Is there gender equality in the digital art world?

Roxanne Vardi and Pau Waelder

Composite photo of the artists (left to right): Dagmar Schürrer, Snow Yunxue Fu, Marina Zurkow, Claudia Larcher, Alexandra Crouwers, Tamiko Thiel, Claudia Hart, Sasha Stiles, Yuge Zhou, and Chun Hua Catherine Dong.

It is a well-known fact, although not properly acknowledged, that over the course of history women artists have been underrepresented in the art world, and in general have been undervalued and underpaid at auction houses, galleries, and museums. As the art historian Katy Hessel, author of the celebrated book The Story of Art Without Men, points out: “it’s actually down to who has been able to tell the story of art history.” Women artists have been routinely erased from art history, or included in relation to male artists, their talent minimized as they were portrayed merely as lovers or muses. In the art market, women artists have not fared better. Traditionally, art galleries have represented far more white men than any other group combined, and as recent reports indicate, the situation hasn’t improved: the Burns-Halperin Report on equity and representation in US museums and the art market, presented in December 2022, indicates that auction sales of works by women artists represent only 3,3% of total sales worldwide, and that only 11% of acquisitions and 14,9% of exhibitions in US museums feature artworks created by women.

The introduction of the digital arts and the emergence of the new media art scene have given women artists the opportunity to become early adopters both of photography and of alternate digital technologies such as VR as these novel mediums also allowed for political and artistic provocation of the accepted norms. Today in general there is also greater awareness towards this unequal tendency, and so different organizations focus on balancing out the different groups of artists which they represent. At Niio we have made it our mission to focus on presenting and promoting the works of women artists whether through the content distributed on our apps or in our editorial section. In 2022, the gender balance of our artist solo shows amounted to a total of close to 60% by women artists. This month, we are honored to showcase the artworks and art practices created by the women artists, and to present this brief survey among ten outstanding artists who have generously answered our questions.

Would you say that the digital art community behaves differently than the contemporary art world in terms of gender balance and visibility of women artists?

Alexandra Crouwers: not really – although my personal field of view in the ‘digital space’ is taken up by a generally much, much more diverse constellation of artists than the ‘traditional’ contemporary art scene I’m embedded in. Likely, the global accessibility and distribution of digital art plays a role. I do suspect museums and other art institutions working with digital media are, perhaps because of the reason above, a bit more aware of adding more women artists in exhibitions compared to the ‘traditional’ art world.

Alexandra Crouwers is an artistic researcher working in the digital realm, and oscillating between escapism and activism.

Claudia Larcher: I don’t have numbers for that, but no, I think that the visibility of women in the art world in general is still unbalanced, be it in the art world or digital art. More attention is now being paid to the issue, but the big solo shows are almost always given to the men.

Claudia Hart: Yes, although strides have been made, I would have to say that the contemporary art world is still way out ahead of the digital space. The engine running digital is innovation culture. I would even go so far as to say that digital art culture functions more as beta testers for new products.  It’s a culture of next new things, so it suffers from extreme ageism. The lowest ranked players in the digital art world are older women – not news not now, not glamorous.  It’s a cute young world.   

“The lowest ranked players in the digital art world are older women. It’s a cute young world.”

Claudia Hart

Dagmar Schürrer: Talking from my own perspective I feel that female identifying artists are quite present in the digital art community. I am based in Berlin, and I am very lucky to be surrounded by a network of strong women creating and researching in the digital art scene. Digital and new media is still kind of uncoupled from the classical art market and rather conceptually driven. It often tackles issues that are closely linked to female politics – like embodiment, social hierarchies, identity, or bias of new technologies. For example, the scene working with XR technologies is very experimental and constantly developing, and is open for fresh and unusual perspectives, which might be resonating with a female experience of a changing society. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact that women in the cultural sector are still outrageously underpaid. Statistics of the German Künstlersozialkasse (artists’ social security fund) show that in 2022 female artists earned an average of 24% less than their male colleagues, the Gender Pay Gap is therefore significantly above the German national average! 

“I feel that female identifying artists are quite present in the digital art community. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact that women in the cultural sector are still outrageously underpaid.”

Dagmar Schürrer

Tamiko Thiel: Until recently, fame in the media art world was driven more by academic voices and the few institutions that showed media art, because the art market was not interested in media art at all. This was primarily Ars Electronica due to its prestigious Golden Nica award, the ZKM because it was the primary institution with an archive and collection of media art, the festivals Transmediale and ISEA and the art gallery at SIGGRAPH.

It was always my impression that these media art institutions however tended to focus very heavily on hardware technology, “boy toys” and a very male view of what is interesting in media art, rather than taking a wider view of the value of media art. I personally was told in a private conversation by a (male) member of the Ars jury, perhaps a decade after I had submitted my VR projection installation Beyond Manzanar (2000, with Zara Houshmand) to the Interactive Art category at Ars, that the others on the jury insisted it was not innovative because it only used a simple joystick as an input device. That is to say they focused exclusively on the hardware, without considering the complex interactive narrative of 13 scenes interweaving the historical Japanese American incarceration in WW2 and similar threats to intern Iranian Americans during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979-1980, and how we had constructed an interactive structure in which the user’s agency led them to be complicit in their own incarceration.

Tamiko Thiel is a pioneering visual artist exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity in works encompassing interactive 3d virtual worlds (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence art.

In 2016 Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Addie Wagenknecht started the “Kiss My Ars” hashtag after noticing that in the 37 year history of Ars Electronica, 9 out of 10 Golden Nicas had been awarded to men, putting a hard number on my more vague impression of an unconscious gender bias in values.

In 2012 the new director of the Transmediale, Kristoffer Gansing, shut me down when I responded to panelist Kathy Rae Huffman’s invitation to talk about my AR artwork during what was billed as “open conversation about video art and net culture, media collectives and counter-publics”. (See this webpage for a detailed description and audio recording). This was all the more odd because the festival’s theme “in/compatible” explicitly celebrated 25 years of art interventions and proclaimed in Gansing’s curatorial statement that: “Contrary to the fear of the incompatible, so prevalent in the age of cloud-computing, the festival raises the question of what happens when incompatibility is brought to the fore rather than hidden away in the dark underbelly of digital culture?” Kathy Rae and I of course asked ourselves, if a male curator on the panel had called on a male artist to describe their work, would Gansing have shut them down, as he did to us? It was painful for us as well that no one in the audience, not even the several famous feminist artists present, said anything at all during these encounters. Gansing had just taken over Berlin’s most prestigious media art venue, and I assume no one wanted to get on his bad side.

“In 2021 the art market became aware of digital art for the first time when Beeple sold a NFT for the equivalent of $69 million. The fact that this was roughly 35x the price of the highest selling work by a female artist, ixshells, speaks for itself.”

Tamiko Thiel

Chun Hua Catherine Dong: I think the digital art community and the contemporary art world are very similar in terms of gender balance. Gender imbalance exists within the digital art community, especially in technical and coding writing. Women also are underrepresented in the field of game development and software engineering.

Chun Hua Catherine Dong‘s artistic practice is based in performance art, photography, video, VR, AR, and 3D printing within the contemporary context of global feminism.

Do you work with code-based art? If so, do you write the code, or work with collaborators? What is your experience with the community of coders and engineers?

Sasha Stiles: I’m a lifelong poet who’s always been very interested in science and technology. Though I don’t have a computer science or coding background, I’ve been writing with AI-powered large language models since 2018, and have learned basic coding to fine-tune text generators and experiment with generative visual poetics. I’ve also had a hands-on role for many years now as poetry mentor to the AI android BINA48, built by Hanson Robotics and the Terasem Foundation. I’ve frequently been in the minority at meetings and conferences, but I’ve also found a lot of support for my work in places where I didn’t expect to.

