Cover Narra Art Gallery

Tatler speaks to local pioneers, Colin Goltra and Gabby Dizon of Narra Art Gallery, who are introducing crypto art at Art Fair Philippines this week. We dig deeper into what this NFT craze is all about

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) collectors and close friends Gabby Dizon and Colin Goltra launched Narra Art Gallery in late January 2021 to provide an open gallery space where they can showcase digital art available in the crypto art community. The gallery features five different floors that serve as exhibit spaces accessible in the open-world virtual realm or Metaverse. Easily accessible via web browser on a computer, it is located at the heart of Decentraland’s 100xArt District neighbourhood.

It is also named after the national tree of the Philippines. Narra Art Gallery aims to open the doors to the crypto art scene in the Philippines and showcase incredible local talents across the country, and possibly from abroad.

Being collectors themselves for a while now, Dizon and Goltra initially founded Narra Art Gallery simply to display their personal crypto art acquisitions publicly. (Decentraland is designed to provide people with the means to buy plots of land in the virtual realm and actively build something on it, much like in MMORPGs that we play). But the co-founders of Narra Gallery saw a big potential for it to grow more, especially now with the recent rise of digital art galleries like theirs and the sudden digitalisation of many traditional art galleries and museums due to the unprecedented repercussions of the global pandemic.

Displaying crypto art, collectibles, NFTs, and other virtual reality projects, Narra Art Gallery has been tapped by the Art Fair Philippines this month to play a huge part in this year’s edition. With an online talk with Dizon and Goltra as guests to help people understand the crypto basics and how to buy an NFT, as well as a meeting of artists and gallerists that are also active in the crypto art community, the NFT 101 Showcase plays a huge part in this year’s Art Fair PH.

So what exactly is this new technology that is sweeping the local and international art community by storm?

NFT is…

An NFT or a non-fungible token represents any digital file that you may put on it: may it be a video, photo, music, gif image, etc. In the crypto art community, NFTs represent art pieces that an artist creates. It exists on a blockchain, mostly in the Ethereum blockchain. 

How can it be transferred to another owner?

Through this blockchain, people may trade NFTs for certain amounts of prices. Blockchain technology democratises, in a sense, the transactions being made for it lets the people in the community validate the transactions themselves. 

Can it be copied?

By its name, NFTs are non-replaceable tokens. Although it may be replicated, only one person in the world can have an NFT of a certain digital file. This can be proven by checking the ledger of the NFT where data of recent transactions in the blockchain are stored permanently.

Can it be physically displayed?

When you buy it, you will have access to the high-resolution file that comes with the token. Using the digital art frame Canvia, Dizon uploads the works to it enabling him to display it physically in his house. Goltra added that part of what you are receiving from the NFT is the building of the relationship between you and the artists. In his case, the artist sends him prints of the digital artworks.

How to ensure its authenticity and good condition?

The artist validates the profile of the receiver of the NFT, making it unique and authenticated when transferred. The NFT has its own unique identifier, so even though other people can make copies of it, the original and certified version will remain with you. One of the solutions that blockchain technology provides is the assurance that NFTs are forgery-proof from other users.

A New Era of Art Appreciation

Digital art has existed in the contemporary art scene since the dawn of the Computer Age. But never in its history has it reached such an overwhelming record-breaking sale until recently when Christie’s sold Beeple's work, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, last March 2021 for US$69 million.

Beeple’s artworks used to be sold at around US$60 thousand. But his large fan base, being one of the pioneer digital artists in the crypto art scene, led to his works being auctioned off at such astonishing prices. This is one key factor why crypto art is on the rise nowadays—value, as perceived by the society and its owner. The same philosophy goes with how traditional forms of art are appreciated. The only difference is that it is in the digital world.

Besides Beeple, there are other NFTs out there being sold at soaring prices: the first-ever tweet on the Internet by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Kings of Leon’s When You See Yourself music album, digital video collectibles of NBA Top Shot, and even a gif of an animated flying cat.

