Curated Conversations: omentejovem

Curated Conversations: omentejovem

Above: “Out of Babylon” by omentejovem, 2023. Available now SuperRare.

Curated Conversations: omentejovem

1 year ago

Thales Machado, or, omentejovem (“the young mind”), as he’s known in digital art circles, is a 21 year old, Brazilian abstract artist known for his fluid, colorful and emotive style. He began work as a designer in his midteens before discovering the NFT art scene in 2020, and focusing his practice around the distinctive, visionary style for which he’s come to be known.

His creative process is organic, a leap of faith that begins with random strokes and lines – a pen guided by the kernel of an idea – and blossoms through curves and bold colors, resulting in artworks that demand the eye and clutch the heart.

Having recently moved back to his hometown in the Brazilian countryside, his most recent piece, “Out of Babylon” symbolizes change – a transition in his practice, and an opportunity to focus his craft, experiment with new techniques and textures, and break new ground as an artist.

At this exciting moment in his career, SuperRare sat down with Thales to discuss his work, creativity in the NFT space, and his vision for the future.


Peixe-Dourado no AZuL” by omentejovem, 2022. 

SuperRare: Hi Thales, thanks for taking the time to chat. You began doing professional design work at the age of 16, correct? Can you talk a little bit about the start of your career and how you developed your style as an artist?

Thales Machado: Yes, my first experience with Photoshop was doing custom skins for FPS – changing the data of the game – [and creating] covers and arts for my clan. I always loved music and [had] friends that made music, so I started doing covers for them, and other people in my city. I decided to go on Twitter to expand my clients and charge in dollars. My dream at that time was to sell covers for $50. I really started to build my style when I found out about NFTs: I [realized] that the goal of my artwork [isn’t] to fit into someone’s taste or concept, the goal is to make the most beautiful and meaningful thing to me, and the buyer could appear, and I could have this control.

[At] the time I found out about NFTs, I was struggling with design. I had a lot of cool ideas (at least to me), which my team and other people didn’t like, so I always had to empty everything and start again to finish the freelance work. Since I was a kid (around 12 years old or less), [I’ve always] had fun sketching random lines and [finding ways to] bring life to them – putting circles, lines, and adding things – but the start was always random. I embraced this again [and began working] with abstract in a more personal and fluid way.

Cat Looking at an Object on a Summer Night” by omentejovem, 2022. 

SR: What drove you to a career as an artist? Where does the impulse come from

TM: Curiosity, need, and vision drove me to a career as an artist. Curiosity to find out about NFTs when I first saw them, need because I knew I could make a living from that (giving that, even if I was selling works for $200, it would be more than what I was making working full time as a designer), and vision to believe it all and quit everything to follow my own path, concepts, and aesthetics, with no compromise to anyone but myself. 

The impulse was with Etiene Crauss, a brazilian and cryptoart pioneer in Brazil. When I came to Twitter trying to find international customers, I got into a groupchat of Brazilian artists. Etiene was there and I [looked] up one of his first sales. My first impression was, why? Why would someone pay that [much] for a digital file, which I could save myself? Then he sent me an article by Loopify which made more sense. He sent me some ETH to mint my first artwork “SQUVV?”, one of my first personal works (which, by the way, I [bought] back from a collector in a sleep listing at Rarible), I minted it and, the morning after, it sold. I got ETH in my wallet! I could sell it for dollars and send it anywhere without big bureaucracy or shit – it all made sense. I have played video games since [I was a] kid, I liked CSGO skins, it was very obvious I should keep going.

I find my art fluid, expressive, and personal. It’s easier to tell the truth, and my storytelling is what I feel, what I live, what I [have] experienced.

— omentejovem

The Day I Met You” by omentejovem, 2022.

SR: What excites you about the NFT art space?

TM: What excites me in the NFT space is that anyone can mint a work and keep a provenance, which everyone can see and access world wide – the future is rich in culture and provenance, even more cool in a timeline when anyone can create images with AI.

SR: Much of your work has a very distinct and visionary style – powerful color combinations, abstract storytelling, a precise attention to detail, as one might expect from a designer – how would you describe your approach to art, creativity, and storytelling?