Alexandra Crouwers: I AM A SUPERUSER! We’re being overlooked, but that’s another story: there’s such a focus on code and generative abstraction at the moment, people forget most of us use those techniques too, but then as part of more encompassing works (this does not answer your question at all, haha).

Marina Zurkow: I work with coders, usually as an equal collaboration (not with teams). In my intimate work world, at present, I have an even split between male and female identified technologist collaborators.

Sasha Stiles a first-generation Kalmyk-American poet, artist and AI researcher widely recognized as a pioneer of generative literature and language art.

Claudia Larcher: I have limited skills in coding but try to do everything by myself, as I had some bad experiences with male coders. Which was also a kind of empowerment. Actually I don’t know any female identifying coders, which is a pity. The coding community as I know it, is a male-only community. Hopefully it will change in the near future.

“The coding community as I know it, is a male-only community. Hopefully it will change in the near future.”

Claudia Larcher

Claudia Hart: I’ve just produced my first Art Blocks. I was part of a group of women invited to develop a project.  I went to a meeting for the newbies, and I was the only woman present,  The rest were guy coders. I’ve also collaborated with my friend Andrew Blanton, a cute young coder, because I can’t do it for myself. Not sure I would ever do this again. 

Claudia Larcher’s work explores video animation, collage, photography and installation with a cinematic approach to storytelling, extracting narratives from nondescript, everyday spaces.

Dagmar Schürrer: I am working with XR technologies in my own artistic practice as well as a project assistant at the research group INKA at the HTW Berlin – University of Applied Sciences. INKA is an interdisciplinary group of computer scientists and cultural workers like me, producing and teaching XR projects in the cultural field at the Institute for Culture and Computer Science. In the group there are slightly more female developers, but I would say that is rather unusual and a conscious decision to support women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is of course great! This is not reflected in most of those degree programs, where women are significantly underrepresented, so there is still a lot to do to make these fields more attractive for women. This is also similar in the freelance sector; I have the impression that here female developers are very rare.

“My VRML artworks are all code based, and I wrote all the code myself. I have had a lot of support and no problems from the community of coders and engineers.”

Tamiko Thiel

Tamiko Thiel: My VRML artworks (Beyond Manzanar, The Travels of Mariko Horo, Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall) are all code based, and I wrote all the code myself. I have had a lot of support and no problems from the community of coders and engineers in terms of gender inequalities. Since 2018 my husband, the software developer Peter Graf, collaborates with me on some but not all artworks. Since he is a professional coder, he can code much faster than I!

In your experience, has the NFT market benefited gender equality in any way? Do women artists get better chances at selling their work?

Alexandra Crouwers: Not sure yet. Although in the very conservative contemporary art context I’m geographically in, I’d say I had at least a couple of disadvantages: being a women artist and working with digital media. It often felt the combination was just too much for people to handle. For me, the NFT space has connected my practice to a whole network of nodes of amazing fellow women artists, with similar experiences. On the other hand: I’ve never sold so much work in my artist life before, so purely based on that I’d say ‘yes’.

“The NFT space has connected my practice to a whole network of nodes of amazing fellow women artists, with similar experiences.”

Alexandra Crouwers

Snow Yunxue Fu works with imaging technologies, such as 3D Simulation, AR, XR, and the Metaverse in interdisciplinary explorations into the universal aesthetic and definitive nature of the techno sublime.

Snow Yunxue Fu: I do think the NFT market has opened more opportunities for women artists and all artists in general, especially at the earlier stage of its developments and expansion. However, as the NFT market has a tendency to follow the historical art market, there are still many inequalities. It is quite important to have awareness for all parties involved and make efforts to give more support to women artists.

Marina Zurkow: Among niche digital art worlds, perhaps – but not at the high-price & high-profile level. Those “spots” are consistently and disproportionately going to men.

Claudia Larcher: I read that female artists are doing better in the NFT world than in the global art world but parity is still far away. I think that people see an investment when buying NFTs, and male artists still achieve higher re-sales. 

Tamiko Thiel: The NFT market has a specific aesthetic that sells well, and I consider that aesthetic to be a very male gaze shaped by fantasy/science fiction/video games. Perhaps women artists who hide their gender do better, but as a woman artist who uses her real name, I think it helps me for intermediaries to call attention to my work and to tell potential collectors that my work is valuable. THANK YOU FOR HELPING! 🙂

Chun Hua Catherine Dong: This is a good question. I don’t get involved much at the NFT at this moment so I cannot tell whether the NFT market benefits more women artists. But the NFT market definitely is easier to enter while the traditional market requires years to build up one’s reputation.

What is your opinion about female-led NFT projects? Can you mention some projects that you find interesting?

Sasha Stiles: I’m proud to be part of theVERSEverse, a women-led poetry gallery that seeks to empower writers by bringing poets into the art world. Co-founded by Kalen Iwamoto, Ana Maria Caballero and myself, with advisor Gisel Florez and community manager Elisabeth Sweet, theVERSEverse is trying to do something that has never really existed elsewhere, on or offline. I’m constantly astounded by the vision and tireless work ethic of women in web3 and adjacent spaces: Sofia Garcia, Jess Conaster, Micol Ap of Vertical Crypto Art, Danielle King, Diane Drubay, Valerie Whitacre, Ariel Hudes, Raina Mehler, Nicole Sales Giles, Lydia Chen, Mika Bar-On Nesher, Elena Zavalev, Eleanora Brizi, Fanny Lakoubay, to name just a few. I love the FEMGEN initiative from VCA and Right Click Save, and the Unsigned project by Operator and Anika Meier, and I’m represented by such women-owned galleries as Annka Kultys Gallery in London and Galerie Brigitte Schenk in Cologne.

Marina Zurkow is a media artist focused on near-impossible nature and fostering intimate connections between humans, other species, and planetary agents.

Marina Zurkow: Christiane Paul’s curated exhibition Chain Reaction on Feral File is a good example of highly rigorous, thoughtful NFT projects that are female-led or in collaboration. I think very highly of the works of Stephanie Dinkins, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Sara Ludy, and the McCoys because their work has not only deep logic but they are concerned with what the blockchain can DO; it’s not just another white wall in a white cube gallery.

Claudia Larcher: I appreciate the work of the Austrian artist LIA, who is a pioneer of software and net art. I think that with producing NFTs she was really compensated for her artistic work in an appropriate monetary way.

Dagmar Schürrer: I want to mention the project Unsigned by Operator and Anika Meier. It is a collection of 100 signatures from women and non-binary artists to highlight the fact that a female signature on an artwork can devalue it. Turning the signatures themselves into artworks is a very clever and strong gesture, and I love the focused and minimal realization, both conceptually and aesthetically. It is positively simple, to the point and potentially iconic.

Tamiko Thiel: I find Auriea Harvey‘s and Nettrice Gaskin‘s work simply stunning, beautiful and meaningful. They create beautiful works of art like nothing I have ever seen before, and bring together incredible depths of art history and cultural history together from a very different viewpoint as the previous several thousands of years of art. All hail! I am delighted that ixshells‘ work is valued so highly, but such purely geometric abstractions are personally not so interesting for me.

Chun Hua Catherine Dong:  I appreciate projects that are not made specifically for any kind of markets, but rather for the artists themselves or for the sake of art itself. Maybe these kinds of projects will have the potential to go both into the traditional and the NFT markets eventually, but the idea of “art made for sale” doesn’t sound right for me. Artists such as Claudia Hart, Carla Gannis, and Frank Wang Yefeng are very interesting.

In the 1980’s the feminist art movement began working mainly with photography and the newly available technological tools of the time. Do you feel that with the introduction of video art this even more so allowed artists to question older social models?

Sasha Stiles: Both my practice and personal life are implicitly feminist in that I embody taboo concepts of womanhood, from engaging in male-dominated fields to eschewing many of the social and domestic expectations that are prescribed to women. So when a large language model fine-tuned on my own work, developed to write like me, expresses misogyny and disturbing stereotypes, for example, it’s powerful. Creative AI as a new medium demands that we go beyond questioning older social systems to infiltrating them, building ourselves into them.

