Bored Ape and CryptoPunk NFTs Are ‘Not Works of Art’: Collector and Creator Derrick Li on Distinctions Between Digital Art and Collectibles

NFT collector and enthusiast Derrick Li first learned about the digital art form, as many of us do, with the $69 million sale of Beeple’s. 5,000 Days At Christie’s in March 2021. But that’s where the similarities with those who jumped into the NFT majority stop.

Rather than looking for get-rich-quick buys, Li started reaching out to the NFT creators he admired the most. He also founded Triple X, which focuses on curating NFT collections by artists (not illustrators – more below) and bridging the knowledge gap between mainstream art collectors and artists working in the digital space.

Earlier this week, Li announced that Triple X will release a new curated NFT collection, “On Sparks and Souls,” featuring digital artwork from artists, including Jia Aili, represented by Gagosian.

Recently, we spoke with Li to discuss the volatility of the NFT market, what distinguishes NFT art from digital collectibles, and much more.

Derrick Li, founder of Triple X.

Can you tell me about yourself and how you came to the NFT field?
I’m Derrick Li, aka Tung, or Triple X or X as some artists call me. My parents call me DongDong. People say I have so many names that every time they meet someone who knows me, they hear a new name. These “multiple identities” make me feel great because I don’t want to be identified and that somehow liberates me in the NFT space; All like me but it depends on your point of view.

I founded Triple X early last year and am a collector, curator and founder of NFT shortly after Beeple’s auction at Christie’s. I started researching them and realized their potential, user status and benefits to artists and all users.

There were several factors that attracted me. First, I knew I was still early to join this market, so that would be a huge advantage – the sooner you enter and the more willing you are to work, the better shot you’ll get. Second, NFTs have the potential to do a lot of great things and contribute a lot to artists. Finally, I wanted to make it easier for artists to do great new things.

How would you describe Triple X in your own words? What would you say you see as part of its evolving role in the NFT field?
As of now, Triple X is mine, but I hope it becomes an organization open to supporting innovative and inspiring opportunities and ideas in digital art. My goal with Triple X is to raise people, especially artists, and make the world a better place. The triple X represents sparks and spirits, inspirations and purposes, perceptions and understandings. We want people to come together with good hearts and good intentions to create long-term value in interesting ways in the NFT space.

Part of that means bringing more veteran traditional collectors and the general public into the field and helping to build a fundamental and illuminating understanding of what’s going on in the digital space. From there, Triple X will be able to offer high-quality works for collectors and art lovers. I care very much about the audience, the real art lovers.

It’s becoming classic for a reason, and I don’t want the Triple X to be seen or associated with hype. I want it to build a culture and have a culture with like-minded people.

Your company has many dimensions in the NFT world, especially the curatorial or almost gallery-like review process that brings the NFT collection into a more familiar space for art lovers. Earlier this week, you announced that you will be releasing a new NFT collection by artists, including: Jia Ail represented by Gagosian. Who are the NFT artists included in the collection? How did you contact each of them?

This collection includes incredible digital artists like Raoul Marks, David Ariew and Ryan Hawthorne and of course the main character of the collection is Jia Aili. I have two other digital artists working on a piece behind the scenes, but I don’t want to reveal their identities yet. It’s more interesting to remain mysterious but judging by the quality of the work we’ve produced so far, people can trust me that these undercover ones are also one of the most artistic digital artists in the NFT field.

I also collect NFTs and love reaching out to the brains behind these amazing digital artworks. Fortunately, many of these artists responded – NFT artists at the time were more willing to engage with collectors. Nowadays, too many ghost accounts will be sending you DMs (whether you are an artist, collector or builder, whatever) and most people won’t even bother to check the DM request anymore.

Artist David Ariew has also helped me connect with many other artists, including Raoul Marks, who is on sale. David has always been this super helpful and nice person.

Would you say there is a common thread between them?Artists you choose to work with?
Yes definitely! This current collection is called “On Sparks and Souls” and one of its main aims is to show the artistic essence of these NFTs and raise the bar for the artistic conversation around them. I asked these NFT artists to create works that somehow responded to Jia Aili’s paintings. They can explore ways of understanding the paintings, converse with them, and incorporate elements of their work in refreshingly new ways while staying close to their roots. The general commonality between these artists, including Aili, is the vibration they have with the essence of art, from which true creativity comes.

So the NFTs in the exhibit are directly inspired by 2D images? Why did you choose this way to create an NFT collection?

Yes. All digital artworks are inspired by and based on at least one painting by Jia Aili, chosen by each artist in the collection. The final digital artworks are blends of Aili’s visions, philosophy of art, and artistic input directly from him, as well as each artist’s personal input, mediums, styles, interpretations, and “signatures”, which were later published as NFTs. Thanks to this process, the meaning of the symbols in the original paintings has been expanded.

Since original paintings play a big role in this collection, I’m considering planning and curating an exhibition next year that will bring these paintings into conversation with digital artworks. . The paintings already have homes but it would be a great conversation between the artifacts.

There is a lot of volatility in the NFT space right now. What do you think about that?
This is the result of uninterrupted speculation in the NFT field that collapsed during the crypto crash. Worried about the market? No. Am I worried about people? Yes. We need more accurate information and training in this area.

The market was so unstable because some people were playing this money game, trying to speculate about certain artists’ markets, and then they became “influencers” telling people what was good and who they should buy. rather than any factual information about the artwork. NFTs were sold at prices that made no sense given their real and genuine demand and artistic value.

There is no liquidity flowing into the space as of now, so most NFTs become dead assets. The so-called “whale collectors” should take great responsibility for the current state of the field.

Many people were very impatient; people only have short term visions and mindsets when they are in this field. Many people do not have long-term visions or are not willing to build a healthy infrastructure for this market and its reputation. I am very critical of this because I want the NFT field to have longevity.

Can you talk about the difference between digital collectibles and NFTs? What are the main distinctions and how do you think these differences will become clearer in the future?

Digital collectibles projects are done by developer teams rather than artists. Often times, these teams hire an illustrator to create the visual design of their products, but does that count as a work of art? My answer may sound controversial, but I say no. Not every creation is a work of art. Not every illustration is a work of art.

I find it extremely important to distinguish digital collections that are NFTs from digital artworks that are printed as NFTs. People shouldn’t try to find artistic values ​​or the essence of art in digital collections, like waiting for the lychee to fall from the apple tree.

Of course, many people looking for artwork are confused when they see successful collectible projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks and wonder why this “bad art” is selling so well. These are not works of art; are digital collections that can offer utilities. Here the line needs to be drawn clearly. Then people can start describing works of art and talk about things with the right definitions and expectations.

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