TM: I feel I’m personally new into art/personal art. I still have to educate myself in many things that can help me in my progress and also creativity, baggage is everything and creativity is nothing more [than a way] to connect one point to another – I find my art fluid, expressive, and personal. It’s easier to tell the truth, and my storytelling is what I feel, what I live, what I [have] experienced. I don’t love to bring “exceptional” and crazy storytelling or concepts to please the viewer, but if I can find truth to myself on what I’m creating and telling, it’s a W to me and I know someone can connect and find truth themselves because we’re all humans sharing experiences and feelings.

SR: As a related follow up question, what would you like people to get from your work, do you go into the creative process with the intention of evoking certain emotions, of conveying ideas, etc?

TM: Most of the time, I [find] the concept in the process. I seek for aesthetics and things that I find beautiful, through fluid, and mostly random, lines. Part of the process is to find beauty – aesthetical compositions, sometimes with intention in the strokes, or random, my life inspires most all of my artworks.

Lugares” by omentejovem, 2022.

SR: How do you approach the creative process? Where do your ideas come from? What tools do you work with? Does creative inspiration come suddenly, followed by non-stop work until the piece is finished or do you take a more methodical, drawn out approach to working?

TM: My ideas and aesthetics come mostly from my fluid strokes and lines. I love the contrast of colors. [For] part of my career I worked just with Photoshop, now mostly in Procreate. I’m experimenting with physicals offline as well and this has [inspired my] digital [work]. I believe creativity takes work. You need to work and workout everyday. Some of my favorite works, “The Day I Met You”, came from days that I wasn’t that inspired or with a great concept in mind. Others, I prefer to work, watch it some days, work again… with pauses to reflect and take actions.

SR: Can you talk a little bit about the vision behind your latest piece on SuperRare, “Out of Babylon”?

TM: The artwork description best sums it up:

Personally, this artwork symbolizes change for me. I have made the difficult decision to move back to the countryside, to be closer to old friends and family. I also see that this art resonates with my previous piece, ‘Cheap Problems.’ It has been a challenging change and decision, and I’m still in the process. I used to believe that the big city was synonymous with success and well-being, but the urban environment comes with various issues and situations that I prefer to deal with occasionally, perhaps during a trip or something similar.

I imagine I will feel better in my hometown where I grew up, surrounded by friends who have been with me since before my journey as ‘omentejovem,’ and of course, my family. And if I don’t feel better, things are not set in stone, and I will be able to make another decision if I choose to. I believe this change will allow me to travel more and meet other friends along the way. I feel the need for a home and a place where I feel good, with people who make me feel good, with love and less rush and selfishness from the big city.

THRIVING THROUGH ILLUSION” by omentejovem, 2021.

I just create: Random lines, seeking beauty, aesthetics, and I [find] the concept in the process

— omentejovem

SR: What about the process? How did you go about creating the work?

TM: I just create: Random lines, seeking beauty, aesthetics, and I found the concept in the process – change, many things… I would like to [make a process video] to show how random and fluid it is, but, at the same time, slow and thoughtful.

SR: Anything else you’d like people to know about this piece and how it fits into your body of work or ideas for future projects?

TM: I am excited to continue studying and creating better pieces, textures, colors choices, etc, and I think I could get something nice from this work. It’s inspiring me to work [on] my next one that is nearly finished.

SR: Let’s talk a little bit about some of your previous work. I love the piece, “Peixe-Dourado no AZul,” can you talk a little bit about that artwork, the vision behind it and the creative process?

TM: It was interesting to work with the BLeU piece by Tjo. I remember [this was] one of the first pieces [in which] I used some brushes. At that time, I was starting on the path to study and [add] more depth and curiosity to my paintings via aesthetics and details.

Untitled” by omentejovem, 2021.

SR: What about the process? How did you go about creating the work?

TM: I just create: Random lines, seeking beauty, aesthetics, and I found the concept in the process – change, many things… I would like to [make a process video] to show how random and fluid it is, but, at the same time, slow and thoughtful.

SR: Anything else you’d like people to know about this piece and how it fits into your body of work or ideas for future projects?

TM: I am excited to continue studying and creating better pieces, textures, colors choices, etc, and I think I could get something nice from this work. It’s inspiring me to work [on] my next one that is nearly finished.