Claudia Hart has worked since the 1990s examining issues of identity and representation with 3D animation.

Alexandra Crouwers: Yes, Pipilotti Rist for me was the one who opened artistic doors by unapologetically using the idea of music videos as an art form, and showing how projections including audio can transform a whole space. This, again, is a very personal example, of course, but, to me, Rist provided a role model in an art education that for 95% was taken up by men.

Marina Zurkow: The number of brilliant, inspiring feminist video artists is staggering. Please don’t forget pioneers Adrian Piper, Yoko Ono, Howardena Pindell, Shigeko Kubota, and the following waves of the likes of Laura Parnes, Elisabeth Subrin, Mika Rottenberg, tackling very different aspects of life through a feminist lens.

“Creative AI as a new medium demands that we go beyond questioning older social systems to infiltrating them, building ourselves into them.”

Sasha Stiles

Claudia Larcher: I believe that video as a medium was new at that time and not yet occupied by men, like painting or sculpture. There was this window of opportunity for many female artists.

Claudia Hart: I am not sure, there have always been women painters, but they were written out of history. I’ve been working with 3d animation and VR since ‘96.  I developed a program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago called Experimental 3D, and my young women students have been institutionalized and awarded. I actually have never had an institutional exhibit, neither group or solo, nor have gotten grants or any kind of award of status. So case in point.

Dagmar Schürrer assembles found footage, digitally generated objects and animations, text, drawing and sound to form intricate video-sound-montages, often extended by Augmented Reality, evocative of painting, collage or poetry.

Dagmar Schürrer: I have the feeling there is a tendency, when new tools or technologies become available, that female and non-binary artists are fast to integrate those in their own artistic practice, before the methodologies enter the mainstream. It may offer a certain freedom and field of experimentation, without the pressure of capitalist art markets, and therefore a progressive opportunity to negotiate and reflect the topics of underrepresented groups.

“I believe that video as a medium was new at that time and not yet occupied by men, like painting or sculpture. There was this window of opportunity for many female artists.”

Claudia Larcher

Tamiko Thiel: Yes, at the beginning of a new medium there is much more room for experimentation, when the market is not established yet and therefore artists can experiment without the pressure to think about the sales value of the work. Initially there is the problem of access to technology – during which women also usually have more difficulty. Then there is a short interval in which anyone can access the technology because it has become commercial enough to be widely available. This is the time in which most innovation occurs. Then when the art market picks up a medium, its values impact directly on the work that is made, as artists try to live from their work.

Chun Hua Catherine Dong: Using new media or incorporating technology in artwork has definitely changed the ways of how to make art. Video art offered artists the ability to create time-based works that could incorporate performance and documentation. The introduction of video art has provided a powerful tool for feminist artists to express their ideas related to gender and identity, and to create works that reflect their own experiences and perspectives.

“There is a female sensibility behind the lens. Even in subtle ways, this changes what the viewers see.”

Yuge Zhou

Yuge Zhou is a Chinese born, Chicago-based artist whose videos and installations address rootedness, isolation and longing within sites of shared dreams.

Yuge Zhou: Video art introduces the time element into social critique. In some way, video art has a huge landscape to mine and to reference with cinema and television and the internet videoscape. With a growing number of women behind the camera and in charge of the means of productions – what they shoot, how they shoot are opening up. There is a female sensibility behind the lens. Even in subtle ways, this changes what the viewers see. Nowadays, both men and women are going into the technological fields like editing and cinematography, and a lot of tools and venues are available to both make and show video art. But there’s still a long way to go in terms of equity both behind and in front of the camera.

Robert LeBlanc: Trust is Everything

Pau Waelder

LA-based photographer Robert LeBlanc is known for documenting the lives of communities on the fringes of American society in photographic projects that usually take years, as he gains the trust of its members as is allowed to portray them at close distance. Since the publication of his first book, Unlawful Conduct, in 2016, his work has been increasingly on demand, leading to collaborations with mainstream firms and large companies, while also developing his own projects with funding that also comes from launching NFT drops and building a community of collectors around his work.

Fahey-Klein gallery is hosting an exhibition of Robert LeBlanc’s latest project, Gloryland, which is also available as an NFT drop on SuperRare and an artcast curated by Nicholas Fahey on Niio.

Robert LeBlanc. A New America #1 (2014-2022)

You have mentioned skateboarding as the reason why you got into photography. How would you say this experience contributed to shaping the photographer you are today?

I have always said skateboarding saved my life. I grew up in rural Montana, where I had no access to much art or culture, so as a youngster, I would see the world and experience art and culture through the pages of skateboard magazines and skate videos. Then, I started to use a camera when I would go out and skateboard with my friends and document what I would see in the streets when we would be out late skating around. I look back at those times and realize it was my “schooling” on how to navigate the streets, and that really helped develop the skills that honed my ability to access worlds I wouldn’t have normally seen. I firmly believe that skating gave me all the tools I needed to do what I do today. 

Robert LeBlanc. A New America #64(2014-2022)

Your photography projects span several years. What is the process of developing these projects? Do you work on several projects simultaneously? Do the experiences in one project lead to another?

When working on long-term projects, it is a slow burn. You have to gain trust and spend a lot of time with whom I’m photographing to really get to the good stuff. Eventually, the subject’s walls slowly go down, and that’s when you get the opportunity to witness the real magic. I work on several projects at once, and sometimes one project will open the door to another project. You never know when the right opportunity will present itself, and you have to be ready for that; sometimes, you get one shot to gain that trust or access, and being prepared for those opportunities is a must.

“When working on long-term projects, it is a slow burn. You have to gain trust and spend a lot of time with whom I’m photographing to really get to the good stuff.”

In your projects, you use different types of cameras. What do each of them bring to the final output? Is the choice of camera driven by a specific type of image you want to create, do other factors affect this decision?

Yes, I like to use different cameras; sometimes, a particular camera is perfect for that specific project. Cameras are the ultimate tool that connects how I see the world into a visual story to tell a wider audience. For me, not only how the camera shoots but the size plays a huge factor. Sometimes I need something small and very discrete, and sometimes medium format is the only way to create the image I need. I’ve recently been using a monochrome-only digital camera, which is such an inspiring tool. Something about being able only to see the world in Black&White will steer my attention to things I wouldn’t have ever noticed in color. I also love what a cell phone can accomplish, and we all walk around with quite a powerful tool in our pockets every day, and its normality can be a mighty thing. 

Robert LeBlanc. Gloryland. Untitled #35 (2018-2021)

Steve Schapiro, who was known for being able to blend in with the communities he portrayed, once said: “basically, if you’re just matter of fact photographing people in terms of who they are and what they’re doing, you don’t have any trouble.” Do you agree with this statement? How has your experience been when entering a community and gaining their trust?

Absolutely! When you leave your biases at the door and come into any situation with an open mind, you will learn something fundamental about the human experience. How you interact with whomever you photograph will be much more rewarding, at least in my experience. Trust is everything, and there is a responsibility within it too. These are real people with real lives and feelings; abusing that trust to me is the ultimate disrespect in my eyes. I have always played by those rules, and that has gotten me to the places I have been because of the respect I give to anyone on the other side of the lens, and I believe that’s the only reason I’m able to continue to tell their stories.

“Trust is everything, and there is a responsibility within it too. These are real people with real lives and feelings; abusing that trust to me is the ultimate disrespect in my eyes.”

In your description of the community of The House of The Lord Jesus in Squire you emphasize the need to look deeper and “sift through all the coal dust” to understand who they are and what they do. Considering that you intend to do this through your photographs, how do you develop the project with this aim?

