion - "NFTesla Truck"
Superchief Gallery NFT opened its doors to the world on March 25th for their grand opening. When I first arrived, I had no idea what an NFT even was. And to have a gallery completely revolving around them had me perplexed. As I learned, much of the excitement around NFTs is the profitable values associated with them, such as the artist Beeple, who made a $69 million NFT sale in mid-March at Christie’s.
To give a brief breakdown, a non-fungible token is a unique (meaning one of a kind) digital asset built into a blockchain network, most commonly Ethereum. While an NFT can be any digital file (a gif, music, drawings, etc.) in the art world, NFTs refer primarily to digital art. Due to their relationship with blockchain technology, NFTs are particularly popular in the crypto-currency community.
1010 - “Bivalve_01”
On my Instagram feed were artists I knew selling NFT’s and making great money – part of the appeal of NFTs is even after you’ve sold the original, when collectors trade the work, artists can receive royalties. Ed cited that this royalty element as a major reason for his interest in NFTs. He noted that never before have visual artists been given royalties, while in other creative fields such as music - royalties are a given. Royalties for a visual art is revolutionary in and of itself - I cannot remember a time, other than right now, when that has EVER happened.
I asked Ed about street art superstar Swoon, as her pieces adorned the front hall of the gallery. Swoon was the first artist to launch an NFT with Superchief. Ed showed me a high res photo from her artwork archive that sold as an edition of 30, and another piece that resembled a digital stop motion film. One NFT sold for .25 Eth, equivalent to $600, while the other NFT sold for 6.8 Eth, worth about $19,000. And this is just the beginning, Superchief is working with Swoon for more releases.
Equinoz - “Visible Future”
Collectors are eager to be the first on the blockchain, with new NFTs being released faster than I can write. To better understand this, here’s a breakdown of the process: first there is an original piece of digital art. Then that work is “minted” as an NFT- minted in this context means it is registered on the blockchain, which acts as a Certificate of Authenticity. It is then available for sale in a way that has provenance. When this NFT is sold, 85% goes to the artist, and 15% goes to the Gallery/Marketplace. And when it is re-sold on the secondary market, a percentage, typically 10%, of that secondary price is paid out as royalties and automatically sent to the artist. Superchief has also established an artist fund which provides budgets for projects, where artists have autonomous power to decide which projects receive funding brought in by their secondary market sales.
I find that part to be incredible. That is what is making the crypto-world so press worthy. Millions of dollars are being traded in this manner. Superchief NFT has also several proactive collaborations. Superchief teamed up with Neo Shibuya TV in Tokyo and curated NFTs for digital billboards, with a rotating selections of artists from their roster. In the middle of one of the busiest metropolitan intersections in the world - digital art is being shown on these massive billboards! It is such an incredible way for the gallery to expose new collectors to artists.
Equinoz x Yuen Hsieh - “Takako”
Another project Superchief is working on is the Every Woman Biennial, a project guest curated by Christine Finley. For the digital exhibition, the goal is to mint 300 female, binary and non-binary artists. When speaking to Finley, she noted that women in general need a larger voice within the art community, thus she reasoned why not go into this new arena? Finley has curated several hundred artists at Every Woman Biennial for the past few years in a physical space in many cities across the globe.
Finley explained one of the benefits of the project is that she did not have to rent spaces, employ a team to hang, number, and write bios on several hundred artists, as now it will all be done digitally. And at a fast pace, too. You will be able to see hundreds of artists within the space at a fraction of the time it would take to hang that large of a show. Recently, Finley curated an open-call for artists and those that submitted and were chosen were walked through each step as they mint their very first NFT.
1010 - “Grotta_01”
Once I had made it known I was writing an article on NFT’s, several artists and curators reached out to me and offered their input. Street artist EYEZ told me that he learned how to create his own NFTs from Clubhouse, a social media app popular in the crypto-community. He offered his thoughts:
“NFT art is exciting to me as another canvas and another way to make money with my art. Diving into the world of NFTs and getting started was like going back to school. Other artists had told me a great resource to learn was Clubhouse. Once on there I spent countless hours in various NFT rooms and met a whole new world of artists so ready to share their knowledge. Another great use of clubhouse is having a ‘Drop Party’ on the space as it helps generate excitement around the NFTs and attracts buyers.”
I also spoke to Sam Miller, owner of The Fine Art Ledger, who has spent a few years in the crypto-currency world. He shared his excitement me on the growing popularity of NFTs:
“The traditional art world meets the blockchain, working together on the same platform is exciting. The mere fact that so much attention is being brought to blockchain and art NFTs is in itself monumental for both the art and technology worlds, but this is only the beginning. I believe we are just at the start of seeing what potential lies via NFT’s.”
Swoon - "Mask Splitting"
While there are many emerging players in the NFT world, Ed and Superchief Gallery NFT are the forefront of the movement. Superchief has been working with digital artists since 2015 and felt a responsibility to include digital artwork as part of the culture, recently diving in at the chance to support these new NFT strategies for digital and traditional artists at this integral moment. Though, of course not everything that glitters is gold. One of the drawbacks to NFTs is that due to their reliance on blockchain networks, they come with high environmental costs.
The NFT community as a whole is working on reducing the carbon footprint which has been a negative aspect of the culture’s growth. Superchief was one of the first marketplaces to set up a relationship with a verified carbon credit companies, and is proud to have run a NFT platform that was carbon negative from Day 1.
Another critique of NFTs is the concept of owning digital art, displayed only via screen. I myself have struggled with owning digital content, yet in a way, I can also see a salon-style home filled with displays of different artists on a loop. Since diving into the NFT world, I’ve gotten a wallet and some coins. I’m eager to invest in some NFTs from a few of my favorites. As long as one stays open-minded, I don’t think this will be a fad, but rather a gateway into something far larger. I see Ed as a visionary, so I am taking his lead into looking at this grandiose digital world as having infinite possibilities. I trust his intuition yet have a gut feeling it is going to be a huge shift and movement.
Art Journalist Nicole Gordon at Superchief Gallery NFT in front of Swoon's NFT
The opening of Superchief Gallery NFT is the just the beginning of what the franchise has in store for this year, with a multitude of digital art shows on the way. On Saturday June 12th, Superchief is hosting Tethered / Unlocked, an expansive exhibition that features over 50 artists as well as both digital and physical artworks. Working with their new partners Ether Cards, the show will also allow collectors to buy physical canvases through the NFT system, an impressive technological feat! Even more exciting, is that Tethered / Unlocked also serves as a celebration of the gallery, as the 9th anniversary show.
All text and images usage rights reserved - copyright @ThirdRailArt and credited artists.