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A Black Aquatic: An Artist Explores the Relationship Between Black People and Water


“A Black Aquatic” by Kenya (Robinson) is an essay commissioned by PROTODISPATCH, a new digital publication featuring personal perspectives by artists addressing transcontinental concerns, filtered by where they are in the world. It was originally published by the international nonprofit Protocinema and appears here as part of a collaboration between Protocinema and Midnight Publishing Group News.

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Through a hyperlinked lyric essay, and a month-long social media takeover on Protocinema channels, Kenya (Robinson) explores the relationship between Black people and water—both fresh and saltwater—as an essential part of the storytelling of U.S. histories.

 

I was shipwrecked once. Boat wrecked? Marooned. On St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The unfortunate end to a failed romantic encounter—we slept on a rocky beach until sunrise, leaving a borrowed dinghy behind. My skin was textured with so many mosquito bites that I’ve retained a lingering immunity for more than a decade; a handy trick, having returned to my Florida homestate. The hike back to the eco-resort where I was participating in a work exchange program was purposefully… unchatty. “It’s just around the bend,” he said. “It’ll take no more than 15 minutes,” he said. “Can you call the Coast Guard?” he said. I was grateful for the full moon as the sun slipped beneath the horizon leaving the water a vast undulating black surface. The boat felt two sizes too small. And, of course, it started to rain. The neighboring Tortola loomed closer than I’d ever seen it. Officially we were in international waters. Cell phone dead. I recall his weak attempts to include me as a co-pilot, but I’d set out with sex on the brain and left my glasses in the cabin. Fortunately, I was so damn mad that it edged out the fear outlining the scenario. I cussed him out goodt.

I was mostly mad at the sea, though.

Like many, I’ve been on a jet more times than I’ve been on a boat. And paid good money for the privilege of the inevitable bit of turbulence that comes along with it. Practiced at keeping my face calm as the sphincter contracts. Babies crying, foil bagged snacks, popping ears—alternately and simultaneous. But this liquid leviathan that looked so lovely in the daytime or sparkling with bioluminescence along the shore at night, could easily gobble me, and Whatshisname, up. Without a trace, or belched and blanched, sandy side. On a plane, I can always blame the vehicle, the pilot, the weather. But the ocean can kill you just by being what it is. Kind of like the IZM. I be mad at that too.

More than a few years ago The Innanet algorithimed me a message through a picture. In black and white, with Blacks and whites. Fully dressed Huite police officers in frothy conflict at St. Augustine Beach. I liked the picture. It was sublime, even when I deciphered what was actually going on. Protest. Pugilism. Peckerwoods. Poetic. Absurd. Colored. Chaotic. Choreographic. It’s a place I’ve been to many times. An Atlantic sunrise service for Easter, a day trip through Palatka or Starke (of Old Sparky infamy and while-you-wait concealed weapon permits).

You can go either way; it’s an hour-forty-five from Gainesville, irregardless. These waterfront Civil Rights Era confrontations were called Wade-Ins, and, similar to the lunch counters in Carolina, lots of folks ended up ‘wet.’ Not that there weren’t beaches for Black folks, or lakes, or springs, but leisure is a kind of learning too. Brown v. Diving Board of Education. Archival snaps of red-faced motel managers dumping acid in pools, a conditioned response to black gold in the cement pond. You never realize how ridiculous wingtips look poolside until you see it. Anyway, I like the beach shots better. More angry instead of scared. I always wondered why the one first-person account that I remember, from a kidnapped and imprisoned African, details the Middle Passage mostly in terms of depressive sadness, not a hint of rage to be found. Still, too many grown Black folks are relegated to wading. Members of the can’t-swim-crew. Feet gotta touch the bottom, and taste level at the waist level. Lest your hair revert kinky, in the age(s) before waterproof wig glue and microbraids.  Maybe that’s what that anger, tamped down in 18th century text, looks like generations later: maximum depth, three feet.

