Communicate — In the NFT space there are no middlemen — no galleries and art advisors. At least for now. This means that artists are now responsible, not only for creation, but also for promoting and selling the work. It requires a slightly different skill set.
Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Alekhin.
Andy Alekhin is CEO and co-founder of Snark.Art. Snark.art collaborates with international artists exploring the creative possibilities of blockchain and other emerging technologies, developing projects in the fields of art, performance, music and literature. In 2020, Snark.art also launched a platform for selling digital art on the blockchain.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your background story and how you grew up?
I was born and grew up in Moscow, Russia. Studied mathematics in Moscow Aviation University and planned to become an astronaut (actually some of my classmates are already active astronauts). But an entrepreneurial spirit brought me away from building spacecraft and I started building companies instead. My interests ranged from IT to finance to digital arts. I built a couple of small startups and even launched a digital arts and music festival in Russia.
Several years ago I moved to NYC and decided to launch an art & tech production company there.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Except my passion for arts, I was a huge fan of science fiction — everything from Ayzek Azimov to Phillpe Dick to William Gibson. So, when blockchain, virtual worlds, and digital goods ideas started coming into reality — I was not surprised at all. All these things already existed in my imagination, in my world, for many years.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.
I was fascinated with the ideas of Marcel Dushamp and his ready mades. Such a simple and powerful concept made me think that anything is possible in this world, if only you can think of this. Imagination is the most powerful thing in this universe and people are actually gods as they can imagine new things. Everything we can imagine sooner or later turns into reality.
And this is what true artists are doing — inventing things that never existed before: they are building our universe.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
A lot of cool things happened. I met some great artists and helped them realize their vision using new technology. We experimented a lot and sometimes months of work brought us to nothing, but some results were interesting and definitely worth the effort. Sometimes things we did were so new that we didn’t have the right words yet to explain what we are actually doing and why. I remember after we launched 89seconds Automized with Eve Sussman, my partner and I were invited to Chadder TV: this was a complete disaster as I was not able to explain the nature of the project I worked on for 8 months day and night
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I make a lot of mistakes. That is the nature of experimenting — trying new things, trying something that nobody else did before you. The biggest lesson I learned — you not only need to believe in what you are doing, you need to bet on it. High bets increase the likeliness of success, of turning new ideas into a reality.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Sure. My partner Misha Libman, my wife Anya, and of course our early investors — who believed in what we are doing and trusted our vision.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yep, we are developing some cool projects right now. From something simple but extremely cute collectibles Ksoids.com that aims to preserve wild life to serious NFT projects with world leading artists like Kabakovs and Joanna Vasconchelas.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But, for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?
NFTs are scarce digital objects. Just like for scarce physical objects their value depends on the creator, content, and the total number of copies created.
If there is a unique painting that was created by Diego Velazquez and considered to be the first selfie in the history of art (I am talking about Las Meninas of course) — it might become very expensive. Same for NFTs: if a digital object was created by a famous artist and has some revolutionary content — it might be worth millions.
NFT technology makes digital files unique, but creators make them valuable (or not).
The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The ability to own digital objects is extremely powerful. It makes art close to regular people. You can now have your collection right on your phone and experience it while commuting for example. I hope this technology will not only turn more people into collectors, but make this world a bit nicer place to live.
Because of NFTs art can become more interactive right now. It is not happening yet, but it will. Imaging artworks that mutate with a change of ownership or appear in full only in 100 years from now. With NFT technology all these things become possible — it is a new medium for experimentation for artists.
Global aspect. As digital objects can move at the speed of light there are no borders for collectors anymore. We all become one global village.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
Hype and marketization of art. We are seeing a huge inflow of new artists into the space, but surprisingly, most new projects are copy/pasting each other. New mediums provide so many opportunities, but almost nobody is using them so far.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?
Myth 1: NFT will eliminate forgeries. While NFTs give some additional transparency — they will not solve this issue completely.
Myth 2: Secondary royalties for artists. While NFT tech allows to embed secondary royalties into artworks, there are (and always will be) many ways for collectors to avoid paying these royalties. So the problem cannot be completely resolved with technology and should always imply a collector’s willingness to pay these royalties
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid this?
People think that tokenization and NFTzation will make their art better or higher priced. But it is not about that -NFT is a new canvas, new medium, but art is still about ideas and imagination — only these things are really important.
How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?
NFTs will make art more accessible to normal people. Art will not be a niche elite market anymore. I think this will help to heal society faster, but we’ll see
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Bring fresh ideas — Adding to conversation, not just repeating somebody’s else thoughts or approaches
- Experiment — Be brave — try new things and don’t afraid to fail hard
- Know your medium well — Blockchain technology is the basis for NFTs, if you know how it works, its strengths and weaknesses, you can create many more things
- Collaborate — NFTs came from startup/silicon valley culture that knows, and collaboration is more powerful than competition
- Communicate — In the NFT space there are no middlemen — no galleries and art advisors. At least for now. This means that artists are now responsible, not only for creation, but also for promoting and selling the work. It requires a slightly different skill set.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to start creating multiple decentralized government systems. The idea that each territory has only one government at one moment of time seems ridiculous to me. I want to have a choice at any moment of time and want governments to compete with each other constantly just as insurance companies are. I don’t want to choose between democrats and republicans once every 4 years — I want them both active with people paying taxes to the government of their choice. In an ideal world I can switch from one political system to another a few times per day without going out of my apartment.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’d love to have lunch with David Hockney. I want to live in the world he creates in his paintings. Can you please help me with that?
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!