SuperRare – Interview with Co-Founder John Crain

SuperRare is a social platform that encourages the creation and collection of Crypto Art founded by John Crain, Chief Executive of Pixura and Jonathan Perkins, Chief Product Officer of Pixura. SuperRare has worked with artists since its conception and makes a point of listening to the artist and collector’s needs. On the platform Rare digital artworks are sold using Ethereum and are also available to trade. Artists can upload works onto the platform for free, when they do a SuperRare smart contacts and deposits into their Ethereum wallet, the token is then permanently linked to the artwork. SuperRare users can go onto buy, sell or trade works on the platform.

Hello John, thank you for agreeing to talk to us today. We have been looking forward to meeting you.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be involved in the Art Tech industry?

Sure thing. As soon as I heard about Ethereum I started thinking about experiments and building platforms that allow users to control their data. As an artist I’ve been experimenting with Processing and open frameworks for about the past 5 years. In November last year we started experimenting with tokenizing digital art and building a product where the creators in the network actually own their creations, and it was exciting enough for us to go full time on the project.


Please talk us through SuperRare and the concept behind it.

SuperRare is a registration tool and social network for digital art. Artists can create one of a kind digital artworks. They do this by issuing an Ethereum token. You can this about this token like a digital canvas. Collectors on the platform can follow artists they like and purchase digital works from them. In addition to revenue from the first sale of artworks, the original creator of an artwork collects a percentage of secondary market sales, when a collector resells artworks to other collectors. This is all coded into our smart contracts at the core of SuperRare.

Who have you found are the biggest users of SuperRare?

SuperRare’s biggest users are artists, digital art collectors, and people who like experimenting with technology.


Your website is visually very interactive with an Instagram like feed. What is the best way for users to navigate your website and go about finding works of art best suited to them?

The best way to for users to navigate the website is to check out the activity feed, marketplace, and view top collectors and featured artists. We’re currently in the process of building our more detailed discovery features.

SuperRare uses the Ethereum blockchain. What is the difference between bitcoin and ether?

The main different between Bitcoin and Ethereum is that Ethereum allows you embed computer programs in the blockchain. These are commonly referred to as smart contracts. For SuperRare we use smart contracts to register the artworks and track provenance. Bitcoin on the other hand only allows for simple token transfers between parties.


People have voiced concerns that hackers are now targeting cryptocurrency investors. Is this a concern for you and what precautions can we take to protect ourselves from hackers?

This is a legitimate concern. Many websites and services that control user private keys are at risk from hackers. We’ve taken a non-custodial approach, meaning we never control users’ money or artwork. SuperRare users control all of their artworks and money, and all marketplace transactions are peer-to-peer.

You attended the Christie’s Art + Tech Summit recently. What did you take away from the event and what do you think the current prevailing attitude is towards the use of blockchain in the art world?

Yes I did. It was a great event and it was exciting to see an organization like Christie’s hosting the event. I would say the prevailing attitude towards the use of blockchain is mixed. There was a lot of focus on GDPR and blockchain which I feel like is a non sequitur to the use case. On the other hand, there was lots of discussion around how blockchain & public ledgers can be used to provide transparency and audibility into a system that is opaque and impossible to audit. In general, I think most people were optimistic about what blockchain can bring to the art world.

Christie’s have announced that they will be the first auction house to sell a work of art generated using AI. Do you think this could mark the beginning of auction houses selling works using AI?

Absolutely, AI is just another tool that artists can use to express themselves and make a statement. On SuperRare there are a number of artists experimenting with AI, generative art, and combining the tools with more traditional practices. I think it will be really exciting when Christies auctions off the first digital piece created with AI.

What role can large institutions like Christie’s play in helping the art world adopt these new technologies?

I would say Institutions like Christies are already helping to bring these technologies to the art world by starting the conversation and holding events like the Art + Tech Summit. I think we’re in a stage where educating people about the technology and what it can do is critical. Once people have a greater understanding of what the technology actually does, I think we’ll start to see greater levels of adoption.

What does the future hold for SuperRare?

At SuperRare we’re focused on empowering digital art creators and building an engaging community of collectors. I think we’re at the beginning of a revolution in art collecting. Most of the artifacts we create as humans now live in a digital space. It makes sense for a significant portion of art to live in the same space. I think if we give artists and collectors the right tools we will see an explosion in art creation and a new genre of art collectors. The tools we’re building are changing the way people collect digital art.