Today, CoinDesk launches “NFT All Stars,” a new animated series and podcast spotlighting some of the most influential artists and thinkers in the world of crypto art. Hosted by the developer and entrepreneur Marguerite deCourcelle (also known as Coin Artist), along with Jason Bailey, who’s spent years chronicling the development of the digital art space on his blog, “Artnome,” “NFT All Stars” takes a holistic approach to an industry that seems to grow and change every other day.
NFT All-Stars, CoinDesk’s new animated series, premieres Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 4 pm ET. Watch it weekly on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitch, Theta.TV and CoinDesk.com.
None of it is precisely scripted. The conversations, with the likes of Roc-A-Fella Records’ Dame Dash, the artist FEWOCiOUS and the DJ Deadmau5, are lively and free-flowing, meant to educate as much as entertain. It’s informed by deCourcelle and Bailey’s backgrounds in blockchain – they’ve dealt with this stuff long enough to know the difference between a fad and a genuine movement.
Both are also investors, too: deCourcelle’s company, Blockade Games, builds puzzles and games built around NFTs. Bailey’s is ClubNFT, an all-purpose NFT company dedicated to “building the next generation of solutions to discover, protect, and share” these tokens.
Other “NFT All Stars” panelists include BT, a composer and arranger who’s worked with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Madonna, and Britney Spears; Jenny Guo, co-founder of the tech company Highstreet; and Anand Venkateswaran, also known as Twobadour, the official “steward” of the firm that paid $69 million for a Beeple NFT at Christie’s last year.
Our conversation with the show’s two co-hosts, edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
How did the show come together?
Jason Bailey: There wasn’t ever a scripted thing. In fact, it was almost like an anti-script, where Adam [Levine, the show’s producer] was like, “I want it to feel like a casual conversation.” And we knew that we had a target audience that we couldn’t get overly technical with, which is hard, because I think both Marguerite and I are nerds, in different ways. An audience that we had to maybe assume was new to NFTs.
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As we were recording these episodes, where the world really was opening up the floodgates to NFTs. And as part of that growth, it caught the eye of a lot of celebrities, musicians, comedians and all sorts of different folks that we were able to interview. Our job was really to try to get them to talk about what that experience has been like for them, and sort of facilitate the conversation and share some of our perspective.
Marguerite deCourcelle: I really enjoyed the process of coming together and learning in real time about these incredible people and what they were excited about exploring, what they were looking forward to, where they found themselves in the NFT space – a lot of them coming from very authentic places of excitement, and not just here to flip JPEGs.
MdC: The experience of watching it this way, it really has that metaverse feel to it. It’s an alternate reality. Actually, it reminds me of one of those old school MTV shows, it has a real sense of character to it. It’s saturated with creativity, and so I think it was important for it to be so thoughtful and colorful.
JB: I remember Ali [Powell, a producer on the show] compared it sometimes to “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” as sort of an inspiration. Sometimes these conversations can get overly serious, about art or blockchain or culture. And I think it adds some levity to the whole thing. You took a wrong turn if you can’t laugh a little bit about NFTs. Especially in the art space, even the most ardent collectors and proponents like myself … we know that it’s also kind of absurd. Like, you’re buying JPEGs you can see for free. And I know it’s more than that, but there’s an element of humor and lightheartedness that you need to have about all of this.
You mention “JPEGs you can see for free” – what’s your take on NFT skepticism?
JB: I think we’re seeing maybe an all-time high right now. I’ve actually been referring to it as a moral panic that people are having around NFTs, like the Satanic Panic in the ’80s, when people started accusing each other of being satanists. Or it’s like Reefer Madness. There’s just this illogical, outsized concern about NFTs right now. I’m open to criticism and think we need criticism in order for the space to move forward, but I think we’re seeing more criticism than ever before.
At the time that we initially recorded these [episodes], I think we were still a little bit more in the honeymoon period of the world figuring out what these things were. We kept it light, and it was sort of intentionally meant to be light.
MdC: Coming from the Bitcoin space, too, it’s such a contrast – I felt like I couldn’t really talk about things if I wasn’t a cryptographer. And as a creative, I spent a lot of time being like, ‘how do I get to participate in this really tech-centric, totally male dominated, and sometimes unfriendly space?’
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When I went to the first Ethereum conferences, I was kind of surprised about the effort that community was making for inclusivity. I hadn’t seen that level of commitment for inclusivity ever before. And it’s true that the more perspectives and voices you have around, the more culture you can create.
Do you feel encouraged by the direction of the space right now, in regard to diversity and inclusion?
MdC: I feel like the NFT space is going through an identity crisis, and I don’t align with a lot of things that are happening. I don’t really enjoy – and it took me a while to figure this out – but I don’t enjoy the party culture, to the extreme, without real purpose or intention. Just people showboating money or NFTs.
When you get into these VIP parties, and everyone there’s a crypto-influencer, and then you’re in the back channels with a lot of them, and everyone’s pumping their bags, or their projects. It gets this really skeezy feeling to it.
And while it’s fun for some of the people at the top, look at the backlash everywhere. If you look at mainstream people who are not fully educated, or haven’t really been introduced in a friendly way to NFTs, it’s insanely polarizing. And that’s because we built this culture that’s exclusive.
Real artists – people who have chosen a path in which they want to create art and meaningful experiences – are not going to prioritize taking care of collectors and making them more rich, versus their opportunity and freedom to create expressive artwork. When I think of Rothko, I don’t think of [him] because he had the highest-selling artworks. It’s because I liked how he challenged the art space.
Granted, sometimes these things go hand in hand. But the fact is we don’t have people here actually appreciating the artwork. We have a culture of speculators and artists trying to figure out their place in it. And it’s just not friendly for a lot of people that truly have wonderful ambitions. And it’s just gonna take time.