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Crypto Art Curation with Martin Lukas Ostachowski
BY ERIC P. RHODES - Eric is an award-winning Crypto Art artist, renowned Trash Art artist, and creator of the iconic NFT collection, Unofficial Punks. Working exclusively in the Web3 space since 2019. 💬 Follow Eric on Twitter
Martin Lukas Ostachowski is a crypto artist who explores geometric abstraction and minimalism. He also documents the blockchain and crypto art history on his website. I invited him to discuss his business background, the role curation plays in crypto art, and his latest async art drum.
We chat about starting his own web design agency at 13 and how art myths are made.
Martin also shares why he decided to move to Canada and how Twitter made him start an important project. Let’s jump right in!
Who was the 10-year-old Martin?
Well, the 10-year-old Martin was maybe a little naive. Still, I was a pretty happy boy, growing up and traveling everywhere with my sketchbook and colored pens. I was also a bit of a bookworm.
I read so many books that the library in our town would order books for me. They also introduced me to the section for adults, because they were running out of children's books that I could read.
When I’d really get into a book, it was very hard for me to stop. I still have that focus. Whenever I'm passionate about something, it's very hard for me to stop.
What would that boy think of you today?
He would probably be surprised. I live in Canada now!
I think he would be happy to see that I made art my focus in life. I basically transitioned away from the typical corporate world and realized what really matters to me.
Admittedly, I realized that a bit late, but better late than never.
You have both a technical and creative background, right?
Yeah. I got into graphic design when I was 13. My friend’s dad gave me Photoshop version 2.5. I ended up spending a lot of time in front of my computer. Eventually, I started working at design agencies. I was 15 at the time if you can imagine.]
Then I founded a little web design company with two friends - typical story. I enjoyed the design work... But, I noticed very early I needed more skills if I wanted to get paid. So, I bought some books, and I started learning the basics, you know, HTML, CSS, PHP.
I studied media management because I thought I could combine the best of the business and the media. My Master's was in international business development.
Eventually, a company I worked for decided to set up shop in Canada and that's how I ended up in the Great White North.
Did your professional background help you in your art career.
I would say so, yes. My art career started in 2014. Since then, I’ve been trying to incorporate the things, which I learned working so long in business, into my work.
As an artist, a third of your time is spent on proposals and submissions. Then another third on promoting. And you end up doing actual art just a third of the time. So, soon after you start doing art, it becomes clear you also need some business skills.
Through my work, I’ve learned a lot about marketing. And then entering art, I already had a toolset, which is not necessarily typical for the art world. But there are a lot of things from the startup world that are applicable in art.
Real artists don't starve - that's what Jeff Goin said. Do you agree?
I quite enjoyed “Real Artists Don't Starve”. It takes a historical view, a macro view of what it means to be an artist.
The bohemian lifestyle of a struggling artist is a myth. A lot of artists we know today aren't that. There are very, very rare, unique cases, which make good stories - and that's why they are told. But that is not the norm.
Artists are focused on how to price their art. Even if making money is not your objective, you still have to cover your costs. If you want to keep making art, you have to get paid, at least for all the material you need.
We cannot make it a negative game, because then we will not be able to continue.
When did you start the transition to crypto art?
I started reading about blockchain around 2017. And by the beginning of 2018, I was already converted. I didn’t understand too much about it and I was yet to learn about NFTs, but I knew this was the future. I thought there was so much potential there.
When I got into crypto art, it all started with digital sketches. Then I did paintings that had digital elements, and things just unfolded from there. What brought it all together was contrast.
I enjoy contrast in both life and art and I really strive for it in my works. You have, for instance, your geometric, strict, hard lines. And then you have clouds, which are uncontrollable, fuzzy, undefined - that is an interesting mix, which I love.
It doesn’t just end with the work. I’m also trying to bring crypto art to traditional art venues and educate about blockchain in general. So, people who don't even want to look at it might end up learning a thing or two about this kind of art.
You're currently documenting the history of crypto art?
Yeah, with my timeline. It started at the end of 2019 when I was exhibiting my first generated piece. I thought I was being so original using blockchain to create art, and I was tweeting about it. Then I discovered R Myers had done that four years earlier.
After that, whenever I created my pieces, I would always try to include a little bit of history in the explanation. And I discovered there's more and more and more. So, what started as a blog post had so many entries and I needed another format.
I started making this timeline and capturing bite-sized milestones - basically one sentence, with a little thumbnail. Then I organized it by year and by month.
It is fascinating how deep and diverse the blockchain and crypto art scene was way before I even heard about it. And this is something that I thought was worth documenting.
What are your thoughts on how curation should be approached in the NFT space?
There are different aspects of curation. When it comes to listing your works and accessing NFT platforms, I still think there’s a lot of work to be done there.
Many artists who got into NFTs did that because they didn’t want to produce in an established kind of system of traditional artwork. They wanted a more decentralized, collective system. I think this decentralized approach should also apply to access - maybe artists who are already on the platform can vote and decide who they grant access to. This would be in line with the spirit of decentralization.
Another thing is also figuring out a way to highlight things that really might become relevant one day. There should be an art curator or an artist who sees the connection that others don't. They can then explain and present to others the value of this particular work.
One of the things I'm also very passionate about is getting towards token standards - platform-independent open standards. I think we need to make sure artists get their royalties, regardless of the platform where the original or subsequent sales are made.
What are your plans in the space, going forward?
Right now, I’m working on some really exciting pieces. I’m also exhibiting at the Bitcoin Art Gallery in Florida and the Contemporary and Digital Art Fair (CADAF) in June. So that's pretty exciting.
For the timeline, hopefully, there are going to be developments with that committee. But, I'm also just enjoying the process of documenting history.
And other than that - you know, my plan is always to make art every day.
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