How Streeth is changing the art market
“The search for love continues even in the face of great odds.” Author Bell Hooks credits this graffiti slogan as an inspiration for his bestselling book “All About Love: New Visions”. It is also a testament to the power of street art to reflect the spirit of the times, to arouse strong emotions and to bring about profound social change. The ancient medium – aren’t the first rock drawings a kind of street art? – has undergone two major transformations in recent years: mainstreaming and digitization. When Louis Vuitton released a graffiti– monogrammed bag in collaboration with Stephen Sprouse in 2001, it so transformed the luxury market that Yves Carcelle (CEO at the time) called it “the first milestone in a permanent reinvention of our history”. The 2010 documentary Exit through the gift shop made Banksy a name known around the world and received an Oscar nomination. Eight years later, his notoriously self-destructing physical painting on the spot once sold for $ 1.4 million at Christie’s. Street artists are gaining prominence through collaborations with brands while #StreetArt on Instagram has over 60 million images. Even the Louvre has embraced the trend by hosting a stunning optical illusion created around its famous pyramid by JR in 2019. It’s no longer about dead-end shenanigans and metro car tagging!
Blockchain and NFT (non-fungible-token) technologies have presented the world with a whole new way to value and collect art. While some remain skeptical, major industry players like historic auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s are pivoting their conservation and business practices to meet the interest. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (one of the largest and oldest collections of state art in the world) recently held its very first NFT auction. The event raised nearly half a million dollars across five lots including works by Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, Giorgione and Kandinsky. Luxury fashion brands remain among the first to embrace new technologies with virtual garments complementing demanding wardrobes. So far, this particular trend has largely bypassed the physical street art given its inherent fragility due to vandalism, weather exposure and natural deterioration over time. However, that is about to change with the launch of Streeth, the first platform and ecosystem dedicated to trading and collecting street art on the Ethereum blockchain. As Streeth gives NFTs a real, tangible use case, I sat down with co-founders Marco Calamassi and Danilo De Rosa to learn more about this exciting twist in art history. Long-time fintech entrepreneurs and marketing experts (rightly so, with Polimoda training between them!), They are breaking new ground in digital creative economies.
In the era of individualism, how was your partnership born?
Marco Calamassi: We are both driven by a passion for art on a personal level and blockchain on a professional level. It was an organic match. These mutual interests help us to stay focused on the success of the project.
Danilo de Rosa: We live on two different continents which are equally important to this company. Since the Renaissance, Italy has been a world capital of art. The United States is home to everything innovative and Miami is one of the world’s premier sites for contemporary art.
What is the most common misconception about street art and TVN?
DR: Street art used to be seen as almost random images created by anonymous artists with no meaning or even talent behind. We are working to change that by providing education and information to our audience. Ultimately, EVERY notorious contemporary artist began their journey from street art creations. It is the purest and earliest stage of artistic expression.
MC: I think Blockchain as the underlying technology and NFTs as a medium acts as a stimulus for art awareness and art appreciation for the younger generation. The art market is too big an industry to be swept away by a single force, but it is certainly being revolutionized with the NFT. A recent NFT auction series has probably been one of the most successful art auctions ever in terms of overall attention and auction.
Indeed, street art and crypto-currencies are generally associated with the younger generations. How do you explain their fascination with alternatives to traditional cultural and economic formats?
MC: The digital world has played a pivotal role in our lives for a decade now, but what was lacking before crypto, in my opinion, was a deeper connection to real-world utilities like financial needs, entertainment, barrier-free transactions, etc. Now we are quickly moving towards a Internet of things company. What we see as a big plus when it comes to street art is its ingrained connection to culture, city life, freedom and pure creativity. NFTs bring communities together and help those for whom it has often been difficult to tap into “traditional” modes of acquisition.
How is Streeth different from other NFT art platforms?
DR: Streeth is the alone Art platform exclusively focused on auctioning and creating street art works. Until now, it was almost impossible for street artists to generate sustainable income from their works, and it was very difficult to secure the rights of street art works in perpetuity. Street art deserved to find sooner or later a protocol of “monetization” and protection. In addition, our NFTs will have cutting-edge images stored on the blockchain since the works of art will be captured using cutting-edge cameras to render them in 2D and 3D. Streeth is the alone platform which then acts as a foundation or museum allowing visitors to admire sold / traded street art works in a fully activated virtual reality space.
The art industry has fully adopted virtual reality, so is the future of art entirely digital ?!
MC: The VR craze is happening because digital artists currently have a beginner edge. They are closer to all the different technologies that we are all passionate about. Like artificial intelligence, for example. However, we firmly believe that man-made art is and always will be more valuable than “algorithmic” art. That is why we strive to bring physical street art in this digital world so that it can be appreciated by an audience more accustomed to “digital only” environments.
DR: Our first NFT drops are based on existing artwork, but soon we’ll start ordering artists with selected themes in key locations. Our collectors and our public will not only be able to admire the pieces virtually and digitally, but also travel and admire the street art works they own in person. We believe that Streeth can stimulate this form of cultural tourism, both nationally and internationally. We are open to working with tourism institutions to define common plans and initiatives to draw attention to specific and undervalued destinations. Ultimately, digital technologies can and should improve the lives of people in the physical world.
To be successful in creative digital economies, what is the relationship between tech savvy, business acumen, and magic or luck?
MC: I would say it’s 33% tech savvy, 33% business savvy and 33%, it’s all about timing.
DR: It’s a complex combination of factors. This is why it is essential to build the right team! Allow each member to bring valuable expertise to the table.
What is the most pressing question that comes to your mind right now?
DR: Build “a tribe” around Streeth. We’re not a Silicon Valley startup launching an elitist product for a niche audience. We are deeply connected with real people who share a common passion for art, creativity and technology. Any project needs a healthy ecosystem to thrive in the long term.
MC: Yes, the urgent priority is to build an amazing community.