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Next month, the U.K.-based artist Philip Colbert launches a new collection of NFTs titled “Lobstars.” Imagined in Colbert’s colorful graphic pop-art style, the series of 7777 unique NFT lobster portraits (available through their own website) encompasses with each purchase ownership of a collectible crustacean and citizenship to Colbert’s metaverse destination, Lobsteropolis City. Accompanied by their own Lobster ID, the NFTs have been imagined n varying rarities (Every Day, Star, Superstar, Legendary, and Masterpiece), which are revealed to the owner after their purchase.
For the past two years, Colbert has been working in collaboration with scientists from the University College London, The National Lobster Hatchery in Cornwall, and Whitby’s The Whitby Hatchery. Each Lobstar owner will sponsor of a real-life lobster being released into the wild, in time with the U.K.’s new additions to its Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
Measuring up as Decentraland’s largest art world to date, Lobsteropolis City first opened last June with a virtual exhibition and auction hosted by Simon de Pury, which featured a live DJ set by DEVO and a physical celebration at London’s Serpentine Gallery. Curious about the origins and evolution of the NFTs and the newly-imagined metaverse city, Whitewall spoke with the artist to learn more.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for the “Lobstars" collection?
PHILIP COLBERT: I was inspired by the idea of a community art project, it seemed to be a defining democratic art movement of our time. And it seemed logical for me to create a series of Lobster Portraits. I am obsessed with portraiture in art history, and the series felt like it could be a journey through everything possible with portraiture, a rollercoaster through my own artistic narrative, past/present/future. The Lobstars series also symbolized the birth of the Lobstar citizens to inhabit my metaverse Lobsteropolis in Decentraland.
WW: How did you arrive at the number of 7777 unique NFT portraits?
PC: 7 was my lucky number, and I wanted it to be enough to make it super inclusive and allow the series to really develop in depth.
WW: How are these works created, from idea, to sketch, to portrait?
PC: The original ideas always start in sketch form so I can test out if they work, then are developed and 3D modeled. As they were portraits, the first key challenge was developing the main pose for the series, I wanted to have this unusual bold and expressive emotive pose, the way the lobsters’ claws and head are positioned, etc, as a sort of subtle reference to Picasso and Velasquez style portraits of the thinking engaged sitter.
WW: The portraits also offer a chance to become a citizen of Lobsteropolis. Can you tell us about this surreal city in the metaverse?
PC: Lobsteropolis is my art city, the home of my creative lobster persona. It’s the biggest artist project on Decentraland. I’m proud of it, as am [I] always a little blown away by how crazy it is when I do avatar meetings there. The scale of it was ambitious as to create your own city requires a lot of work on details. But as time passed I became aware that the next key for the space was really to have its own community, to really bring it alive, hence the Lobstars project really became especially relevant.
WW: What kind of community are you creating there?
PC: A community with a strong Lobstar philosophy to life. Being a Lobstar is a state of mind, an attitude. People that value the transformational power of positive creative energy and how they can integrate that into everyday life, Lobstars dare to be bold, humorous and colorful in life. Lobstars are also essentially surrealists.
WW: What potential do you see in the metaverse for community building?
PC: The potential is huge, creating new communities of like-minded people beyond borders. As Lobsteropolis is already up and running I experience the total surrealism of having this world of global interactions with such progressive creative elements and opportunity for personal expression, I can see how quickly things will keep developing in the space.
WW: What has it opened up in your artistic practice?
PC: [I] think the democratic reach to push my art beyond the traditional art spheres is very interesting, also the truly global reach. I also find these disruptive systems of making unique works in a large series can also allow the prices to be extremely accessible, and I love that spirit.
WW: How did you first arrive at the image of the lobster?
PC: I now say the Lobster chose me, as that seems to make more sense why I am so deeply connected; it’s beyond reason. I’ve been saying Lobsters have telepathic powers, they also converted Dali, and the Dutch still-life painters in the 18th Century.
WW: You’ve recently been working with scientists at the University College London, exploring the intelligence of lobsters. Can you tell us about that experience?
PC: I am working on creating the Uber Lobster, a robot lobster programmed to be a super functioning Lobster, inspired by my teenage obsession with Frederick Nietzsche. It seems logical I should take my creative Lobster practice back into the science of real-world lobsters and listen to the species.
After some research I realized that my Lobstar community could become the world’s leading supporters of Lobster intelligence development. So our first challenge was set to really clarify a study of lobster language like never done before, also their brain patterning, etc.
WW: This project also partners with The National Lobster Hatchery in Cornwall and the Whitby Lobster Hatcher in Whitby. Why was that was important for you, as well?
PC: Again the idea of taking the creative attention back to the species, and as a community making positive action to help the species felt very logical. Over time I think the Lobstars community can have a really powerful impact on helping real-world lobsters.