Still, there is magic in the deep too. Escape. Covert missions and scent washed away from hound dog pursuits and Confederate ships commandeered. The Underground Railroad™ wasn’t only northbound, contingent upon Abolitionists with hidden motives, histories obscured by narratives of power. Florida census records from the turn of the 20th century recognize a hidden story of self-manumission that rivals that of more popularized tales. With a sizable Native population and many topographical and geographical features to recommend it, the state became a satellite within the deep south, a consistent challenge to European colonial powers until its statehood in 1845. The journey from Southern fields to Florida wasn’t nearly as long in comparison to The North™, and the mild weather guaranteed relative ease in travel year-round, but most significantly Black people could avoid relying on white folks to foster their journey. All positive logistics for “stealing” yourself. Sometimes you left along the 1,350+ miles of Florida coastline or traversed over 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways in the state. Maybe, if you was Gullah, or Geechee, or James Brown, all you knew was water and rice; island life. Or you simply went back to the indigeneity that was stolen from you by the Dawes Rolls or the five dollar registration fee, or the assessment of hair texture as identity, Mississippi Goddamn. Sometimes you went even further, only to return a hundred years later as an immigrant from Mexico, or Cuba, or the Bahamas, knowledge of self-determination.

I minnow patched to YMCA swim safety on a 9-year-old-summer visit with my dad in Hampton, Virginia. I had this lavender bathing suit, spots radiating from a leopard’s face across my chest, and a collection of black rubber bracelets distributed on both wrists. It was the ‘80s. I could hold my breath under water, so I assumed I could swim. After failing the assessment test, a floatation belt was strapped around my middle. Three Styrofoam blocks, then two, then one. Then none. There is magic in the deep end. Plastic rings sunk to the bottom for retrieval. That’s where the mermaids live, according to Disney, and its subsidiary, Touchstone Films; made defunct in 2017—the same year as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

My birthday is in just a few days, the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. Air and Water. It’s no surprise that I’ll be heading to St. Augustine Beach. But me and the Atlantic got beef. I Indulge it occasionally for sentimental reasons. My mother, of Easter Sunday Sunrise services, died in 2011. I much prefer the Gulf. It serves fantasy realness with its sugar sand beaches and clear Clearwater. My Dad lives there now. In St. Petersburg actually, near where there’s an inexplicable monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko, the unwitting sponsor of Thomas Jefferson’s Southern Planter Lifestyle. My Dad keeps a folding chair in the trunk of his car these days, his skin now a tanned caramel, after years of high-latitude high-yellow. A Florida native, he tells me that his first visit to the beach (Daytona), at age 25, was a date he’d arranged for my Mother. One in a collection of firsts, apparently. I am my parents’ only child. I mimic his leisure, seaside, as often as I can. For myself, and for my Mother too; grief sometimes reads the loss as a sacrifice. Might as well complete the ritual by living goodt. There are a number of photographs from that day. My father isn’t in any of the pictures, just his snaps of my mother in a pale fuchsia bikini. The camera worships her, as the eye behind it. She the sea nymph and sable goddess. My Mami Wata. Silver spoon rings and bangles, droplets of water clinging to her free form ‘fro. She’s the one who told me that European sailors mistook manatees for mermaids, and indulged my creekside fantasies—imagined creatures formed from the exposed clay deposits that I found there. She’s the one who explained the origin of my birthstone, “the only living gemstone,” she said, formed by irritating an oyster’s insides. Told me of the tether between the moon and the tides, explained the Doppler Effect from the cars with the booming systems. Box Chevys and Cutlass Supremes. Landlocked in Gainesville, we still tracked hurricanes using the coordinates broadcast by the evening news. Gridded maps printed on the sides of brown paper grocery bags.

“Drink water and mind your business,” so says the meme-ability of the Black American Vernacular. But the Black interns, working for the solar companies on the outskirts of Alachua County, only drink stuff with an -ade on the end. I know because I play house auntie for their Airbnb summers. I offer up a bit of unasked-for advice, suggesting that hydration from the water cooler housed in the kitchen is freer than the bottled stuff. I don’t even mention our high-quality city punch anymore, aquifer-fed. And the pool key remains on the hook week after week. Heat index 101. Still, when I go to Indian Rocks or Siesta Key, Daytona or Clearwater, St. Pete or St. Augustine, I scan for jeweled water beads on kinky hair. I tune my ears for the music so elemental that I can’t remember learning the lyrics that I’m singing. Reveling in the collective vulnerability of swimwear. Nourished in the mixing of it all; frothy and fine.