I didn’t initially have that objective. I just wanted to witness a community that I found fascinating and widely misunderstood. But when I started to spend more time understanding who they were and the environment they lived in, I began to put those pieces together. It’s a tough part of the country that involves a lot of suffering; I not only wanted to show what they did but also show that they are kind, loving, and compassionate people. Mainstream media is at fault for turning what they do into such a spectacle and, in return, pushing a false narrative that talks about crazy folks who handle snakes, and honestly, that is so far from the truth. I watch people do things in the city every day that seems crazier and more stupid than what they do. This is a rich history of tradition on the verge of excision.

Robert LeBlanc. A New America #29 (2014-2022)

In your recent projects you have had sponsorships and collaborations with big brands, how has that affected the development of your work as compared to earlier projects? 

Luckily for me, it hasn’t at all. Large brands can be beneficial with funding and getting the word out there, and I’m incredibly grateful for brands who have supported my projects and ideas. But it’s important to know where the line needs to be drawn and remind yourself you are doing this because you are passionate about the project and not to be a PR firm that pushes a brand’s message. It comes down to finding a brand or company that shares the same message or beliefs, and if they start to push back or try to reshape what you, the artist, are doing, then they’re not the right fit. But it would be best if you were conscious of that, so you are not wasting each other’s time and money.

Robert LeBlanc. Gloryland. Untitled #39 (2018-2021)

What has the NFT market brought to the dissemination of your work? 

I have opened many doors through collectors or funding. I’m incredibly grateful for all the folks who have supported my NFT drops; most of those funds help to continue developing work or the release of works and books. There is a lot of power within the NFT community, and I’ve met many people I have looked up to for years who are passionate about supporting artists and the art community. It’s been such a fantastic ride so far. The biggest struggle as a creative is how do you continue to finance and survive while creating. I think before NFT came about, we as creatives were held captive by large brands with budgets, making us all fight for scraps, but NFTs have changed the game entirely. Now I can give collectors a more personal experience one on one, and they know that their support will be significant in developing these bodies of work.

“Before NFT came about, we as creatives were held captive by large brands with budgets, making us all fight for scraps, but NFTs have changed the game entirely.”

Tin Lizards is a project that involves collectors in the process of creating the photographs, using blockchain technology to create a system of voting and rewards. How was that experience? Are you interested in further developing this type of project?

I’ve been loving it and hopefully to do many more projects like this. I love being involved with those who support my work, and I hope Tin Lizards is a perfect case study on how collectors can play a very involved role in creating a project

Robert LeBlanc. Gloryland. Untitled #9 (2018-2021)

On SuperRare, your photographs are sold as NFTs and also available for download at 9k pixels. Why is the image available at such high resolution? Are you concerned that it might be used or printed without your permission or control?

No, not at all. Technology constantly changes, and so do the screens that are used to display art. I want to make sure that the collectors can use these images no matter what size screen they are displayed on. I obviously don’t want collectors printing my work because there is a level of quality control that needs to be intact, but if they have a 98″ screen, I want them to be able to enjoy the art on a large scale without the art looking like a pixel mess. Plus the files I use to print photos are much larger than what is available on SuperRare.

Niio in 2022: the interviews

Niio Editorial

As we reach the end of 2022, we look back at a very busy year, and forward to an even more intense 2023. In this series of posts, we have selected some of our favorite artcasts, artists, artworks, articles, and interviews. They outline an overview of what has happened in Niio over the last months and highlight the work of artists and galleries with whom we are proud to collaborate. However, there is much more than what fits in this page! We invite you to browse our app and discover our curated art program, as well as our editorial section.

Five interviews from 2022

Interviews are an important part of our Editorial content, because we believe that artists, gallerists, and curators have important things to say, and we want their words to reach our readers. We are privileged to live in a time when it is possible to connect with people around the world and have a conversation with them, learn from their experience and get a first person account of their creative process. This year we have spoken to wonderful and generous art professionals who have spent time with us explaining their work and their views on digital art, sometimes at a distance, and other times visiting their studios. These conversations are certainly worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand how art is created nowadays.

We have chosen five interviews from almost 40 conversations published in our Editorial section this year. Click on the titles to read each article.

Photo: Joanna Holloway

Steve Sacks founded bitforms in New York in November 2001, at a time when digital art was getting attention among the contemporary art institutions in the USA as well as Europe. Major exhibitions held that same year, such as Bitstreams and Data Dynamics at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and 010101: Art in Technological Times at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art were particularly inspirational for him.

Photo: Joanna Holloway

Over two decades, bitforms has achieved an influential position in the contemporary art market as a gallery devoted to digital art, participating in major art fairs and representing some of the most recognized artists in this field, such as Manfred Mohr, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Casey Reas, Quayola, Auriea Harvey, Refik Anadol, Gary Hill, Claudia Hart, Beryl Korot, Marina Zurkow, Daniel Canogar, Daniel Rozin, Siebren Versteeg and many others. On the occasion of the third series of Niio Commissions, which was curated by Sacks, we sat down with the gallerist to discuss his views on the development of the contemporary art market and the role that digital art is now playing in it.

“Niio gives my artists more exposure and it’s much easier for collectors to view and manage their artworks”

Steven Sacks

Marina Zurkow, artist

Marina Zurkow’s work explores the relationship between nature, culture, and society, focusing on what she describes as “wicked problems,” those issues that reveal our abusive interactions with the natural environment and our difficulty to understand it beyond our human-centric, capitalist-driven views of the world around us.

A transdisciplinary artist, she works with experts from different fields to create a wide range of artistic practices that includes video art, installations, and public participatory projects. Currently, she is working on the tensions between maritime ecology and the ocean’s primary human use as a capitalist Pangea.

Following the release of two new artworks commissioned by Niio, we spoke with the artist about her latest work and her commitment to raise environmental concerns through her art.

“There are many roles that artists occupy in terms of addressing environmental atrocities. I don’t feel like any one tactic is any better than any other. It’s all crucial.”

Marina Zurkow

Daniel Canogar, artist

The leading artist in the Spanish media art scene, Daniel Canogar‘s influential work spans almost four decades and a wide range of media from video art installations to generative software art. On the occasion of his solo artcast Liquid Data, our Senior Curator Pau Waelder interviewed him in his studio in Madrid.

“My work as a media artist is about trying to think of data, of sculpture, of the history of art, in a synchronous way where it all comes together.”

Daniel Canogar

Tamiko Thiel, artist

Tamiko Thiel is a pioneering visual artist exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity in works encompassing an artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputer, objects, installations, digital prints in 2D and 3D, videos, interactive 3d virtual worlds (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence art.

We had a conversation with the artist on the occasion of the launch of her solo artcast Invisible Nature curated by DAM Projects, in which she discusses the evolution of technology over the last three decades, her early AR artworks and her commitment to create art that invites reflection.

“What is truly the value of an artist making work about a subject such as these is that the art work can be exhibited time and time again, in different places around the world.”

Tamiko Thiel

Patrick Tresset, artist

Patrick Tresset is an artist who explores a form of mediated creation in which his drawing style is transferred to a set of robotic drawing machines or applied to video footage to create artworks that are curiously algorithmic and spontaneous at the same time. He is also the co-founder of alterHEN, an eco-friendly NFT platform and artist community whose artists have participated in a previous artcast on Niio. Tresset has also presented his series Human Study in a solo artcast launched recently.

Our Senior Curator Pau Waelder interviewed him in his studio in Brussels on the occasion of his visit to the Art Brussels art fair. They discussed his work and the series that originated from an exhibition in Hong Kong that he had to remotely orchestrate during lockdown.

“So there is this weird thing with control, because in the beginning I have control, but then when the robots start, I don’t have any control. And that leads to an interesting form of spontaneity.”

Patrick Tresset

Niio in 2022: the artworks

Niio Editorial

As we reach the end of 2022, we look back at a very busy year, and forward to an even more intense 2023. In this series of posts, we have selected some of our favorite artcasts, artists, artworks, articles, and interviews. They outline an overview of what has happened in Niio over the last months and highlight the work of artists and galleries with whom we are proud to collaborate. However, there is much more than what fits in this page! We invite you to browse our app and discover our curated art program, as well as our editorial section.

