Georg Bak, Digital Art Advisor, was the first to focus his attention on collectibles projects such as LarvaLabs’ CryptoPunks creating their first exhibition in Zurich.
He has a past strongly connected to art thanks to his beginnings at one of the biggest art galleries in the world – Hauser & Wirth – as a sales and research assistant, but already showing his interest in digital in art. Living in Zurich – recognized since 2016 as the Crypto Valley par excellence – his interest in Blockchain and the crypto world becomes stronger and stronger.
He tells us the rest in this interview, just as these days he is at Art Basel Miami to preview his latest exhibition, “SNOWCA$H”, that will open at Kunsthalle Zürich in October 2022.
When, how and why did you approach the world of digital art and the Blockchain?
I first came across digital art during the internet art movement in the 1990s when I discovered artworks by JODI, Heath Bunting, Ubermorgen, Etoy, and Cornelia Sollfrank.
There was an institution in Basel called plug.in where they regularly showed new media art. This institution later became the HeK (House of Electronic Arts). Also, I was a frequent visitor of the ZKM in Karlsruhe.
There were only very few galleries such as the DAM Gallery in Berlin, Postmasters Gallery, and Bitforms in New York which showed digital art at that time.
Later when I co-founded Scheublein + Bak Gallery in Zurich, I was focusing on the curation of digital art exhibitions myself. I did some shows on generative art and photography and worked closely with some of the pioneers of digital art. Living in Zug – also known as the Crypto Valley – I was surrounded by crypto and blockchain startup founders and around 2016 / 2017 I discovered that there is such a thing as blockchain art.
So I started to do my research. Artists such as Primavera de Filippi, Rhea Myers, and Kevin Abosch were among the first artists who struck my attention.
In summer 2017 the Cryptopunks and the CryptoKitties were using a new technology – ERC721 token standard on the Ethereum blockchain – to create unique digital artworks on the blockchain. I thought that was quite revolutionary but at that time I couldn’t grasp the whole dimension of this innovation.
2021 was a pivotal year for the crypto and NFT world. But before 2021, you being an insider in this world, what was going on before the Beeple’s big sale for Christie’s?
First of all, we should not forget that Beeple already had a successful initial sale in fall 2020 when he minted his first NFTs.
That was probably the pivotal moment when NFT collectors and investors started to realize that something is happening in the NFT market.
But before that, I would say one of the first highlights was the record price of $140,000 for a CryptoKittie at Ethereal Summit in May 2018 in New York. In January 2018 the first Rare Art Festival took place in New York where some great historical projects such as Rare Pepe and DADA were presented.
There was even an announcement that the appropriation artist Richard Prince would launch his token.
It turned out to be a fake token. A French artist group Distributed Gallery appropriated a fake Richard Prince Twitter account and were the actual artists behind the token.