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If Khloé Kardashian Can Sue People for Posting an Unflattering Photo of Her, Why Can’t I? + Other Artists’-Rights Questions, Answered


Have you ever wondered what your rights are as an artist? There’s no clear-cut textbook to consult—but we’re here to help. Katarina Feder, a vice president at Artists Rights Society, is answering questions of all sorts about what kind of control artists have—and don’t have—over their work. 

Do you have a query of your own? Email [email protected] and it may get answered in an upcoming article. 

 

Page Six says that Khloé Kardashian has been suing people to take down unflattering photos of herself. (They’re not even that unflattering, they’re just not as flattering as they could be.) People put up unflattering photos of me all the time. Can I do what Khloé did? 

We get a lot of variations on this question, and it’s understandable. Most good nights out are followed by a hungover morning spent de-tagging photos. Wouldn’t it be nice to send a cease and desist to that one frenemy whose photos of you always end up being 70 percent neck? 

You might assume that Khloé and her team have discovered a dynamic new legal strategy—I mean, look at what her dad did for O.J.—but in reality, this story just demonstrates yet again the power of copyright. 

The photo in question was actually taken by an employee of the Kardashian business and posted accidentally. “Khloé looks beautiful but it is within the right of the copyright owner to want an image not intended to be published taken down,” Tracy Romulus, chief marketing officer for KKW Brands, said in a statement.

But in addition to being, well, a little obsequious, this language implies that Khloé is the copyright owner, when we know that copyright normally rests with the photographer. If I had to guess, I would assume that the photographer who took the photo has a work-for-hire contract with the Kardashian family, in which case the copyright does in fact belong to them. 

(Why is the New York Post able to host this photo when Instagram is not? Because almost all journalism falls under the category of fair use.) 

In other words, in absence of a formal work-for-hire contract, yes, your friend has a copyright claim on your jowls. Happy de-tagging.

Singer Paul Simon performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 29, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/WireImage)

Singer Paul Simon performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 29, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/WireImage)

Paul Simon is the latest musician to sell his entire song catalogue for a tidy sum. Do you foresee a way for fine artists to cash in on this developmentsomeday, somehow?

It’s true: Superstar musicians like Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift have all been cashing out in what can only be seen as a victory for copyright enthusiasts. Unlike Michael Jackson’s 1985 purchase of the Beatles catalogue, which seemed to be based in admiration but was done behind the back of his then-friend Paul McCartney, these new buyers tend to be financial entities motivated by nothing more than the value they assign to intellectual property. 

Why is this all happening now? I have my theories. It seems that collective rights organizations for musicians have been cracking down on YouTubers and Twitch streamers, which we’ve covered in this column before, as part of a broader campaign to make licensing music for internet videos just as expensive as it is for film and television. As the need for music proliferates, so do the songs’ value.  

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine a parallel scenario for visual artists. Musicians make money off of both performing their songs and receiving royalties from recordings. Once a painting is sold, however, copyright is all the artist has left (one of many reasons why it’s a terrible idea to sell your copyright). Much as I hate to place further weight on this bandwagon, I’m inclined to say that NFTs might actually be useful for visual artists here… Wait, don’t go! 

What excites me about NFTs is the potential for giving increased agency to the original creator. Since you can attach riders to the blockchain contract (including for a resale royalty), artists might finally be able to retain some control over their work, even after it has been sold. 

But, alas, until Twitch streamers start putting Picassos in their backgrounds, I don’t see artists making the same kind of bank from licensing their oeuvre as musicians do. 

Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present (2010). Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery,.

Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present (2010). Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery.

I’m planning on staging a piece of performance art on Zoom. Do I have to get likeness rights signatures from all of the audience members or any other kind of permission? 

The problem with performance artbesides the fact that it’s difficult to copyrightis that everyone usually leaves within the first three hours. Rude! Staging your performance on Zoom feels like a great way to allow people to drop in and out without having to make an awkward exit. 

Now for the copyright bit. Once the performance is fixed in tangible form, i.e. recorded, it is officially copyrighted and becomes an asset that you can sell (though maybe not for as much as you would like; even Marina Abramović is probably not as wealthy as you think she is).

Thankfully, the process of obtaining permission from audience members need not be onerous. Zoom has a recording disclaimer function built in, but I would suggest including a brief note in your email invitation as well. Just let viewers know that the whole thing is being recorded and may someday be displayed publicly, or perhaps even broadcast. You can also ask them to sign a simple release.