SR: Let’s talk a little bit about some of your previous work. I love the piece, “Peixe-Dourado no AZul,” can you talk a little bit about that artwork, the vision behind it and the creative process?

TM: It was interesting to work with the BLeU piece by Tjo. I remember [this was] one of the first pieces [in which] I used some brushes. At that time, I was starting on the path to study and [add] more depth and curiosity to my paintings via aesthetics and details.

Late Night Love” by omentejovem, 2021

Two Pills and My Favorite Sins” by omentejovem, 2022

SR: Do you feel like NFT art is becoming more accepted by the traditional art world? Do you see a merger of these communities in the future?

TM: Yes, people are buying, they want money, but the culture is also being built. You can’t deny all [of] what we’re building, all what we’re creating, and the big provenance value of the artists nowadays in the WWW. We need to figure out how to display digital better, but still images are still my favorite given you can experience them in print, which I prefer. I also send high quality, signed prints to 1/1 collectors, with certificate and NFC token.

SR: How important are your roots as a Brazilian to your work? Is representation and cultural storytelling something of importance to you as an artist?

TM: I can see much of Brazil in my artworks. [In] past times I would [have] said “no,”, but I can’t [deny that] I live in Brazil. I love [it] here besides things. “Musician at Ipanema’s Beach” shows a little of that. My colorful works could [be seen as] validating this idea. People maybe have a colorful view of Brazil, the culture, forests, beaches, carnival etc. But honestly, other artists are doing better themed artworks than myself I think.

SR: Are there other artists, trends, or movements in the space that excite you at the moment?

TM: I love all my artists friends. I won’t tag them all here because is a lot and I will forget many, mainly those I see almost everyday in TL and it is familiar. It’s very exciting to see the same faces I saw when I joined 2020 and 2021. We’re definitely building something here. It excites me to be part of this community and culture, and to have so many great artists and humans around.


Luke Whyte

Luke Whyte is SuperRare's Editorial Director.



Curators' Choice

CHANSU: Exploring the Surreal World of Abstract Photography Through the Lens of AI

CHANSU: Exploring the Surreal World of Abstract Photography Through the Lens of AI

Above: “data privacy” by stockcatalog licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

CHANSU: Exploring the Surreal World of Abstract Photography Through the Lens of AI

1 year ago

Robert LeBlanc is a renowned artist and documentary photographer who has taken an embedded approach to telling important stories about under-documented communities across the United States. Some of his well known projects include GLORYLAND, where he spent five years photographing the sermons, culture, and people of the rattlesnake handling Holiness church, “The House of The Lord Jesus”, in the quiet town of Squire, West Virginia, Unlawful Conduct, for which he spent six years documenting the beauty and suffering bred from skateboarding street culture, and MOON DUST, for which he spent four years shooting the lives and work of hotshot firefighters in California and Montana. For his latest project, CHANSU, Robert has turned his lens in a different direction; melding the use of traditional post-photography software with the output of Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) technology to produce a wholly unique abstract, post-photography series. 

SuperRare Labs Editorial Director Luke Whyte asks Robert LeBlanc about GAN, his inspiration for CHANSU, and collaboration with Transient Labs.

Luke Whyte: Let’s jump right into CHANSU. Can you talk a little bit about the vision and goals behind the project?

Robert LeBlanc: I wanted to create a world that balances the lines of surrealism and fiction. This project focuses on a more contemporary aesthetic that encourages viewers to use their imagination as they experience this world. Is it photography? Is it an abstract painting? Or is it a digital rendering? I want the viewers to feel like they have entered a world where all these mediums are possible. I get a cathartic experience when I’m exposed to these images, and I find it so inspiring, so in the end, I’m hoping viewers have this same experience as well.

From CHANSU series, Robert LeBlanc, 2023

As artists, we constantly evolve; I want to be mindful of this. I also believe that artists need to fit in the niche they have been in, and I think this mindset can suffocate the creative process and the evolution of one’s work.

— Robert LeBlanc

LW: What’s the scope of the project? How many images are being minted this week and how many will there be in total?