“The ones that have value are usually those that are historical as firsts and surely stand the test of time,” Dizon commented on why these NFTs are being sold for such high prices. “Beeple has been making Everydays for 13 years. It really has a good story behind the creative process and that artwork represented his life’s work for 13 years. Any piece of artwork, whether it’s worth a million dollars or a hundred, it’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for them,” he explained.

For Goltra and Dizon, introducing crypto art and collectibles in the Philippines is not about the money but more on adding a new way for Filipinos to appreciate digital art. 

“It started with our desire to promote really good talents in the digital art scene from all over the world, particularly in the Philippines,” shared Dizon. “Through Narra Art Gallery, we are able to support the careers of artists that I have been following. When we bought plots of land in the 100xArt District, we decided that Narra Art Gallery will be a celebration of those artists we were supporting,” he continued.

Meanwhile, for Goltra, the relationships they’ve nurtured with the artists grew over time while he and Dizon have been doing crypto business for most of their adult life. “Crypto art is an extension of this, and it is created by people who are just ‘fresh blood’ in the scene. I could say that for me, it just came out naturally that we wanted to give these artists a space.”

Crypto art can be easily transferred online from one person to the next for a certain amount of cryptocurrency, enabling it to increase its value over time. One way to look at this trend is its great potential for wealth investment in the near future. But for the Narra Art Gallery co-founders, it is not here to replace traditional art nor pose as a better asset that would guarantee a higher return on investment.

“If that’s the only reason you’re doing it, you’re probably not going to have a fun time,” Goltra warned. “You need to get something else out of it. There is the spirit of community among digital artists that you should enjoy,” he said. “It’s a new medium of art that traditional collectors can explore in,” Dizon added.

What catapulted the crypto art industry to its rise today could be the shift of focus to arts and culture, according to Goltra. “We are in this interesting time where individuals have already made their fortune on Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as other crypto assets, and now we come to a period where more people who want to be more deliberate about the cultural impact of our industry,” Goltra said.

“There’s always been a relationship between commerce and culture,” Dizon added. “If there’s a lot of money that’s been made in one industry, it usually supports some type of culture or art that represents that kind of era in time. It’s only natural that people who have made big money in cryptocurrency are also representing it by going into crypto art because it’s the representation of Internet history, of cryptocurrency as an industry as well.”

Digital art predates the prevalence of NFT in the crypto art community. With it now entering the Philippine market, there are only high hopes for it to flourish further. Dizon and Goltra acknowledged the rise of local talents who are minting their NFTs and most are off their radar. With this, one of the projects of the gallery is the wherein artists of any age and background, whether freelance or supported by a gallery, can be subsidised by Narra Art Gallery on their first minting of their works, which could be costly. 

“We wanted to do that as a way for Southeast Asian artists to try their hand at crypto art but didn’t have the funds or the crypto to do so,” Dizon said. Artists interested in applying for this may submit their entries to the co-founders via the website and will be upon deliberation.

With the NFT 101 Showcase being one of the key portions of this year’s Art Fair Philippines, Dizon and Goltra are excited to take part, with the goal of spreading awareness in the art community of the existence of crypto art and NFT technologies. The co-founders will be hosting a series of panels and talks for audiences to understand it better and a highlight of crypto artists, not only from the Philippines but also around the world, using four floors of the Narra Art Gallery. The co-founders assured that this will not be the last of their projects this year to share the knowledge about crypto art. 

“The Philippines has always had a tremendous number of artists but a lot of times, the art had been limited to commissions and client works,” Dizon said. “One of the things we’re seeing at crypto art is that artists are able to create art that they want to do in their own style and sell it in a global collector market depending on how the latter thinks it is worth. It represents freedom for a lot of artists because they are able to showcase their true skills without being dictated what to do.”

“A reason why crypto is so critical is because it is a technology that doesn’t care from where you are, who you are, and accessible globally,” Goltra said. “We are empowering artists to be professional artists. Crypto empowers people to take part in the global economy. We want to see more artists, either freelance or professional, or even a wannabe. Crypto is a levelling force with the best powerful means. We need to provide people access to this as we want Filipino artists to be the best not only in the Philippines but throughout the world.”

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