Posted: April 19, 2018 -
Based in New York, DADA is the only social network where people interact through drawings and one of the first online art galleries to use blockchain technology for the transaction of work. Yehudit Mam introduces us to the genesis and concept of her art gallery and explain how the Ethereum system revolutionized the company.
Thank you for taking the time to chat to us. Could you tell us about your gallery, and what inspired you to sell rare drawings?
My pleasure! DADA.nyc is a social network where people speak to each other through drawings. We started it in 2014 and we wanted to create a space where artists and people who love to draw could meet and collaborate through creating art. But our mission has always been to help artists make a living as artists, so after experimenting with other modes of monetization, such as merchandising and crowdsourcing, we discovered that with blockchain technology we could sell those drawings and conversations as rare digital art, with proof of ownership for collectors and intellectual property protection for artists. So we launched our rare digital art gallery with drawings sourced directly from our social network. This means that nothing is uploaded and everything in our art gallery has been created originally by actual artists on DADA.nyc.
What drove you to create DADA.nyc and what is the biggest challenge being a director of an online art platform?
Our founder, Beatriz Ramos, is an artist and entrepreneur, and at the time, I was a creative director in advertising. Originally, DADA.nyc was meant to solve the problem we both had of sourcing professional artists in a reliable way. We wanted to create a site where you could see the artists behind their art, and create a more transparent and engaged community for artists and the people who hire them. But we realized that to really get to know the artists, we needed to give them the tools to be creative and to collaborate with each other. And that’s how DADA evolved into a collaborative social network where anyone, from professional artists to even you and I, can draw.
We have strived to design DADA to be a truly collaborative network and to give people a safe, fun and inspiring place to create. What we are doing is very different from what people are used to. We are selling art that does not hang on walls but is displayed on digital screens, we are championing collaboration instead of competition (which is how many gamified platforms engage users), and we are trying to bring the experience of art collecting to everyone, and to create a community of artists, viewers and collectors where they can all be creative. All of this requires an enormous amount of thought and experimentation. Right now, one of our biggest challenges is to seamlessly incorporate the drawing platform and the art gallery into one delightful experience for the artists, the viewers and the collectors. We are figuring out how to incorporate the money equation into the magical space that we have created.
You were one of the first online art galleries to use blockchain. When and why did you decided to exploit this software?
Around July of last year (2017). We were part of the Matter accelerator, a five month program that uses the principles of design thinking to get media startups to find their business model fast. So after trying different things we started hearing about blockchain. Beatriz attended the Ethereal Summit and immediately realized the advantages of blockchain for DADA. We launched the art gallery on the Ethereum blockchain by the end of October with our first collection of drawings, Creeps & Weirdos, just in time for Halloween.
What do you think is the best advantage for your gallery of using the Ethereum platform?
Ethereum allows us to codify the smart contracts of the rare digital art we sell so that artists always get their share in every transaction. On the first purchase, artists get 70% of the profit and DADA gets 30%, but on the secondary market, the smart contracts stipulate that the seller will get 60% on the profit of the sale, the artist will always get 30% and DADA will always get 10%. This happens automatically and it cannot be altered. It changes completely the way artists can make money off their work. But Ethereum also allows us the possibility of transforming our community into a sustainable economy. Etherereum’s protocol makes it possible for developers to build applications on top of it and to issue tokens without having to be hardcore cryptographers.
Blockchain is increasing and attracting the art world, specifically startups. What is your opinion on the future and impact of this technology on the art market?
We are already seeing companies that offer blockchain-based verification of provenance and authenticity, which is a huge problem in the analog art world. We are seeing an explosion of cryptocollectibles, some of which, in my view, are contemporary art projects, like Cryptopunks, and even Cryptokitties. This is a world in which Cryptokitties can collect art by dada.nyc artists! The open source, decentralized nature of blockchain projects encourages a lot of creative experimentation.
For artists, blockchain can be an opportunity to find an audience and monetize without forbidding gatekeepers — with absolute transparency. The fact that we can ensure, via smart contracts, that artists will always get a piece of the profits from the art they create is truly revolutionary. On the other hand, people who have never had contact with, or are intimidated by the art world now have an opportunity to become collectors on their own. Somehow the art world as we know it has painted itself into a corner of exclusivity that has made art unapproachable, unaffordable, and irrelevant for the vast majority of people. Blockchain can and will change things.