RL: This body of work is quite vast, and it’s been something I have been working on for a couple of years and have spent a lot of time crafting the style that it is today. I have developed 100 images I see as a fully immersive exhibition and a book project, with a limited number released as NFTs, both dynamic and still. The final number has not been decided yet, but it will be minimal compared to the size of the body of work.

LW: This is something new for you, correct? What appealed to you about this type of project and why embark on it at this time? 

RL: Yes, I have been working with GAN imagery for two years and am highly inspired by its endless capabilities. My photography works have been increasingly focused on a more surreal and fictional landscape, with much of my current inspiration from the contemporary Japanese black-and-white photography genre. Artists such as Daidō Moriyama and Kikuji Kawada have substantially influenced this new world of photography I’m developing. As artists, we constantly evolve; I want to be mindful of this. I also believe that artists need to fit in the niche they have been in, and I think this mindset can suffocate the creative process and the evolution of one’s work. What I am attracted to now is much different than ten years ago in my early twenties. I want to embrace this evolution of my creative journey. Between CHANSUand another project, Tin Lizards, which I’m currently creating, I feel like it’s the right time to start exploring this desire to create a more drenched monochrome surreal world.

LW: Can you talk a little bit about the techniques behind the artworks? How did you go about creating them? 

RL: I started promoting images through the GAN technology, slowly crafting a style that felt right to me, which was a long a difficult road; CHANSU focused a lot on the mindset of embracing the element of chance, which I think is a constant dance between the artist and creating within the contemporary and abstract space. It is an organic flow of creativity, and you enjoy the process and become vulnerable in the experience. After building the foundation, I would take the images and process them with a more traditional post-editing photography software which I was more familiar with. This was an arena where I could be more purposeful and deliberate, taking the elements of chance that I was so open to in the first step and then honing in the result with purpose and reason for the final step.

From CHANSU series, Robert LeBlanc, 2023

LW: What excites you about GAN technology? Why did you choose to work with it and where would you like to see its role in art, and AI more generally, go in the future? 

RL: It’s the feeling of the unknown and the ability to tap one’s imagination into a visual result. Since using AI as a tool, I have felt that the world of possibilities has opened up immensely, and as a creative, this can be extremely inspiring. I first used it with GLORYLAND, which is a very traditional documentary project. Still, within the church, you always heard the fables from the bible that illustrated things I could never photograph but were very prominent in the landscape of the characters I was documenting. I used GAN to create illustrations for these stories, and I’m pleased with how that helped polish and add another layer to the project. There are countless ways to use AI as a tool, and I find that very inspiring and exciting but also a bit terrifying.

LW: You’ve referred to the project as creating a world that is both familiar and strange, do you see parallels between this statement and today’s world more generally? Particularly with the embrace of AI and digital reality? 

RL: Absolutely! We have entered a stage in human existence where our ambitions and ability to develop technologies have created a new world where we can’t tell if humans or machines create something. I don’t believe we exist in a physical world separate from a digital one. Our current moment as humans is undeniably strange, and I don’t know where this road will lead. AI is moving at lightning speeds, and that is a scary thought. Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash becomes less of a fictional novel and more of a prophetic warning more and more to me every day.

LW: You’ve said the project draws inspiration from contemporary Japanese aesthetics, what do you mean by that and how is it reflected in the artworks? 

RL: I have been gravitating toward this style of photography, where grain, rich black, and texture are all embraced to create an emotionally invigorating image. In documentary work, the way an image is formed is much more literal, and I have always considered composition the most essential quality. But in the contemporary landscape, emotion takes the lead, and I have been finding this world very freeing. I’ve always looked up to the level of thought, attention to detail, and purpose you see in almost everything from Japan. Photography is certainly no exception to these attributes for them, either. One project that has been my biggest inspiration for CHANSU is Daido Moriyama’s Bye Bye Photography. This book broke all the rules of photography at that time, embracing chaos and chance. It’s a true masterpiece.

I have been gravitating toward this style of photography, where grain, rich black, and texture are all embraced to create an emotionally invigorating image. In documentary work, the way an image is formed is much more literal, and I have always considered composition the most essential quality.

— Robert LeBlanc

From CHANSU series, Robert LeBlanc, 2023

LW: How did chance play a role in the production of these artworks and how did it feel for you to turn over much of the result of your work to fate? 