Five artworks from 2022

Screens have become the canvas of the 21st century. Artists display their creativity in digital artworks that are meant to exist on a screen, sometimes inside a web browser or even a mobile app. We believe that artworks are better experienced and appreciated in a dedicated screen, and therefore our whole system enables setting up a screen at home or anywhere that becomes a space for art. Within this space, many things can happen: the images that appear on the screen can be painstakingly created through 3D modeling, or drawn using a generative algorithm. They can also consist of video footage mixed with hyper-realistic CGI elements. They can be abstract or build a precise narrative, and they can be crafted from scratch or appropriated from an external source. It is quite impossible to describe everything that an artist can create digitally and that fits on a screen, as it is defining everything that a painting on canvas can be.

We have chosen five artworks from more than 230 moving image artworks and 185 photographs featured in our curated art program this year. Click on the artists’ names to find out more about their work.

Yoshi Sodeoka. Synthetic Liquid 8, 2022

Supported by a hybrid creative process that is both analog and digital, Sodeoka deploys an unconventional artistic approach that challenges the video medium. While questioning the major issues of visual media, its perception, and the interpretation of the world in the digital age, the work navigates narrative universes with singularly ultra-guided aesthetics. “Synthetic Liquid” depicts organic forms and blatant colors that open a portal to psychedelic and illusory world far from reality.

A multifaceted artist, Yoshi Sodeoka creates a wide range of audiovisual artistic works that include video art, animated gifs, music videos, and editorial illustrations. Influenced from an early stage in his career in noise music and glitch art, as well as avant garde movements such as Op Art, his work is characterized by breaking down the structure of the musical score and visual integrity of the image to find new forms of artistic expression.

Driessens & Verstappen. Kennemerduinen 2010, scene H, 2011

Kennemerduinen 2010, is a project for which the artists documented six locations around the Kennemer dunes (near the North Sea). Each film has a duration of almost nine minutes and covers exactly one year, from one January to the next. On a weekly basis, each scene was repeatedly photographed from the same position and at the same time of day, around noon. With custom developed software each series of shots was edited into fluid transitions. Slow transformations and changes in season, that are never directly perceptible in daily life, are perceptible on a sensory level. By systematically computerising and formalising observation, the Kennemer dunes films became studies of the spontaneous course of nature, of the emergent and entropic processes underlying it.

In the past years Driessens & Verstappen have documented three different types of Dutch landscapes: a historic landscape park (Frankendael 2001), a dike landscape (Diemerzeedijk 2007) and a dune landscape (Kennemerduinen 2010). From each landscape type several films are made.

Katie Torn. Dream Flower I, 2022

“Dream Flower I” is a 3D animation that depicts a snoozing biomorphic female arrangement made out of flowers, leaves and pipes. As the creature sleeps, a plastic like liquid flows from the pipes creating a relaxing fountain. The work is inspired by Victorian botanical illustrations.

Katie Torn’s work explores the female figure in a world shaped by digital technology and obsession with self-image boosted by social media and consumer culture. She uses 3D graphics and video to build assemblages of natural and artificial elements that question the boundaries between beauty and decay, body and prosthesis, organic and synthetic, and between a person’s own self and the image she creates of herself. 

Julian Brangold. Observation Machine (Iteration), 2022

A sculpture depicting a seating man is multiplied six times, the copies rotating in a choreographed fashion. Colored in a pink hue, the sculptures resemble consumer products, souvenirs lined up on a shelf waiting to be purchased. At the same time, the artist applies an effect that makes the sculptures come to pieces, as if an invisible hand were trying to touch them but destroyed them in the process.

Julian Brangold (Buenos Aires, 1986) is one of the leading names in the growing digital art community in Argentina. Through painting, computer programming, 3D modeling, video installations, collage, and a myriad of digital mediums, he addresses how technologies such as artificial intelligence and data processing are shaping our culture and memory, as well as our notion of self. An active participant in the cryptoart scene and NFT market in Argentina he has been exploring art on the blockchain since 2020 and is currently the Director of Programming at  Museum of Crypto Art, a web3 native cultural institution.

Julie Blackmon. New Neighbors, 2020

Courtesy the artist and Fahey-Klein gallery

Julie Blackmon (b. 1966) is an American photographer who lives and works in Missouri. As an art student at Missouri State University, Blackmon became interested in photography, especially the work of Diane Arbus and Sally Mann. Blackmon’s oeuvre also shows influences from Masters of the Dutch Renaissance such as Jan Steen.

Niio Art in collaboration with Fahey/Klein Gallery recently published an Artcast of Julie Blackmon’s photography works in digital format. The artist focuses on the complexities and contradictions of modern life, exploring, among other subjects, the overwhelming, often conflicting expectations and obligations of contemporary parenthood. Blackmon has stated that her works deal with “modern parenting, and the contradictions and expectations and the overwhelmed feeling that go with parenting today as compared to the past” furthermore the artist has stated “with the little ones it’s more metaphorical than about parenting, and speaks of the anxieties of everyday modern life”.

Niio in 2022: the artists

Niio Editorial

As we reach the end of 2022, we look back at a very busy year, and forward to an even more intense 2023. In this series of posts, we have selected some of our favorite artcasts, artists, artworks, articles, and interviews. They outline an overview of what has happened in Niio over the last months and highlight the work of artists and galleries with whom we are proud to collaborate. However, there is much more than what fits in this page! We invite you to browse our app and discover our curated art program, as well as our editorial section.

Five artists from 2022

We created Niio for artists. As the creators of the artworks, which are the key element around which revolves the whole art world, they are fundamental to the existence and the development of contemporary art. Digital artists have long faced a lack of recognition and understanding of their work, paired with the difficulties of disseminating art in a digital format while retaining control of it. At Niio we help them share their art with a wider audience, sell it with the assistance of their galleries, and explain their creative process, all while keeping full control of their work. This year our curated art program has dedicated 42 artcasts to present the work of a single artist, and we have carried out almost 40 interviews that dive deeper into their practice.

We have chosen five artists from more than 80 featured in our curated art program this year. Click on their names to find out more about their work.

Dagmar Schürrer

Dagmar Schürrer, We are already history, and we don’t know it, 2021.

Dagmar Schürrer is an Austrian digital artist based in Berlin, Germany. She holds a degree in Fine Art from Central Saint Martin´s College in London, UK. She assembles digitally generated objects and animations, text and sound to form intricate video sound montages, presented on screen, as installations or combined with new technologies such as augmented reality. She is a research assistant at the University for Applied Sciences Berlin, where she teaches AR technologies and supports the production of AR applications in the field of art and culture. As a board member of the Berlin media art association (medienkunstverein) she is committed to supporting new forms of presentation of contemporary new media art. This year she has presented on Niio the solo artcast Parallel Realities.

Dagmar Schürrer is represented by Artemis Gallery (Lisbon).

Andreas Nicholas Fischer

Andreas Nicolas Fischer, Nethervoid 07 L 2180, 2022

Andreas Nicolas Fischer is a multidisciplinary artist from Berlin. Fischer started his artistic career as a traditional artist working mainly with painting and drawing, but became interested in generative art upon his visit to artist Casey ReasProcess/Drawing exhibition in 2005 at DAM Gallery in Berlin. While he did not have a background in computing, Fischer was motivated to teach himself code and started creating animations with Processing. He also worked briefly with fabrication and sculpture to adapt to the demands of the market at a time when the interest in digital art was not yet mainstream. However, he considers himself a purist and likes to create systems that operate autonomously, something that he can achieve by working with generative algorithms.

This year he has presented on Niio the solo artcast The Art of Hypnosis.

Eva Papamargariti

Eva Papamargariti, As they were drifting away, their bodies turned into waves, 2022.

