Bidding went live yesterday for the first time on Christie’s 3.0, the auction house’s new NFT platform that allows for sales entirely on the blockchain.
To kick off the new initiative, the auction house has partnered with 18-year-old artist Diana Sinclair, a rising young digital-art powerhouse who is selling nine NFTs, all created just over a week ago, on the platform until October 11.
Sinclair began creating art as a preteen on the doodle app Draw Something before moving on to photographing psychedelic portraits that evoke heat maps. In November 2021, Sinclair worked with Whitney Houston’s estate on an NFT that featured a never-before-seen video of the singer—and sold for $1 million.
last year, fate Sinclair has been named one of its 50 most influential figures in the NFT space, and this week he joins a growing list of UTA and digital artists.
We caught up with Sinclair to talk about how he got his start in the digital industry, what Christie’s sale means to him, and his hopes for the future of the NFT space.
Before experimenting with Draw Something, did you have any aspirations to become a professional artist? How did you get into photography?
In some sense I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I started actively pursuing different career paths to see what stuck with me. I was working with traditional mediums when the thought of a film career began to pique my interest, so I applied for a scholarship to attend SVA’s Summer Intensive in 2019, and that’s where I was first introduced to the camera. Since then I have had an obsession with photo and video work and almost completely converted to photography.
What were your hopes and fears in NFT in the early days?
Being a completely new market without an established culture, I had high hopes for its transformation over time, but also worried that it would follow the traditional exclusionary path of other markets. As an artist myself who grew up working with digital mediums, I was excited to find a space that celebrated digital art. In the beginning, the space was in such an early stage of development that experiments were rewarded, especially as a young artist. It is a joy for me to see artists from all walks of life come together like this.
Do you consider “The Digital Diaspora,” which you curated at Superchief Gallery last year, your big break, or another watershed moment?
I find that defining big breaks is difficult because the more you stretch, the bigger your audience, the higher the level you reach. Then everything feels like the next “big break,” as you continue to level off and grow. “Digital Diaspora” exposed me as an artist to a much larger audience than I had before. It started out as a project just for the community that worked in the NFT and crypto space, but I think the message of the event resonated with artists and people who maybe had no interest in the digital art space but were interested in seeing and celebrating the work of black artists.
Was it difficult working with Whitney Houston’s estate at just 17 years old?
Somewhat, but Whitney’s family was more than welcoming and I felt encouraged to create work in my vision. That’s the most liberating thing as an artist. I felt connected to Whitney’s career as someone who quickly rose to fame through her art at a young age, but still maintained her values and artistic integrity throughout that journey. As someone who is now experiencing it in a completely different place and time, I still think there are many lessons to be learned from him.
How did this partnership with Christie come together and why was it attractive to you?
After talking about a few different avenues for collaboration with Christy, Leslie [Silverman] From UTA we started working together and established a solid plan that allowed us to create a great partnership. This first move by Christie’s as a global auction house is a huge message to the century-old art market that digital art and blockchain technology are a legitimate form of expression. As a young artist, and especially one who grew up seeing artists in my family being dismissed due to discrimination, I feel very strongly about being a part of a moment that signals a larger shift in the arts.
Tell me about this nine-part series for Christie. Are they straight photos, or do they feature animations or utilities?
The nine-part series consists of four experimental video artworks and five photographs, also printed on 10-foot semi-transparent scrims. The four video artworks are dynamic and responsive to time. What’s beautiful about blockchain and digital art is that we’re able to create art that can have a transformative existence. For this exhibition, which focuses on extreme instability, there was no better way to create these works.
For example, the artwork titled “River Over Stone” is a representation of the way our memories fade over time. By running the original artwork through OpenAI’s DALL-E, I created 51 new versions of the image. Weekly, the artwork will update on the blockchain showing the next step in the series, and over time you’ll see how this first moment completely changes visually, in tone, and in meaning. It’s just a visual to appreciate how true to life it is.
What is new in your practice in terms of content and style in this series? What opportunities have pushed or inspired you?
This project served as a huge step of growth for me. I think that opportunity was a specific reason for me to create a series of works that speak to the different conceptual levels possible with digital art. I spent a really long time sitting down with my thoughts and unpacking what I wanted to say. Then of course, the process was very experimental and difficult, but it forced me to practice that allowance for fluidity that I was communicating with the art I was creating. Even now, as I let the work go public, I remind myself that the only thing I can control is myself and my perception. It’s just that the phase of me being something is over, and it’s okay to let go and experience something new.
What impact do you expect this particular drop to have on the blockchain and industrial world?
This is the first on-chain auction held by a global auction house which is a paradigm shift happening in the art world and our way of consuming digital art. That’s why I think the theme [this NFT series] “Phases” are very relevant to see with this shift in culture. We are actively enjoying this historic moment which is incredibly special. I hope the work serves as a conversation starter for the presence we hold in these moments, but also in our everyday lives. There are many changes, which can seem very scary, but if we are able to let go of our attachments to the permanent structure of life, I think our experience of those stages, which are naturally human, will improve greatly.
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