Co-founders Frank Smits and Levina Li established The MetaArt Club (TMAC) because they felt the time was ripe to engineer a bridge between the fine art and crypto worlds. The duo mine their decades of experience to launch a project that captures the essence and the ways in which great art in any medium should consist of.
A combined first drop by Brytehall and TMAC, ‘A Connected World’ is a curation of works by five emerging artists—Jasmine Mansbridge, Daniel Maltzman, Fabio Palvelli, Sunjae Lee and BBB3viz. “The artists we selected are fine artists, some of whom have a developed, existing physical artistic practice, as well as established digital artists,” Li says.
“The artists we selected are fine artists, some of whom have a developed, existing physical artistic practice, as well as established digital artists.”
Smits adds that “digital art is an art style in and of itself”. And so, the Brytehall drop features artists whose “work translates to this new space and environment of digitally native artists and art on the blockchain”.
With this in mind, Li says that for ‘A Connected World’, “we have carefully chosen the artists who we felt were best able to freely express themselves in their artistic style, because it was less about a specific theme and more focused around their artistic practice”.
Li and Smits share with Brytehall their vision for TMAC, and the ways in which the crypto art world could be a creativity amplified space because of it.
How did the idea for TMAC come about?
Frank Smits (FS): My journey as co-founder of TMAC has been focused on both digital artists and future blue-chip digital artists. Even when all the collectibles hit the limelight earlier in 2021, I always maintained my focus on fine art. It was around April or May [of last year] that I asked myself—living in Hong Kong with such a developed fine art collecting community as well as a crypto community—why was no one talking about NFTs? And I found myself questioning in those ClubHouse rooms that I was spending time in, and cultivating conversations with artists and nurturing those relationships. Why was no one concentrating on the collector community? Why was no one onboarding collectors [to enable them to acquire NFTs]? Why were there no physical galleries dealing in NFTs?
In a way, TMAC was born out of that. And then we used the collectibles’ popularity and mechanism around creating collectibles, in order to be a bridge from collectibles to fine art artists and the creation of an NFT collectors’ community. At TMAC, the collectible concept enables collectors to step in at a lower price level and we’ve created a mechanism that ultimately leads to a membership, with a programme of benefits that are linked to the ongoing acquisition of quality digital art.
With both quite different, how does Art-Partners aim to bridge their connections with the fine art collectors to the crypto art space?
Levina Li (LL): As co-founders of TMAC and [for me, a co-founder] also of Art-Partners, we see a huge new marketplace for the artists and creators that we work with and we would love to create a bigger marketplace to expand on that. At Art-Partners, as an independent art consultancy that realises place-making art projects for corporates and institutions, we work with so many talented artists and creators and we want to facilitate giving them a wider marketplace and platform. Many of the fine art collectors in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, as well as Singapore and Japan, have heard the news about NFTs and digital art creation, especially because of the rapid rising popularity and value of this market, and they are interested and want to learn about this. And that is where obviously we bring the curating and connection to the traditional art world into play, bringing that to the partnership with Art-Partners and now founding TMAC in order to connect established art collectors with the new NFT space.
Hong Kong is known as a hub for fine art. Is there a ready market for crypto art?
LL: I’ve overseen market-making art projects for the past 14 years here in Hong Kong, beginning at Christie’s, White Cube and the Royal Academy of Arts, and as co-founder of Art-Partners. In this time, we have seen Hong Kong become the third biggest art market globally in terms of the art trade—with Art Basel Hong Kong and the rise of the auction houses and international galleries exploding onto the scene in this relatively short space of time. In the midst of this, two major communities are now extremely well represented here—with three to five percent of all the global crypto whales now based out of Hong Kong. So there is a huge crypto community here who [is] charting the growth of contemporary art.
While the crypto community may be savvy about collectible NFTs, they want to gain access to the fine art side of the equation as well. They want to be able to become part of a community where they can acquire the work of curated digital artists and they’re ready to join in. Instead of having to browse auction sites without the fine art knowledge to empower their collecting habits, they’re looking for TMAC to help inform this process. New authorities are being born as we speak, and TMAC was founded out of Hong Kong in order to capture the traditional art collectors as well as crypto collectors, both of whom want a trusted way to invest in art on the blockchain.
How would TMAC nurture this market?
FS: We nurture this market by physically onboarding people who are new collectors. We have nurtured this new community; we are out there meeting the community of collectors to explain why TMAC is different. We are not just a website or a collectible with unknown founders. Once collectors are onboarded we stay closely involved with them, and we will be doing free art airdrops and they will receive free ArtMiles ($ART), so we ensure it stays a very vibrant community. This is where we will nurture TMAC to become one of the leading art collector-meets-artist platforms in the market.
We are also working closely with ambassadors who are eager to introduce TMAC NFT concept to other key art markets, including Japan and Singapore. TMAC is borne out of Asia because 80 percent of the traditional contemporary art world’s purchasing power is here, but that said, TMAC is a global art community. There is also a special relationship between Hong Kong and Singapore and we want to nurture that and develop it further, with both being comparable in terms of contemporary art-focused societies with comparable, developed crypto communities, and so we definitely see partnerships flourishing in that sense.
What is the process like for artists selection in TMAC?
FS: The vision for TMAC is a carefully curated one due to a number of key factors. Firstly, the diversity of art styles we have captured among the 35 international artists’ line-up is not exclusive, and so we also want the best talent on board—now and in the future—and are open to expanding our roster of artists to grow TMAC. Any editions we do will be very considered and tightly curated, and we definitely want to stick to the quality of who we have at present and keep that high quality in place to ensure that the value stays in there for the stakeholders. So we do not plan on diluting the value by exploding the number of artists, which would risk compromising TMAC’s quality roster of artists and positioning.
In terms of upcoming TMAC drops, what can collectors expect and what is the best way for them to invest in artwork?
FS: TMAC’s recent drop was our major launch with the Whitelist now open; members on the Whitelist can do their minting within 24 hours to avoid major gas fees. We are inviting collectors as we speak, whether they are buying individual TMAC NFTs or Gold Art Memberships with 20 artworks or more, we welcome every level of collector. This community is founded on diversity and the ability to build a collection in the NFT space with TMAC helping nurture and create new opportunities for artist engagement and ensure our collectors have access to artworks by artists who may not even be available on the open market, as their work is institutionally collected, for example.
What trends are forecasted in the crypto art space?
FS: In the future, we will see the blue-chip digital and crypto artists stand up and be counted. We want to be part of that movement, which is exactly why we’ve created TMAC. We strongly believe in the metaverse in Decentraland and other metaverses and having our own gallery, The MetaVerse Museum, in Decentraland will enable people to really experience—in a new and different way—the creation of digital art and the beauty of it. This new space is not just giving a chance for digital art to gain traction and relevance, but also to cultivate different digital art mediums, like animation and VR, or 3D sculpture—new art forms that are entering the space and creating new possibilities for the artists involved and for their collectors.