Eva Papamargariti is an artist based between Athens and London with a background in Architecture and the Visual Arts. The artist’s artistic practice focuses on creating 2D and 3D rendered spaces that ultimately blur the boundaries between physical and digital environments. Moreover, her practice focuses mainly on the moving image but she has also worked with prints and sculptural installations. Papamargariti’s works deal with the interactions between humans, nature, and technology which define our identity and everyday experiences. The artist’s works have been exhibited at different institutions on an international level including at The New Museum in New York, The Whitney Museum, New York, and Tate Britain in London.

This year she has presented on Niio the solo artcast Things Will Become Weirder.

Matteo Zamagni

Matteo Zamagni, Unison – 02, 2022

Matteo Zamagni is a multi-disciplinary artist who works across the visual arts, electronic music, multimedia installations, and film production. Using analytical geoscientific tools, VR/AR/MR, real-time generative imaging, photogrammetry, and CGI techniques Zamagni explores the complexities of the different crises that define our contemporary age and society. Zamagni’s artistic production is characterized by the exposure of the interrelations between nature and technology through machine-driven visual artworks. This year he has presented on Niio the solo artcasts Experiences of Synchrony and Thought Experiments.

Matteo Zamagni is represented by Gazelli Art House (London).

Fabio Catapano

Fabio Catapano, Colorem 221201, 2022

Fabio Catapano is an Italian digital artist and designer who works with code, CGI, and motion. He has a degree in digital sociology and anthropology, and with his work focusing on the relationship between society and technology, he attempts to create digital images that feel poetic and meditative. Fabio’s expansive work has been exhibited in Paris, Brussels, London and many other cities. He has also been part of the first Italian NFT auction organized by the auction house Cambi and SuperRare. And, he has been nominated as one of the ten most influential NFTs artists in Italy. Fabio collaborated with brands such as Nike and Apple.

This year he has presented on Niio the solo artcast A Theory of Color.

NFT Futures: expert views on the digital art market

Pau Waelder

The boom of the NFT market has decisively impacted the contemporary art market since, in 2021, Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses launched successful sales of digital artworks minted as NFT and offered in cryptocurrencies. A year later, despite the ups and downs of cryptocurrencies, the market for art in digital format with NFT certification continues to consolidate and progressively enters the scope of the most recognized galleries on the international contemporary art scene. In this context, it is worth asking: what do NFTs bring to art collecting? What trends can be traced in the future of the contemporary art market?

Invited by Art Palma Contemporani, the contemporary art galleries association in Palma, I curated a panel talk on September 16th, in which several experts presented their analysis of the current situation of the art market and NFTs and outlined future perspectives.

Panel participants. Left to right: Pau Waelder, Valérie Hasson-Benillouche, Wolf Lieser, Anna Carreras, and Mario Klingemann. Photo: Grimalt de Blanc, 2022.

Valérie Hasson-Benillouche: “NFTs have brought a different kind of collector”

Valérie Hasson-Benillouche is the owner of Galerie Charlot. She opened the gallery in Paris in 2010 and then a second gallery in Tel Aviv in 2017. The gallery represents a wide range of artists working with digital art, such as Antoine Schmitt, Eduardo Kac, Lauren Moffatt, Laurent Mignonneau & Christa Sommerer, Louis-Paul Caron, Manfred Mohr, Nicolas Sassoon, Quayola, and Sabrina Ratté.

2022 is a key moment for your gallery entering the NFT market with the participation in the Unvirtual Art Fair in February and then the launch of your own NFT platform. What is the reception you are getting from your collectors regarding NFTs? Are NFTs helping you reach out to new collectors?

I opened the gallery about 10 years ago, so at this point my clients have already 10 years of experiences with digital art. NFT is one part of digital art, so they became very curious and came to me and said: “what is this new art?” I have to say that it took me a while to understand it, because it is not easy, and it was a new way of collecting. So it was important to me that the curiosity of clients could be a challenge to understand what is going on, and as artists always use new technology and create new artworks with all these different systems, we really had to get into it. My clients were curious but also worried: they had read the news about NFTs, and also some bad experiences, so their curiosity was balanced with some skepticism.

I decided to mix the groups of my collectors, because you always have different kinds of collectors: the ones who are buying because they really love art, the ones who buy art to challenge themselves and show their collection to other people, and some people who just want to please themselves, sometimes. All these people are wondering what is going on around this new NFT system, so I try to explain it to them and I take the time to organize talks with artists and curators, and different people who can explain to them what is a wallet, how to open it, something very simple. I think collectors really need to be guided through these basic steps.

It is a different approach of living with the collection: you can see it anywhere, you can share it with your friends easily. This brings a different way of buying art.

Valérie Hasson-Benillouche

NFTs have lighten up the field of digital art. I have been in this field for years, and I find it very interesting to see that who has started creating NFTs among the artists. Eduardo Kac, who is a very classical artist working with science, technology, and art, he got into NFT. Then many people got into NFTs without understanding everything, but they just loved it. The idea was to do something different, to jump into something different. So what we decided at the gallery was to get all these people informed about what are NFTs exactly.

NFTs have brought a different kind of collector. It’s a challenge, because it is a different currency, it’s immaterial, so it is a different philosophy of collecting, and it is also connected to the way that people are living. Certain people are moving a lot, traveling everywhere, but they like to have their collection with them. They like to share the collection, they like to show the collection. So it is a different approach of living with the collection: you can see it anywhere, you can share it with your friends easily. This brings a different way of buying art.

You have collaborated with luxury brands such as Hermés in several artistic projects. Do you see an interest from these brands in art NFTs?

I’ve been working with luxury brands for a couple of years, especially with Hermés, as well as Audemars Piguet, Shiseido, and many others. Luxury brands really love to work with art and artists, this has been so for a long time. Digital art is part of the way they work with artists. So the challenge is always for any kind of artworks to find in these luxury brands the right place between marketing and art. The balance is very difficult to find, and it is not easy for an artist to work with a luxury brand, so digital art was the place to be because these brands have to be on the edge of super top technology and new things happening, because clients always ask for new experiences. So digital art was something very normal to get into. Artists try to find their place, in an artistic way.

Luxury brands are very interested and they have already dived into NFT, but for the moment it is more in the marketing and publicity side than in the art side. I am sure it will change, but they have to find the right moment and the right artists.

Screenshot of Galerie Charlot’s new NFT marketplace, to be opened in October 2022.

What type of work will we find in the new Galerie Charlot NFT marketplace?

We are still working on the marketplace, it will open on the 29th of October with several auctions. But the main thing is to curate digital art in NFT, because when you go to these different NFT marketplaces, you can find so many different kinds of images, I don’t say art, but image and video. It is not easy for a collector to go to these huge marketplaces because there is so much content which is not art. Other marketplaces like Feral File are very professional. The marketplace of the gallery will be a curation of the artists I’m working with, with special artworks that can be bought through auction or through the marketplace in Tezos.

We are not having a specific target on a specific art, but just to present art. I think artists love that: to be in small team, a very specific area of digital art, and it’s a big challenge because you have to bring a community: NFT is also a community of people and it is very important to be part of that community. I’m just listening to what is happening around and following the artists, who are adopting new technologies really fast and expressing their creativity in different ways. We are living in an incredible era, and we must be up to date, all the time.

Wolf Lieser: “what I really like about NFTs is the attention to generative art”

One of the most veteran gallerists in this field, Wolf Lieser opened in 1998 his first gallery devoted to digital art, Colville Place Gallery in London. That same year he created with Mike King the Digital Art Museum (DAM), one of the first online spaces devoted to the history of digital art. In 2003, he opened the DAM Gallery in Berlin, followed by spaces in Cologne (2010) and Frankfurt (2013).

