Colborn Bell: "Cryptos allow unlimited creation and exchange of art"

Colborn Bell: "Cryptos allow unlimited creation and exchange of art"

Founder of the Museum of Crypto Art (MoCA), the 34-year-old American showcases hundreds of artists in the metaverse. We caught up with him at NFT Paris.

The Big Whale: You're well known in NFT circles, but not on a mainstream level. Where do you come from? What's your background? 

Colborn Bell: I actually started quite far from the world of art and NFTs. I studied finance and psychology in New York before moving into finance. I worked in investment banks and family offices, and discovered cryptos in 2016. I remember buying my first ether in February 2017. I was super excited about smart contracts.

The first project that really appealed to me was Augur (a platform for betting on whether an event will happen). To buy their crypto, I had to have ether, so I bought my first ether. I still remember registering on the Poloniex exchange platform and that's when I discovered the extent of the crypto field. There were so many of them!

Working in finance pushed me pretty quickly to build up my own portfolio, and at the same time I did a lot of project work. I also took part in a number of ICOs (initial coin offerings).

When did you fall into the world of NFTs?

I vividly remember going to the Satoshi conference in January 2020. There, I discovered the scale of the NFTs community. I was already familiar with it via Cryptokitties, MoonCats, and other collections, but I took it a step further. It was also around this time that a friend asked me to do a compliance study of the specialist SuperRare marketplace. He was wondering what this kind of gallery was worth.

Do you have any experience of art?

My mother is a dance teacher, so I was brought up in an artistic world. I've always loved art, very young I was looking for all types of music, I love finding and exhibiting nuggets.

Is this why you created the Museum of Crypto Art?

Yes of course. We created the digital museum in April 2020 and the artists loved it very quickly. They love the way we talk about their work. I think that unlike 2017, when cryptos were only approached through the financial prism, the market has changed a lot. We live in a much more digital world, and NFTs are a modality of this new world.

What is your aim with the museum?

My aim is to encourage and support creators, while preserving that pioneering spirit. The internet has created a very strong world of cultural exchange, and cryptos make it possible to enhance this world instantly.

The big brands are interested in this universe. What do you think?

I think most of them are on the wrong track because they haven't taken the time to understand the philosophy behind cryptos, NFTs and Web3. They think it's just a new market, when it's much more than that. It's a decentralised world where value is no longer concentrated in the hands of a few.

What do you think is the difference between digital art and crypto art?

That's a very good question (laughs). Digital art has been around for a very long time, whereas crypto art is a recent movement based on digital sovereignty. Cryptos make art immutable and incensurable. It's a real revolution. They allow us to create without limits and to exchange this art. It's a way for artists to acquire even more power.

With how many artists do you work?

Hundreds. In our permanent collection, there are just over 260 artists. We also have thousands of enthusiasts and artists in the Discord or on Twitter.

What are your plans for development?

Our aim is to continue to improve the experience in this digital universe.

What's the most interesting thing about NFTs?

I think it's the ability to create and assemble a collection of works in record time. A traditional museum could never create an exhibition in a few days. It would take weeks at least.

What do you see as the goal of NFT Paris?

I love Paris, I go there often. I think it's the place in the world where people love culture and creativity the most. The people in Paris are incredible, especially in the world of NFTs.

How do you see the European NFTs scene?

The pioneers, the innovators come from France, Italy... There are also some from Spain. Europe is extremely dynamic.

Who is your favourite artist?

Ah, it's really hard to answer. Most of the collection is made up of artists like Robness. I love this eccentricity, this creativity.

There's a lot of talk about artificial intelligence... Do you think this will have an impact on art?

Of course! A few days ago, an artist came to see me and showed me a photo that someone had sent him using one of his works with artificial intelligence, and it was a work that he could have made himself. It was exactly his style.

The person asked him if he could mine the work and the artist was super embarrassed. He didn't know what to say. The arrival of AI is going to have a huge impact. We're going to be entering a world where everyone will have the ability to create without limits.

Are you working with mainstream museums?

I've spoken to lots of curators and heads of mainstream museums or galleries, but on the whole no one has shown any interest. You have to bear in mind that art is a real industry and that some people have no desire for that to change. They won't let the outsiders, i.e. us, into the game. But there's nothing they can do to stop us.

Aren't you bothered by the speculative dimension of NFTs?

It's a real subject. I talked about it a year ago. Obviously there is a speculative dimension, which is problematic, but also for this reason that I campaign so hard for acculturation and education on cryptos.

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