RL: Chance was the driving force in the initial stage of artwork production. It’s impossible not to embrace chance when working with AI. I used vague and not specific prompts, which resulted in me knowing that what I could get from this machine was a complete gamble. By doing this, I had to let go of the controlling side of myself and embrace fate. I learned a lot about myself while creating this body of work, and patience and trust are essential elements of its development and end result.

LW: You worked with Transient Labs to put together this project, correct? What was their role in CHANSU? 

RL: Yes! They added layers of dynamic qualities to this series I couldn’t. Ultimately, the result is fantastic and embraces every element of this project. As I said earlier, patience was essential. Part of our dynamic process is watching four images dissolve into each other over a length of eighty minutes, it’s a slow and almost unnoticeable process that takes a lot of patience to experience, but if you look away for a few minutes and then turn back, it becomes a whole different piece. They did an incredible job of turning this project into a more dynamic and immersive experience.

LW: I love this idea of gradually dissolving images that recompose themselves over 80 minutes. Where did the idea come from and why experiment with the approach? 

RL: I wanted to create an experience for the viewers to see the pieces interact. I see these displayed on a large scale in an exhibition space where they morph over time, always giving the experience something new, ever-evolving, similar to our environment and how this technology is ever-evolving. I also wanted to play on the speed of the way the world is moving at such a drastic pace. In return, I tried to slow down time, making the viewers sit and digest the artwork at a slower and more deliberate pace.

From CHANSU series, Robert LeBlanc, 2023

LW: Looking back to some of your previous work, can you talk a little bit about how you got started as a photographer through skateboarding in LA? 

RL: I like to say skating saved my life. It was a way to expose me to so many different worlds, art, and music. Skating was the stepping point for me creatively and made me more curious about the world in general. I started taking photos when I was out skating with my friends at an early age, and to me, it was the perfect marriage and a means for me to not only experience the world around me but also document that world as well. Skaters have always had a unique view of their environment and are conscious of details most don’t see. 

LW: What’s next for you from here? What projects do you have brewing? 

RL: More experimentation and me trying to evolve my craft in inspiring ways. I’m currently working on a project that documents train trips through America in a surreal and almost gothic aesthetic. I’m excited to jump more into these body of works that blur the line between fiction and reality

Explore CHANSU on SuperRare Now.


Luke Whyte

Luke Whyte is SuperRare's Editorial Director.



Curators' Choice

In defense of web3: A weekend on mushrooms with a whale art collector

In defense of web3: A weekend on mushrooms with a whale art collector

Gabriel Santos at home.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine

In defense of web3: A weekend on mushrooms with a whale art collector

2 years ago

This article is part of a series

It’s Friday afternoon at Customs and Immigration in the Monterrey, Mexico airport. Metal fans atop prefab walls recirculate a mushy ball of hot breath as dozens of travelers line up to use a single pen. One by one, we’ll discover it’s empty.

I tell the immigration officer that I’m here on vacation, which is a lie, before walking with photographer Nain Leon to the private car that awaits us outside. The chauffeur, Carlos, puts an address in San Pedro Garza García – the richest municipality in all Latin America – into Waze and offers us a beer from a Rubbermaid cooler. I decline. I’m saving myself for the hallucinogens.

Leaving the airport with Carlos.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine

I’m in Mexico looking for answers.

For many, the cryptoart movement can be seen as a prototype: If blockchain can circumvent closed-door cronyism by decentralizing art markets, perhaps there’s a model here for undermining complexer forms of financial corruption. If NFTs can revolutionize art, could Bitcoin overthrow fiat?

Certainly, cryptoart has succeeded in undermining traditional art world gatekeepers. And now DAOs (including SuperRare) are pioneering new forms of community governance that, if all goes well, could lead the way for disruption of governance structures far broader in reach than tech platforms and investment funds.

And yet, for all the talk of decentralization, things still seem pretty centralized. As of last year, 80 percent of NFTs were owned by nine percent of collectors and 95 percent of Bitcoin was held by two percent of accounts. Amid major DAOs, as of July, less than one percent of members held 90% of voting power. 

Is Web3 really creating a more equitable world, or just another playground for the rich?