In 2005 he created the DAM Digital Art Award to celebrate the work of digital art pioneers, and since 2006 he runs a public art program in a large screen at Postdamerplatz in Berlin. Recently rebranded DAM Projects, his gallery continues to support digital art. DAM represents some of the most celebrated digital artists, from pioneers to young creators such as Arno Beck, Eelco Brand, Vuk Cosic, Driessens & Verstappen, Herbert W. Franke, Carla Gannis, Jean-Pierre Hèbert, Eduardo Kac, Mario Klingemann, Manfred Mohr, Vera Molnar, Frieder Nake, Casey Reas, Anna Ridler, Sommerer & Mignonneau, Tamiko Thiel, Roman Verostko, and Addie Wagenknecht

Your decision to leave NFT sales directly to artists is quite unusual. What led you to it?

That was the result of many considerations. Of course, I got involved right away, because I’m working in this field since 30 years, so when this whole NFT thing happened, I was approached by different agencies which came up, and there was so much money around, and they wanted to sell and consult on NFTs, but I’m still a rather small gallery, so I have many activities going on. For me it was not a priority to get involved. It is important to understand that NFTs is a technology that certifies the ownership of digital art, but digital art I’m selling since 30 years. That has not changed: what we are selling here, which are NFTs, has been sold in a different way before. I sell software pieces since more than 25 years. So, I felt that it was not such an urge to get involved. I saw how Casey Reas made a fantastic career in this field, also Mario [Klingemann], and some of the artists have been extremely successful getting directly involved with NFTs because they are professionals in this field, they know enough about coding, they know enough about the technology, so they actually didn’t need me at all! There was no reason for me that I felt I needed to step in.

DAM Project’s Website announcing the gallery’s position on NFTs.

My position now, and that’s why I made a statement on the website, that I won’t be directly involved… of course I will make shows with artists who produce NFTs and we will sell the NFTs as well. But an aspect which I really like about this whole development, and it has affected my activity as well, is the attention to generative art. Generative art is an artwork which is software based and continuously changes on the screen, so it is an artwork that never repeats. That was a challenge to some people when they started to realize that. People are realizing now in a broader scale, especially younger people, what a fantastic field it is, how much it has to do with our culture of the 21st Century. This technology is affecting us every day, and there are very interesting and clever artists, like Mario and Casey, and others, who are picking that up and creating art with it, that makes us realize what kind of potential is in there.

“We need a world with much less material art, and much more generative”

Wolf Lieser

This whole NFT boom has brought about young collectors which have approached me because I represent the history of digital art since the 1960s, and I know all of the pioneers. The young collectors have realized there is a history of 60-70 years, and they have gotten into it. It is another approach, and as Valérie has said, and I love this approach, you have your collection with you, and you take it out and you put it on a screen. This kind of non-materiality is very important. We need a world with much less material art, and much more generative.

You have worked with the pioneers of digital art. Now that the NFT scene is looking for “OGs,” auction houses include artworks by these artists in their NFT sales, is this attention to the history of digital art misdirected, or do you see positive signs in it?

That is not so easy to answer, because in the last two years this field was so broad, and anybody who looked into digital art as form as NFT saw a lot of bad art. It was ridiculous. Specially, if you have experience, there were easy effects in JPEGs sold for enormous amounts, which if you were familiar with art you could say “how could you spend money on this?” But people did. And of course these people were not that much informed.

That is now getting to a normal level, and people are now starting to understand what other people have done before. If someone has created a concept, 30 years before and created it over a longer period, and suddenly a young artist comes around and does the same thing with a new technology, this is not very creative. You should know your history, you should know where it is all coming from. So it is helping to make history more broadly available, but it is like everything: you start to drink wine, you have to learn about wine. If you drink your first glass of wine you don’t understand the differences, and similarly in art you have to see a lot to understand what you are seeing. Then you develop your own taste and what you really love about it. Of course, the first painting I bought, I don’t want to look at it again.

In many of your exhibitions you have presented plotter drawings by pioneers and younger artists. Is it possible that now that we have so much digital, there is also a renewed value in having a physical artwork?

Just to clarify, pen plotters are drawing machines, they are not printers. The code is very different, they actually draw a line. At the beginning they were the only medium to present something on paper, but they faded out after 2000. They were not built anymore because inkjet printers were much cheaper. But in recent years, artists have become interested in plotter drawings again because of its tactile quality, the sensation of a real drawing on paper. And they have constructed their own pen plotters, so there is quite a scene that has developed around plotter drawings, which I address in the show that I have recently curated at DAM Projects, Remote Control. But these artists do NFTs as well, so it is one medium besides others. I think we will always have both.

DAM Digital Art Award recognizes the lifetime achievements of pioneering artists with a monetary prize and a retrospective exhibition in a museum.

In your long career, you have seen several moments in which digital seemed to be “coming of age.” Do you think this is the right time for digital art to finally be recognized as contemporary art?

It is happening, definitely. The early pioneers, such as Vera Molnar, an old lady of 98 years now, she is in the collections of MoMA, TATE, Pompidou, Victoria and Albert, many many institutions. So it is happening on this institutional level as well, although on a rather small scale. There are not very big collections yet. It’s a bit of a pity, because many of the good pieces are disappearing in private collections. But there is definitely much more attention to digital art than ever before.

Anna Carreras: “I create artworks that do not exist until someone buys them”

Anna Carreras is a creative coder and digital artist with two degrees in Engineering and Media Studies. She teaches coding in several design schools and has been awarded with the Cannes Golden Lion for Interactive Projects (2010) and Google DevArt (2014), among others. She has created interactive installations at Cosmocaixa, Expo Zaragoza, Forum Barcelona 2004, Sónar Innovation Challenge 2016, MIRA Visual Arts Festival, and the Mobile Art Week.

You have presented and sold your work in two very influential NFT platforms, Feral File and ArtBlocks. Can you explain the process of creation and sale in each of them?

I’m the one doing generative art, the kind of art where we use the algorithms to ask the computer to draw what we want to create. The images are generated the moment you are seeing them, so it’s not a video, it’s not an animation, it’s not something that goes in a loop. The computer is running the algorithm and drawing something for you in that precise moment. As we are introducing some randomness in that algorithm, you are seeing something with the aesthetic that we want to create, but it is something unique: I cannot reproduce that moment of my art piece, it’s gone and it will never come again. It is like a video that is running but it will never be repeated.

Anna Carreras, Arrels (2021). Generative artwork.

There are two types of generative art: as artists we can choose what to sell. Arrels is a moving image that is constantly changing, and will never repeat, I think in some 6 billion years, so we can say never. This was a series of 75 pieces which are the same, so you can run the piece at your home, but another collector will have the same piece, with the same aesthetics, but looking slightly different because it is running in another unique way. In Trossets, I chose for the collectors to have a snapshot, so the series is 1,000 different Trossets which are all unique, but they are static, they do not move, change or evolve. You have a snapshot, which you can print if you like.

Flyer announcing the drop of Trossets (2021)

Trossets is long form generative art: an algorithm that generates the artwork is uploaded to the blockchain and returns a different visual composition every time it is run. As an artist, I created the algorithm but I don’t know which compositions it will create. When you buy the artwork, you run the program and get something that is generated in that particular moment and that is unique. So we just upload the code, and instead of running infinitely, you get a snapshot of a moment of that generative art piece, but that snapshot will be unique. In this case I was inspired by the Mediterranean landscape, by the white façades of houses covered in crimson buganvillea, the seaside, the olive trees, and even paella. I wanted to bring aspects of my environment and culture to a series of abstract generative drawings. Inspiration is everywhere!

“Artists were not used to talking to collectors, and it is something that I am enjoying a lot, because it is part of building this community that has emerged around digital art and NFTs.”