Chances are they will agree with no fuss and look forward to one day passing a monitor in a gallery and catching a glimpse of themselves in your recording. Break a leg!

Warhol's image over Lynn Goldsmith's 1981 photograph of Prince. Courtesy of Lynn Goldsmith.

Warhol’s image over Lynn Goldsmith’s 1981 photograph of Prince. Courtesy of Lynn Goldsmith.

Why did that judge rule against the Warhol Foundation in that copyright lawsuit involving the portrait of Prince? I can’t say I understand it.  

Many people are having trouble understanding it. The Warhol Foundation is appealing, and while I have not discussed the case with anyone there, in the interest of full disclosure I should say they are a client of ARS.

The case concerns a photograph of the Purple One taken by celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith for Newsweek magazine in 1981. In 1984, Vanity Fair commissioned Andy Warhol to make an illustration from one of the photographs, which it had licensed; Warhol went on to make 16 paintings based on the photo. Though a 2019 ruling found the works to be fair use, last month judge Gerard E. Lynch stated that the “Prince Series” “retains the essential elements of the Goldsmith Photograph without significantly adding to or altering those elements,” and ruled in Goldsmith’s favor on appeal. 

In his own public head-scratching about this ruling, Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik reminds us in The New York Times that Duchamp didn’t do anything to that urinal when he turned it into Fountain. It is the context that made it into art, which should have been enough for the Prince work. But fair use is a tricky thing, and one of the elements that goes into determining it is the degree to which the new work hurts the market for the original. I think Warhol’s treatment of Goldsmith’s photo, if anything, enhances its value. 

In essence, I can’t really help you understand Judge Lynch’s thinking, because it doesn’t make sense to me either. We’ll be watching the appeal with great interest.

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Canadians Found Steven Shearer’s Billboards of People Sleeping So Creepy That a Vancouver Photo Festival Had to Cover Them Up


A series of seven billboards plastered with photographs of sleeping people have been covered up after organizers of Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival received a flood of angry emails.

The photographs, by the Canada-based artist Steven Shearer, debuted at the Arbutus Greenway on Tuesday, and were plastered over by Thursday, before the festival had officially begun. The images, culled from eBay as well as the artist’s personal archive, reminded viewers too much of dead people, it seems.

Festival founder Kim Spencer-Nairn told the Art Newspaper that the emails she received were “vitriolic,” with residents claiming “it made me want to vomit” and “it reminded me of dead people.” Based on the response, she said, “Clearly we overestimated Vancouver’s appetite for provocative work.”

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

The images are meant to recall religious scenes of bodies experiencing ecstasy, seemingly floating in space “released of their earthly bonds,” according to a curatorial statement. But the viewing public apparently thought the images were of people who had literally vacated their earthly bonds, and were just plain dead.

Each image showed a person asleep, some close-ups with mouths agape; one of a young woman fully reclining in a car with the seatbelt strapped across her chest. In another, a shirtless man lies seemingly unconscious on a bed of dirt. The billboard is rather incongruously situated above a row of ride-sharing bicycles.

Curator Emmy Lee Wall, who is the festival’s executive director, spun the incident in a positive light, as “an opportunity to take pause and consider the role of public art in our city, how we can balance public concern with artistic freedom, the ways in which we might engage in meaningful, constructive dialogue around images that make us uncomfortable, and the methods by which we can make contemporary art more accessible to those who might not regularly engage with it.”

Shearer declined to comment on the reaction to his photos.

The images might be stripped from the billboards, but, according to Wall, “witnessing the response to these billboards makes it apparent that they are ever more urgent.”

See images of the billboards below.

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, <I>Untitled</i> (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

Steven Shearer, Untitled (2020). Photo: Dennis Ha. Courtesy of Steven Shearer.

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In 2018, Christie’s Gave Away 300 Free NFTs. The Few People Who Didn’t Throw Them Out Are Now Selling Them for Over $10,000


In 2018, alongside colleagues and collaborators, I established the Christie’s Art and Tech Summit, an annual conference focused on exploring emerging technologies and their potential impact on the art world. 

The theme our first year? Blockchain. 