“You should talk to Gabe,” said Casey Coyle, SuperRare Labs’ Collector Programs Manager, when, with this question in mind, I expressed a desire to profile a “whale” art collector – a term used to describe individuals holding a large amount of crypto assets and artworks. “He lives in Mexico, and loves to talk about art.”

“And he eats a lot of mushrooms,” he added.

So here I am: staring out Carlos’ window at the exhaust fume-coated walls of this corruption-fraught industrial city. If Monterrey were an American Baby Boomer, it would love Ronald Reagan. Here, wealth follows geographic contours; rising through dense smog on the backs of slum-dwelling factory workers past white collars toiling in tall buildings to the streets of San Pedro Garza García, where Lululemon-adorned joggers suck air so fresh it borders on sweet. 

I’m reminded of Aspen or Vail – a place where the rich come to play – and I’m wishing I’d drank that beer.

View from our hotel in San Pedro Garza Garcia. Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine

San Pedro Garza Garcia” by AmateurArtGuy is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

The unbearable lightness of being rich

It’s 7PM before Nain and I have dropped our bags at the hotel and walked across the street to meet Gabriel Santos Elizondo, or Gabe, at an upscale Japanese restaurant. Clean shaven and fit in an Astros cap, large silver watch, and denim coat, Gabriel is dressed like a baseball fan who can afford box seats. He sits alone in the amber glow of the back patio and greets us with enthusiasm.

Wealth is on display all around us, and the cuisine is no exception. Gabriel orders for the table. He speaks with a passion for cryptoart while, at moments, pausing to admire our surroundings. He’ll point out the beauty of the interior design, or of the women.

It becomes clear that this restaurant, this table, these beautiful patrons: They’re no coincidence. Gabriel has curated this experience. I come to think he curates most experiences. I see a man cultivating an evolving aesthetic, like a photographer forever composing the frame of his mind’s eye. Our waiter brings a bottle of sparkling water and Gabriel requests another with a more minimalist label.

“Much better,” he says.

At lunch with Gabriel the following day. Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine

At lunch with Gabriel the following day. Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine

He has with him a small green box labeled with a serpent eating its tail. Inside is a block of psychedelic mushroom-infused chocolate. We all indulge.

Soon sweat pours. Laughter deepens. We discuss collecting art that speaks to Gabriel visually and viscerally, and how mushrooms can open up those connections. Lines of symmetry become apparent in our surroundings. I see beauty in the negative space. The color spectrum unfolds like a peacock. It bends in the low light.

Gabriel speaks of community-building, and his passion for the “rising tide lifts all ships” cryptoart ethos. Yet, he admits, beneath such warmth there is the hunger of a shrewd businessman – a snarl he fights to stifle, or perhaps to hide.

We eat more chocolates.

Mushroom-infused chocolates. Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

Mushroom-infused chocolates. Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

Gabriel pays the bill and we get in his Porsche Cayenne. It smells fantastic. Passing through San Pedro’s richest neighborhood, Colonia Del Valle, we arrive at a 25 acre private residence on the neighborhood’s edge where he and much of his family have long lived.

The gates open and we drive past fashionably-lit mansions beneath a lush canopy. Gabriel’s mother lives here. She too is an art collector, with the likes of Frida Kahlo having basked her walls.

Arriving at Garbriel’s home.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

Inside Gabriel’s grand mansion, we sit surrounded by large physical artworks, squinting at his cryptoart collection on a 13” Macbook.

Gabriel lays out his art collection strategy. He starts by building relationships and lending advice. If the artist seems like a fit, he’ll offer his guidance, connections, and economic might: tools that open doors at platforms like SuperRare and drive value in the market. In exchange, he wants art for his collection – a seat at the table – and, perhaps, a cut of the artist’s sales.

Hours later at the hotel, Nain and I will admit to both being too afraid to dry our hands with the bathroom’s disposable embroidered towels.

Exploring Gabriel’s cryptoart collection on Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

The awkward puberty of cryptoart

The arrival of whale collectors to the cryptoart scene represented a new phase, an all but unacknowledged evolution shrouded by the money that came with it.