Anna Carreras

You know the aesthetics that are behind the collection, so you have a flavor of what it will be about, but you collect the artwork blindly, because it is in the moment that you collect that the algorithm creates that unique piece for you. My mother was a little bit skeptic, she said: “how can people buy something without knowing what they are buying?” Maybe that’s the part that you have to deal with, with some collectors, but if you trust the artist and you like her work and the concept behind the collection, then it can be even more special, because actually by buying an artwork you are contributing to create the series: the artworks do not exist until someone buys them. Trossets consists of a total of 1,000 artworks that were generated as collectors bought them, in a span of forty-five minutes.

I have a connection with some collectors, because we are asked to share our work for some exhibitions, and I ask the collectors their permission to do so. I consider that the artworks are no longer mine, they belong to the collectors who bought them. We have a nice relationship, they have a lot of feedback, they have ideas, it’s worth sharing that with them. I think that artists were not used to talking to collectors, and it is something that I am enjoying a lot, because it is part of building this community that has emerged around digital art and NFTs.

Snapshot of an article published in the Spanish newspaper El País. The headline reads: “Digital artist Anna Carreras and the NFT bubble: «OMG, I never thought I would make millions with this.»”

Articles like this one from El País (photo above) focus on the narrative of big sales in the NFT boom. can you comment on this narrative?

For me, this experience was awful. Many journalists, not all of them, are looking to make headlines that attract attention, and in particular in Spain we like soap operas, we like drama, and also to be envious of others. This was part of how things evolved last year, there were constantly news about spectacular sales, and I was getting calls asking me about finance and investments, which I know nothing about, because I’m an artist! After this article came out, I felt overwhelmed by the attention and I disappeared for a while.

Mario Klingemann: “the economy created on the Tezos community can support a lot more artists than just twenty superstars”

Mario Klingemann is an artist and researcher who taught himself coding in the 1980s and soon started creating his first artworks. He is known for his work with Artificial Intelligence programs, and particularly for Memories of Passersby I (2018) an AI artwork that was famously sold in March 2019 at an auction in Sotheby’s, the second to be ever sold at auction.

In 2021 he became involved in the development of the NFT community around the platform Hic et Nunc on the Tezos blockchain and has been an leading figure in this field. He has been awarded an Honorary Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica 2020 and the British Library LabsLumen Prize Gold 2018, among others.

You describe yourself as an artist and skeptic. What was you first reaction to the NFT boom? How did you become involved in Hic et Nunc?

The first time I encountered NFTs I was very skeptical. It was when I got ripped off! Somebody had taken one of my works and made a very bad remix and minted that on SuperRare, and that was how I saw there was something developing. But that was in 2019, and I had a closer look and found it difficult. At that time I had made my mark by selling the second artwork made with AI to go to auction at Sotheby’s, I got exhibitions and I made myself a name in the contemporary art world. And then came this field were initially there were only outsider artists, rebels who did not care about the art world, and actually most of the work looked that way, like something you must get used to. I saw blinking pictures and horrible kitsch and thought: “nah, this is not for me.”

So I let it rest for a while, and in early 2020, coincidentally when the pandemic started, I went to look at it again. But this time instead of trying to avoid people ripping off my work, I decided to try it myself. So I started minting under the radar, on Rarible, because it felt risky, you didn’t want your name associated with blinking gifs. But I was curious, I started minting stuff and fortunately at that time there were people in that field collecting, who knew what I was doing, so my initial mints sold very quickly. This got me more curious, because that direct experience of putting something up there and having it bought a minute later, and seeing the transaction in your wallet, that feels very good as an artist. It is undeniable that it is nice to be appreciated and actually get paid for your work.

“I started minting under the radar, on Rarible, because it felt risky, you didn’t want your name associated with blinking gifs.”

Mario Klingemann

Another issue that I always had as a digital artist, prior to NFTs, was that for me the native format of digital art is in your computer, and you had to find ways to package your art or transform it into another medium, like prints or build a whole system around it that makes it almost like an installation. The idea of just selling a digital file always felt a bit strange. I have done it: I’ve sold videos on a USB stick or so, but it felt that it was not the native way of selling digital art. Now NFTs suddenly allow that, and they allow to sell works in small resolutions, experimental stuff which was pretty much meant for the screen. After my initial skepticism, I got really curious and started doing what one is supposed to do, to become your marketer, to build your brand in this space. This is a bit alien to me, and in a way I feel that I am still doing it wrong. If you want to really be successful in the NFT space you have to swamp your followers with announcements and specials, love your collectors… I’m not doing that. This whole thing never felt natural to me.

Marketplaces like Rarible or SuperRare were not build by people who had an art background, but by coders and entrepreneurs, and in one way that was good because it was innovative and moved quick, but the whole focus was so much on selling and ranking that the art was not important. It was all about volume of sales. This didn’t feel right to me. There were also many discussions, by the end of 2020, about the ecological impact of minting NFTs in the Ethereum blockchain.

So I started looking for alternatives: there was the alternative of Proof of Stake blockchains, but there was simply no market there. Then in early 2021, Tezos added NFTs to their smart contracts, and by accident I stumbled upon a tweet where someone told about Hic et Nunc, an experimental site where you could mint your NFTs on Tezos. At that time, it was not even a marketplace, just a site that you could try out. You could upload an image and mint it for almost no money, a few cents. The whole Tezos thing was like a blank canvas at the time, it had been around for nearly as long as Ethereum, but it wasn’t as popular. It felt like a new continent, where you could start something new, with different rules.

“I think that because we started from a blank canvas, the whole community could develop in a different way than in Ethereum.”

Mario Klingemann

I tweeted about the work I had minted on Hic et Nunc, and since I had some followers, people asked to buy it, and I told them: “well, if you send me some Tezos I will mint the NFT and send it to your wallet.” So in one hour the whole edition was sold, and the fact that it was environmentally sustainable, and that Hic et Nunc was not hyped like other marketplaces, was attractive to a lot of people in my inner circle, particularly artists who had not wanted to touch NFTs, so in a few days a lot of artists with a good reputation started minting there as well. Another advantage of the Tezos cryptocurrency is that is accessible to everyone price wise. Even someone who only made, say $50 a week, could mint on Tezos. So the community developed very quickly and the beauty was that it was also experimental, and it grew organically, collecting from each other, with a very different spirit from what you could see on Ethereum. Around September 2021, the founder of Hic et Nunc, Rafael Lima, pulled the plug and erased the site, but the magical thing about NFTs is that they do not exist on that site, they exist on the blockchain, so within one or two days people built mirrors of the site, and the community moved on.

I think that because we started from a blank canvas, the whole community could develop in a different way than in Ethereum. But it is not about one being good and the other one bad. Right now, artists start in Tezos, and then if they want to make it big, they go to Ethereum. And since yesterday, Ethereum is even environmentally sustainable, too. So, we’ll see how things develop.

Screenshot of Mario Klingemann’s profile on

You have had a continuous collaboration with Tezos over the last year. Do you feel that the community around Tezos is becoming less “renegade” and more “conventional”, or is there still space for experimentation and a bit of a rogue spirit?

There is space for both. Right now, there is a platform in which you can mint text, so there is still breathing ground for new ideas. And at the same time, the Tezos Foundation, which has a DAO structure, seems to be doing things for the right reasons. So far, I’ve had good experiences with them, and they do not seem to try to push things in a certain direction, they just provide possibilities to people. Anyone can apply to the Tezos Foundation with a project and get a grant if it is approved by a majority. They are also present at Art Basel, spreading this idea that on Tezos you can find real art. How they present the art, it seems closer to how it is displayed in the contemporary art world.

Also, it is not true that everything is cheap, so I think it can be a space for artists to build a reputation and also make money. FxHash has become the de facto platform for generative art and whilst the single pieces might be affordable, if you sum it up, there is a decent amount to be made. Also, I feel like focusing on mega sales is not the way to go, because if one artist takes, let’s say a million dollars, that money is gone out of the cycle, while on Tezos you have this circular economy where artists earn money from their NFTs but are also very active in collecting from other artists. This can support a lot more people than just twenty superstars.