This was still the early days for art NFT marketplaces: SuperRare had been founded only three months prior, Nifty Gateway that same year, and MakersPlace—one of the oldest still active art marketplaces—only a year and a half before.

A couple of months before the summit, self-defined “art-nerd” Jason Bailey approached us and suggested we include a series of NFTs in the goodie-bags that would be distributed to summit attendees—a curious idea that we thought would make for a fun experiment. 

Jason had been working alongside SuperRare to help them identify artists for their marketplace. Amongst them was 18-year-old Robbie Barrat. Together, Jason and SuperRare agreed that Robbie should be the first-ever artist to upload his work onto the platform. Nude Portrait #1 was uploaded on April 5, 2018.

Robbie’s art intrinsically harnessed the power of machine-learning algorithms to create new results. The first series of works he created for SuperRare consisted of seven nude portraits. Perhaps we could distribute one of those? Nude Portrait #7 was to be the one.

Frame no. 24 of Robbie Barrat's Nude Portrait #7. The 300 NFTs given out by Christie's together make up a complete image of the work.

Frame no. 24 of Robbie Barrat’s Nude Portrait #7. The 300 NFTs given out by Christie’s together make up a complete image of the work.

But Robbie didn’t feel comfortable distributing an edition of 300 of the same artwork. Nude Portraits one through six were unique artworks, and making such a large edition for Nude Portrait #7 felt off. So a different idea emerged: the work would be split into 300 separate layers, which, when all overlaid, would create the final portrait. Each of the layers was created into a single NFT (edition 1/1) and distributed to the attendees. 

Giving away digital works in a physical environment required one extra step: we needed to make sure that people could claim their artworks with the minimum possible effort. The solution was to create plastic “gift cards” and insert them in each goodie-bag for our attendees to take home.

Each gift card contained two codes: a crypto-wallet’s public key (think of this as a username) and a private key (think of this as a password) that would need to be scratched off to be revealed. Similar to a lottery ticket, all someone would need to do was enter their public and private keys online, and they would be the proud new owners of a Robbie Barrat NFT.

With everything in place, all that was left to do was announce what had been concocted and urge people to claim their artworks. At one point during a panel discussion that Jason was moderating, he announced the gifts. “Don’t throw away your card,” Jason told attendees.”If you don’t want it, give it to me. I might even give you money for it.”

Only 12 people out of around 300 claimed their free NFTs, and no one took Jason up on his offer.

An image of the 2018 Christie’s Art and Tech Summit. Courtesy Elliot Safra.

An image of the 2018 Christie’s Art and Tech Summit. Courtesy Elliot Safra.

Now, almost three years later, the NFT market has grown enormously and even peeked into the mainstream. 

Robbie Barrat has continued to create artworks. He is now exhibiting in a show at L’Avant Galerie Vossen in Paris as well as in the crypto-art exhibition that my company, AndArt Agency, helped put together at UCCA Beijing, which opens at the end of the month.

From a monetary value perspective, Robbie has sold numerous works for more than $100,000, and one of the 12 claimed NFTs was resold last year for $13,736. There are others on the market for significantly more.

Zack Yanger, who originally wrote about this topic last year in a blog post on the SuperRare website, very aptly named the unclaimed artworks the “Lost Robbies.” As news of the NFT market has proliferated, people have gone back to search for the gift cards that we placed in their goodie bags. So far, Jason Bailey says he knows of four people who found their cards (although none of the four have claimed them online as of yet).

So what happens to the “Lost Robbies”? Unless the gift cards are found, these artworks can never be claimed. They are lost in an “internet museum”—accessible for all to view, but for no one to own. Perhaps this is an apt idea during this “NFT gold-rush.” If you remove all monetary value from the art, can it still retain its importance?

Elliot Safra is a partner at AndArt Agency, a creative agency focused on unleashing synergies between global brands and the art world. He started his NFT art collection in 2018.

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The Buyers of the $69 Million Beeple Reveal Their True Identities—and Say the Purchase Was About Taking a Stand for People of Color


In a blog post on Thursday with the opaque title “NFTs: The First 5,000 Beeples,” the previously pseudonymous players behind the headline-grabbing $69-million sale of digital artist Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days revealed their true identities. They are Vignesh Sundaresan, aka Metahovan, and Anand Venkateswaran, aka Twobadour.

