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In March 2021, NFT Asia was formed by and for a community of Asian and Asia-based creators that work across the traditional and digital art worlds. Rather than a traditional gallery, or an art sales business with formal roles, the community is an inclusive collection of artists, collectors, patrons, and professors that congregate on Twitter and Discord. There, a community-driven channel uplifts the work of its members, shares resources, and informs the public of in-person events.
Ahead of its presentation this summer during NFT NYC at Superchief Gallery in Manhattan, Whitewall spoke with some of NFT Asia’s founding members about creating representation and support for a creative continent of digital artists.
WHITEWALL: NFT Asia was founded by a team of artists and arts workers that work in both the traditional and digital art worlds. What are some of your day jobs?
CLARA PEH: I am a curator based in Singapore. I lead an art program that is centered around interdisciplinarity and experimentation. I am also an arts writer, researcher, and lecturer. I was writing an analysis about NFTs and Southeast Asian artists, which is what prompted me to reach out to several of the artists that then formed the founding team.
Shavonne has been a fashion photographer for the past decade and started a virtual modeling agency. Jonathan is a visual artist and lecturer. Ernest is an artist and runs his own company. Ninaad is a graphic designer and digital artist. Willea is a digital artist and musician. Many of us wear different hats across the arts and cultural spaces.
WW: You mentioned feeling like there was a lack of spaces within the global NFT ecosystem that focused on Asian or Asia-based creators. How does being geographically centric help?
CP: A part of one’s journey into the NFT world may also have to do with where they are based and what the blockchain and crypto environment looks like around them, so geographically focused support can be really helpful.
WW: NFT Asia shares resources, creates opportunities, and fosters connections on Twitter and Discord. What other educational activations does it host?
JONATHAN LIU: On Discord, this includes a series of pitch practices internally to provide a safe space for them to talk about their work, rather than diving straight into a public presentation. Some of the core team have background within the contemporary arts sector and would share more about how the other market would work to bridge the gap in terms of understanding the context of both.
WW: How do you see Asia competing on a global scale in the NFT world?
NINAAD KOTHAWADE: Asia is in the perfect position when it comes to the NFT world. A lot of artists and creators who did not have access to a global audience before do now. All the existing talent can now finally compete with the rest of the world, and get their work’s worth. It has been life-changing for a lot of creatives. People with decades of experience are now getting their due. As long as there are bridges that connect these people with opportunities that exist, you will see more and more Asians dominating this space. With the number of Asians joining the space and thriving every day, I wouldn’t be surprised if major NFT events and conferences move toward Asia in the coming years.
WW: How has the pandemic impacted your view of digital art and NFTs?
SHAVONNE WONG: Before the pandemic, I wasn’t even aware of the existence of NFTs, and I was not yet creating what I viewed as digital art. I believe it’s truly because of the circumstances, where I was forced to stay home and find an outlet, that I found my way into digital art and NFTs.
JL: The pandemic really brought forward the need for alternative economies for creators and artists. When galleries would close and exhibitions were not allowed to take place, artists had to look for new ways to make a living, and NFTs and the blockchain presented itself as a viable option. I am keen to see how these alternative economies can grow to bring more support to artists directly and how NFT Asia could further facilitate that.
WW: What are some of your favorite Asian or Asia-based creators making NFTs today?
JL: I’m a huge fan of many Asian artists that it would be impossible to name all, including @mrmisang, @rocielart, @r_hakim, and @willzwey.
WW: Where do you see the future of NFTs being?
WILLEA ZWEY: The technology of NFTs allows so many possibilities to come true, and art is just one of the frontline use cases. We believe that the application of blockchain and Web3 mechanics can create an ecosystem that will better serve the creator economy, one that’s more diversified and inclusive as we have ever seen. And as NFT Asia, we love to be a part of that economy by continuing to highlight the Asian creators and builders in that space.