Iconic Luxembourg artist Sumo plans to launch his first NFT collection in 2022. In an exclusive interview with Silicon Luxembourg, he shares his passion for this new medium which he says will transform the way he makes art.
Jess Bauldry: Can you tell us first about your transition from graffiti artist working on walls to an artist producing paintings?
Sumo: Everything started with graffiti in the ‘90s. I’ve been exhibiting since 2002 and in 2012, I decided to live off art. I opened a gallery showroom and studio in 2018. I don’t consider what I’m doing as graffiti. The visual language is still the same but it’s so much more. I have this theme of time and space that goes through all of my work and I build my paintings in layers. The only way I can show this is on a canvas or on a painting on a wall or on wood.
What was the appeal of NFTs?
At some point I want to have a video installation that will explain this time and space idea without having to write a long text. In that video installation I would link up all of my paintings. This is a very distant idea, maybe an end-of-career kind of thing. Now that I have discovered NFTs and the fact that you have digital art, it gives a reason to be there and to collect and to buy and own.
It makes so much more sense for me to work in that direction. And so an NFT artwork completely expands my horizon and my range of working. Instead of painting them, I can make digital versions with moving images. They can be blown up and reduced to any size, projected or printed or linked to a physical piece. Over time I can build the idea of this final piece maybe in a different way.
How long have you been working on the digital NFT idea?
I started researching and went down that rabbit hole at the beginning of last year. It’s only now I am starting to understand what it is, what it’s for, what it represents and what it can be. It’s mind blowing! If I could, I would stop painting for a year and just do this. I studied graphic design so I am very close to the digital side. But, I don’t know what’s possible. I need to experiment, just the way I started experimenting with spray cans in the beginning. It’s this whole rocket science starting over again. For me, it’s the most exciting thing I have discovered since I found graffiti in the ‘90s!
How far are you in the experimentation phase?
I have created my first series of NFTs, which will be released at some point this year. I’m still just getting my feet wet: learning how the minting process works and working with a team that is going to help me develop them and do all the smart contracts and so on. Before getting into it I wanted to find out more about IP rights, what a buyer can and cannot do.
“Art is not just a pretty picture and exhibitions displaying art work or selling the pieces, it’s also giving people an experience.”
I still have some questions around how you declare it because you get paid in crypto. And when you declare the ethereum amount, is the gain what it’s worth at the moment, or at the moment you convert ether to euro?
Tell us more about the series.
It’s going to be very simple, a jpeg. Nothing fancy really. But what I like about NFTs is that you can add more things, I’m still deciding what. It could be a discount or allow you to participate in a project I’m doing. It will link me directly to my close followers.
On which platform will you sell the series?
It will be on Open Sea, which is one of the first NFT platforms.
What kind of buyers are you expecting to attract?
The first NFTs will be for people who actually believe in me going in this direction, they will be the first believers and they will have the NFT to prove it. It’s also about what the NFT means to the buyer. NFTs could be so many things, they could be a contract, or a key to something. Maybe it is the use case of the NFT that you’re interested in. And the art is the bonus. You can display it, you can use it as your profile picture, have it on your screen, show it in your wallet or put it in your digital office in the metaverse.
Do you own crypto? For investment or experimentation?
Yes. It is a financial investment for me. While I was researching NFTs I found out what I would have to do to acquire an NFT. I really got into that. Then I found out about DeFi [decentralised finance], which I think is super interesting. If you put your money in the bank, you hardly get any interest and depending how much you have, you pay the bank to put your money in. With DeFi, you get interest, which is so much better than at the bank, and you’re in control. I have to find out how accounting works with crypto because I think my accountant will shoot me if I start accepting payment in crypto.
Where do you see Sumo in a metaverse context?
The metaverse will allow me to show my work in a different way to what I can do in a gallery. In the digital world you can do anything. If you want to create a triangular room where you are floating, whatever, you can do it. You can create things that are not possible in reality.
So, you’re fully converted?
Art is not just a pretty picture and exhibitions displaying art work or selling the pieces, it’s also giving people an experience. If I can enhance the experience by putting my pieces into a space that makes you feel different, understand the piece better or gives context to the artwork, it can enhance so many things. There are so many things you can do in the metaverse for other things also, you can recreate anything from the real world and make it better.
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