Sundaresan was an early investor in Etherium and has backed Bitcoin ATMs, among other ventures. Twobadour is a “wordsmith” and “crypto tinhorn,” according to his Twitter bio.

In their post, they did a lot more than simply reveal their names.

Sundaresan and Venkateswaran also lay out a motivation for the purchase. The record-breaking auction buy, they say, was a self-consciously anti-racist statement. “The point was to show Indians and people of color that they too could be patrons, that crypto was an equalizing power between the West and the Rest, and that the global south was rising,” write Sundaresan and Venkateswaran.

Screenshot of the Twitter profile of Vignesh Sundaresan, aka Metahovan.

Screenshot of the Twitter profile of Vignesh Sundaresan, aka Metahovan.

Notably, the post detailing their identities came four days after independent crypto journalist Amy Castor wrote a viral blog post outing Sundaresan and Venkateswaran as the likely investors behind the spectacular Christie’s sale. Castor, who is highly critical of both cryptocurrency and NFTs, raised a series of questions about Sundaresan’s past business dealings.

Sundaresan, in turn, had written to Castor asking her to remove the post from the internet, citing unspecified “factual inaccuracies.”

The new post by Sundaresan and Venkateswaran also comes a day after I wrote a post for this site spotlighting images in the $69-million digital mosaic that were troubling or offensive, including ones titled it’s fun to draw black people! and a fat nerdy chinese kid and his imaginary friends.

Screenshot of Twitter profile of Anand Venkateswaran, aka Twobadour.

Screenshot of Twitter profile of Anand Venkateswaran, aka Twobadour.

Nevertheless, the two investors stress that successfully landing Beeple’s work should be read as a challenge to the whiteness of the art industry. “Imagine an investor, a financier, a patron of the arts,” the duo write. “Ten times out of nine, your palette is monochrome. By winning the Christie’s auction of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, we added a dash of mahogany to that color scheme.”

This statement about the importance of representation may seem somewhat odd coming from two men who obscured their identities behind gamer-style pseudonyms Metakovan and Twobadour. (They spoke to Midnight Publishing Group News last week about the buy without revealing their names.) “[T]hese pseudonyms were never meant to be masks. They are exosuits,” the duo write obliquely in the post. “Today, Vignesh wears Metakovan and Anand wears Twobadour, but there can be others who wear them in time.”

Even as the post can be read as an implicit response to the intense journalistic and critical scrutiny of the Beeple sale, it also doubled as an announcement that Sundaresan and Venkateswaran would be investing in an alternative pro-crypto-art media ecosystem of their own.

The duo announced the launch of the Metapurse Fellowship, which will begin by employing five “storytellers” who will receive $100,000 each delivered in monthly stipends over the course of a year. (For those who don’t know how much art criticism usually pays, know this: $100,000 is a lot.)

There are three qualifications for applicants. First, they must have a portfolio of work. Second, they must have personally created at least one NFT. And third, “no anti-coiners allowed :)”—meaning that skepticism or criticism of the crypto or NFT space disqualifies you.

“The grant is open worldwide,” they write, “to young and old, pseudonymous and named alike.”

The rest of the post details the business backgrounds of Sundaresan and Venkateswaran, and makes the case for Metapurse, the crypto-art investment vehicle they run, which purchased Beeple’s $69-million work at Christie’s. Metapurse’s investment model is owning a bundle of NFT artworks. However, rather than buying and selling these directly, they have created a B20 “token” that fans and investors can purchase, a fractionalized ownership stake in the digital art assets that can be traded as an asset of its own.

Prior to the acquisition of Everydays last week, the Metapurse fund purchased 20 art pieces of Beeple’s for $2.2 million to add to its portfolio (you can hear Venkateswaran talk about the machinations behind that purchase in a YouTube clip linked to from their post).

“For having made all of this possible with his incredible work, we gave Beeple 2% of the tokens, as a token of appreciation,” they explain in the recent post. This means that Beeple essentially owns 2 percent of the fund that purchased his work at auction.

The value of the B20 token since its launch, from CoinMarketCap.com.

The value of the B20 token since its launch, from CoinMarketCap.com.

According to CoinMarketCap, the price of a B20 token was trading at about $2 in mid-February, before spiking to $26 in the lead up to the Christie’s sale, and then falling since. It is at about $9 as of this writing.

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