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Tschabalala Self, Avant Arte, 2022

Avant Arte Blends the Physical and the Digital with New NFT Launch

Avant Arte, a premier creative marketplace, is revolutionizing the discovery and collection of contemporary art. The world’s largest creative community, uniting over 2.5 million young collectors and artists, will now be minting and offering NFTs. Founders Curtis Penning, Christian Luiten, and Mazdak Sanii are committed to supporting the needs of artists, while engaging art lovers and new audiences alike. The innovators have made it their mission to bring intelligent curation, and a fierce commitment to quality, to the burgeoning NFT landscape. 

Presenting both digital and physical works, including sculpture, by NFT icons NessGraphics, Ix Shells, David Rudnick, FVCKRENDER, Pplpleasr, and Dmitri Cherniak, Avant Arte exhibits its passion for championing artists across all mediums. The marketplace is already well-known for collaborating with leading contemporary artists such as Tau Lewis, James Jean, Jenny Holzer, and Cai Guo-Qiang to produce and offer limited edition physical works. 

This October, Avant Arte will launch its first public art program with artist Tschabalala Self in the heart of the King’s Cross estate in London; the artist will create a grand bronze sculpture, bringing her dynamic work to the walkways of everyday life. Two editions, encompassing 25 bronze sculptures, and 25 silk screen prints, will be released by the marketplace. Whitewall had the opportunity to ask Luiten, Co-founder and Head of Artist Community, about the epic discovery, soulful curation, and evolving future of art.

Christian Luiten, Avant Arte

Portrait of Christian Luiten, photo by August Blum, courtesy of Avant Arte.

WHITEWALL: What activated the decision to begin minting and offering NFTs on your primary creative marketplace? 

CHRISTIAN LUITEN: NFTs have revolutionized how we experience, collect and engage with digital art. We’ve been inspired to see how this technology has empowered artists. They have greater autonomy over their work and power to develop their market. That’s really exciting.  We started out to support artists and their creativity, and NFTs are this great new tool and medium that helps us do that. 

They’ve also captured the attention of people who never collected art before. It’s crazy to think that most of our collectors who are interested in NFTs have only been collecting for the last 1-2 years. Those are the collectors we understand, the majority of our collectors are under 35 and many of them first started collecting with us. We’re really excited about how NFTs have opened up art to a whole new audience and through the utility of tokens created these rich community dynamics. They’re changing the way people can engage with great art and we want to tap into the potential of these to grow our creative community of 2.5m art lovers and make great art more accessible to many more people by doing so. 

WW: Why is it important for you to support artists across all their chosen mediums, bridging the physical and digital art divide for artists and collectors alike? 

CL: We started Avant Arte to share the best contemporary art out there with a new generation of art lovers and collectors, whatever their chosen medium. So, it’s important to us that we’re able to work with artists and help them to experiment and explore their practice whether that’s helping them to create their first sculpture edition or their first NFT.    

We’re known for our best-in-class creative production for so-called ‘physical’ editions. When we were speaking to collectors and artists before taking the plunge and adding NFTs to the marketplace, they felt that the quality, curation, and care we have was something we could bring to NFTs. It’s our mission to make art radically more accessible and by expanding how we’re able to work with artists, we hope we’ll be able to reach more people so they can experience art in their daily lives too. 

Tau Lewis in her studio, courtesy of Avant Arte

Tau Lewis in her studio, courtesy of Avant Arte.

WW: Your first NFT release in March, offering an edition of 100 NFTs by NessGraphics, resulted in more than 2,000 signups and quickly sold out. NessGraphics’ first sculpture edition will debut on Avant Arte this year. How do you expect your audience will react?

CL: NessGraphics is an amazing artist and such a great example of the power of NFTs— they’ve enabled him to focus on his art and not be dependent on commercial clients to keep creating. Launching NFTs on Avant Arte with him was a real highlight. As we saw, collectors love his work, and we know his debut sculpture edition that we’ll be releasing later this year is going to be in high demand! We’ve been working together closely to explore how he wants to bring his work into the physical, 3-D realm. It’s such a fun process to go through, so I’m looking forward to sharing it with collectors soon.  

WW: You have acquired a creative community of over 2.5 million young collectors, art lovers, and artists. Did you see it coming from the beginning?

CL: When we started out I was pretty naive and had big dreams! I wanted to make discovering and owning art more accessible. I hadn’t grown up with art, and when I did discover it through rap music and album cover art, my mind was blown. I was ambitious and definitely hoped that Avant Arte would reach many people. But, I didn’t expect to be part of this brilliant global community of art lovers and to have played a part in helping build it! It makes me really proud and happy, and pushes me to keep learning and working with artists so we can continue to grow the community. 

Julian Schnabel in his studio, image courtesy of Avant Arte

Julian Schnabel in his studio, courtesy of Avant Arte.

WW: What kind of curation process do you instill on your marketplace?

CL: It’s a collaborative approach, we want to have a diverse programme that brings a range of perspectives and practices to our community. I head up our Artist Community and spend a lot of my time meeting with artists and finding out how we can support them and introduce their work to a new generation. We work with external curators like Larry Ossei-Mensah, and we have a brilliant team at Avant Arte who spend their time searching for new artists looking all over on Discord, forums, Instagram, and going to exhibitions all around the world. The search is ongoing and expansive!  

Great art is everywhere, and we have the opportunity today like never before to discover it in different scenes and spaces all around the world.  We want to bring that breadth to Avant Arte, where you can find Julian Schnabel next to NessGraphics, Roby Dwi Antono next to Tau Lewis. Nowhere else in the art world will you find that sort of curation, and that’s what Avant Arte is all about. We believe in bringing great art to a new generation, and we’re not interested in the traditional categorization you find elsewhere in the art world.  

WW: How do you continue to stay ahead of the game in this rapidly evolving world?

CL: The world is always evolving, but great art is great art. I’ve always spent my time on the road from Accra to Los Angeles, Berlin to Tokyo, meeting with artists, and that’s what I’ll always do. When we started out, I used to sleep on more couches than beds to be able to meet artists and make it work. Building these relationships and having conversations with artists is what drives me day in, day out.  Everything revolves around them. The fun is thinking about new ways to share their work with our community, whether that’s through our Instagram, on Discord, or our own community platform, the Collective, that we launched this year. It provides a space where artists, art lovers and collectors can come together. It’s a place for them to meet and share their interests. We also host exclusive content and events there—whether that’s an 8-hour live stream from an artist’s studio to show them creating an original work, like we did for Christian Rex van Minnen, or our “Sketchbook Session,” where an artist takes us behind the scenes of their practice, and talks through their sketchbooks live whilst answering collector questions.  

Ix Shells, Avante Arte.

Artwork by Ix Shells; courtesy of the artist and Avant Arte.

WW: What’s next for the platform? 

CL: We’re working with more artists than ever before this year—including Julian Schnabel, Marguerite Humeau, Tschabalala Self, Fvckrender and Pplpleasr to name a few—on all sorts of wonderful projects, from NFTs and public art to hand-finished silkscreen prints. 

We have some really exciting public projects coming up later this year. We’re a digital-first business but strongly believe in the power of seeing art in person. I’m really happy we’re able to bring great art into public spaces after COVID put plans on hold. Watch this space! 



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Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.