In the early days of 2018, cryptoart was an outpost for outcasts. It was a space where hungry artists (particularly digital artists) who’d struggled to find recognition from the traditional art world saw hope, where technologists obsessed over the possibilities in digital asset ownership, and anarchists saw a prototype for undermining power structures through crypto. There was a focus on building community as much as on selling art. Crypto’s promise had found a proving ground: If web3 could render art world bureaucrats obsolete, could blockchain tackle bigger structures?

Then came the money.

Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

Speculators, whales and overpriced collectibles swarmed the space. Artists became millionaires. Few stopped to think that, besides JPEGs, what money bought was power. As whales’ motives came to shape markets, cryptoart risked recreating the very problem it had intended to eradicate.

Like police arresting a Mexican cartel boss, had cryptoart created a vacancy instead of a solution?

Today, the market is highly competitive. Often, young artists desperate to connect with high end collectors look for guidance or representation. They look for someone to put them on a collector’s (or a platform’s) radar – someone like a gallerist.

“I’m a businessman and I think of artists as business partners,” Gabriel told Nain and I. “Jake Fried, Mr. Misang, those are big fucking companies. Just being around watching, just being able to make suggestions, it is like I’m on the board of a Fortune 500 company and they are asking for my input. They’re that important to me. I’m strategic with my investments, but I’m investing in what I love.”

#10. Pantheon” by @mrmisang, collected by Gabriel Santos

How whales shaped San Pedro

In the morning, Gabriel, Nain and I dine at San Pedro Garza García’s prestigious and exclusive golf club. The fruit is incredibly fresh, but I can feel the well-dressed men at the table behind us staring at my mullet.

Gabriel’s grandfather, Alberto Santos Gonzalez, played a central role in founding this club, and all of San Pedro. And though Gabriel can be sparse on family history details (preferring to not dwell in the past), depending on who you ask, the businessmen of Alberto’s era were either essential to Monterrey’s 20th century growth or liable for all that went wrong. Most likely, neither opinion is entirely correct.

A descendant of the De la Garza Falcón family that helped colonize Northeastern Mexico, Alberto was 20 years old when, in 1921, he and two brothers parlayed inherited wealth into a pasta company they’d soon transform into Mexico’s largest cookie manufacturer, Gamesa.

Alberto Santos Gonzalez and his family. 

As Gamesa’s president, in the early 1940s Alberto was commissioned to find land for an exclusive golf club. According to an article by University of Nuevo Leon philosophy professor Lylia Palacios, Alberto recommended the (then) fertile farmers’ orchards of San Pedro Garza García and, soon after, began buying out farmers with his brothers’ assistance, accruing a thousand acres abutting the proposed golf course’s west.

“I had to make purchases stealthily in order not to arouse the greed of other potential buyers, and so potential sellers would not raise their prices,” Alberto said, according to a 2001 biography.

As golf club construction began, Palacios writes, the brothers pushed through government approval of a plan to convert their thousand acres into a “luxury community” named Colonia Del Valle, with the private acres where Gabriel now resides on its edge. The plan included a clause stating all surrounding properties should share Colonia Del Valle’s vocation because, “agricultural ranches would demerit the value of the community.”

Like whales in the cryptoart space, Monterrey’s elite transformed San Pedro Garza García into a playground for the rich. In fact, it’s now the wealthiest municipality in all of Latin America, with Colonia Del Valle’s luxury apartments and fashion boutiques at its center. The displaced migrated elsewhere, often to nearby neighborhoods, where families struggle to put $5 worth of gas into their cars.

Breakfast at San Pedro’s golf club.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.
SuperRare’s mission is to revolutionize the economics of human creativity by building a new art market that anyone can access. You too can have your artworks on display at the NY gallery by filling out this form.

Will the whales save us?

On Saturday evening, we order delivery food at Gabriel’s house – burgers and fries – and the conversation turns to the SuperRare DAO. 

On the day of its announcement last August, the SuperRare DAO released a token ($RARE) and proportionately distributed 15 percent of the 1 billion total supply to the crypto wallets of art collectors, artists, employees, investors, and partners. Token holders are empowered to shape the platform’s future in proportion to their personal token share. SuperRare marketplace royalties are now funneled into the DAO community treasury. Thus, if you own one percent of all $RARE tokens, you technically own one percent of the DAO’s value and one percent of the voting power on all proposals and initiatives.

