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By Pearl Fontaine
July 25, 2022
As those in the digital space work to bring the art world up to speed on cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and NFTs, it is important to note that one of the key intentions of NFTs is to place the power in the hands of the artist through blockchain technology, and in turn democratize the sale and resale of artworks. The quintessence of this mission is embodied in the digital-based APENFT Foundation, which recently celebrated its first birthday.
Backed by the Ethereum and TRON blockchains, APENFT’s goal of making art accessible to everyone is a pursuit enacted through the integration of virtual and physical art, curated online or in virtual exhibitions, and offering a bridge in communications between stakeholders and the art community. It is also the first NFT art foundation to recognize crossover purchases, including both digital and physical works.
For the occasion of APENFT’s first birthday, Whitewall caught up with the minds behind the foundation, His Excellency Justin Sun, the founder of the TRON DAO, and its director, Sydney Xiong, to learn about its recent exhibition and the foundation’s role in the quickly evolving crypto space.
WHITEWALL: You celebrated the anniversary of APENFT with an exhibition, “Digital Wanderlust,” which includes a physical show and an online component. What was the starting point for the exhibition?
SYDNEY XIONG: H.E. Justin describes himself as a digital nomad. In fact, this nomadic lifestyle using digital and technological tools to not only work, but also socialize and entertain, is a reflection of most people’s lives, which is even more true for the post-pandemic future.
During the pandemic when in-person exhibitions became extremely difficult, we recognized the importance of having a digital presence to enable art lovers and our community from around the world to appreciate art. Thus, part of the exhibit has been designed to allow the offline exhibition to run in conjunction with our virtual exhibition on APENFT Art Museum on Cryptovoxels. Selected artworks are connected by the concept of the exploration of technology as a new medium to own and interact with art and intangible objects, and form new social bonds and connections on a deeper level.
WW: The show featured many digital and interactive works, including videos, GIFs, AI technology, immersive installations, and more. How did the collaboration between these different mediums create a greater narrative?
SX: One of the key questions we asked ourselves was: “Why do we need a physical space to display NFTs and purely digital artworks?” My takeaway is to recontextualize digital artworks in a physical space and bring a multisensory experience to life.
For example, the first layer of “Digital Wanderlust” is the exhibition inside of an exhibition showcasing more than 30 NFT works. When viewers walk into the enclosed space, consisting of 360-degree translucent screens, they are greeted by a floating architecture in motion, which is the APENFT Art Museum floating on the east coast of Miami on Cryptovoxels. We call it a “hyperspace” connecting the physical and digital worlds. Although people have access to the exhibition on Cryptovoxels, the gigantic screens make the in-person experience much more impactful and captivating.
WW: With a background in blockchain technology going back to its earliest days, what led H.E. Justin Sun to the world of crypto art and NFTs, and what inspired the foundation APENFT?
H.E. JUSTIN SUN: When I first got into the crypto space, I was intrigued by how Ethereum offers programmability and facilitates use cases and applications using smart contracts, which dramatically change how we move digital and nontangible assets around. My early engagement with blockchain made me discover and realize the potential of NFTs from a very early stage, back to 2017.
Back when I tried to bid for Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple, I realized there is a huge gap between NFT space and the traditional art world. Before NFT goes mainstream, we have to educate the market and audience. APENFT was born to fill the need of bridging these two worlds together.
WW: One of the main facets of APENFT is to decentralize the Internet and, more specifically, the world of digital art. For our readers who are still new to this scene, what might this look like?
HEJS: From artists’ perspective, they can create art and distribute it through online marketplaces bypassing elite-driven traditional gatekeepers who for centuries dictated what high art and good art are and who has access to it. Blockchain technology enables artists, for the first time in history, to gain the power to control their own careers independently in the art world, by setting prices for their own work and obtaining resale royalties. This NFT space is somehow more equitable because it facilitates diversity and representation.
From the collector’s point of view, everyone can own and trade their digital assets freely, without having any trust. There is no longer a need to rely on a centralized party to verify the authenticity of an artwork when all the metadata related to the artwork is stored on a chain. The tokenization of an artwork will also have a huge impact on the art sector by increasing the liquidity of the art world while reaching a much wider audience.
WW: Where do you hope to see the foundation heading next, and how might this look in the context of the ever-evolving metaverse and NFTs?
HEJS: We see ourselves as builders and contributors to the metaverse by facilitating the deeper integration of the physical and virtual world. We want to leverage this new technology to challenge traditional notions of art, and to remove barriers for those who want to participate either by creating or collecting. We will continue welcoming in new players and help traditional
artists and brands navigate this space so that the space can grow larger with more diversity and inclusivity. In five years, owning digital assets will be exactly like owning any tangible assets in real life, and it will become a generalized phenomenon and way of living for the younger generation in our digital era.
Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.