Before dinner, I explain to Nain and Gabriel that SuperRare Labs is now working to decentralize SuperRare’s mechanisms for discovering and incentivizing new curatorial voices. This will enable token holders to empower and reward new artists and curators around the world. What I don’t say is that, for this to truly be revolutionary, it’s essential that we decentralize not just our voting mechanisms but the token itself. As of today, the lion’s share of $RARE is still held by whales, employees, and early investors. Can we trust them to make decisions based on anything but personal interests?1

Gabriel tells me he’s accruing as much $RARE as he can. He believes in the platform’s mission, and wants a large stake in its future. Recently, the DAO voted to approve his application for a SuperRare Space, giving him a gallery of his own within SuperRare, and the royalties from associated sales.

The food arrives. It’s unpackaged by housekeepers in another part of the house and brought to us on a tray with a lid.

On Sunday morning, I take the Greyhound bus back to the US. In the months ahead, I’ll talk to multiple artists who – save one who felt taken advantage of – say Gabriel has propelled their careers. Sure, he’s at least somewhat driven by profit, but what’s wrong with caring about profit? Isn’t that what brought cryptoart success in the first place?

I’m reminded of an expression in Mexico: La mordida, which translates literally to “the bite” but is better understood as “the bribe.” You could argue that Mexico has two tax systems: the state sanctioned list of standard impositions, and a cancerous form of bribery and extortion known as la mordida.

The state’s system is near anemic. Both the richest and the poorest slip through its enfeebled grip. La mordida, contrarily, is near omnipotent. From the policeman turning a blind eye to the scent of whiskey (or the sight of cocaine kilos) at a DUI checkpoint, to the campaign donor’s nephew winning a government construction contract, it marbles effortlessly through the economy like a fiscal leukemia gorging on red-blooded corruption.

La mordida isn’t just a Mexican problem. It extends to any industry, community, or local plagued by corruption of power. Blockchain, if used in good faith, could be a tool for weakening it. It could function as an equalizer, a means of establishing transparency. But getting there will require powerful allies, allies whose best interest could run counter to the values crypto espouses. Web3 is nothing more than a new set of tools, dependent entirely on the hands that wield it.

Artist Harry Pack of London has worked closely with Gabriel.
Photo by Nain Leon for SuperRare Magazine.

Last week, I sat in on an interview with AI artist Pindar Van Arman. Asked if cryptoart was a revolution, Van Arman replied, “a revolution? No. I think the future will most likely see the merging of the traditional and crypto art worlds into one. With this, we’ll inherit some of the bad from their systems and, hopefully, they’ll be forced to adopt some of the good from ours.”

Perhaps crypto is not a panacea, but a step in the right direction. Or, conversely, just another hypothesis to cross off the list. Either way, if you look past where mainstream rage wrote “ponzi scheme” in all-caps on the door, you’ll find a world of defiant artists and technologists with exciting ideas, whose lives have been changed for the better, and believe yours could be too.


Luke Whyte

Luke Whyte is SuperRare's Editorial Director.



Curators' Choice

¡Se compraaan colchooones! NFTs bring provenance to an iconic Mexican soundbite

¡Se compraaan colchooones! NFTs bring provenance to an iconic Mexican soundbite

Juan, a collector of old furniture and appliances using the famous Fierro Viejo recording, at work in Ecatepec, Mexico. (Photo by Nain Leon, SuperRare Magazine)

¡Se compraaan colchooones! NFTs bring provenance to an iconic Mexican soundbite

2 years ago

This week, a famous 20 second long audio clip, stolen and utilized by thousands to make money over two decades, returns to its rightful owners via the Ethereum blockchain.

Maria Del Mar Terrón Martínez was nine when her father, Marco Antonio Terron, approached her with a cassette player.

“Oye,” he said, “give me a hand, we’re going to make a recording.”

It was 2005. At the time, Marco earned his living towing a cart through the streets of Mexico City, shouting requests for scrap metal and discarded appliances into alleys and open windows, seeking residents looking to unload used microwaves or mattresses.

Maria (right) and her father, Marco (Photo by Nain Leon, SuperRare Magazine)

In the evenings, he would return to their small, cement-block home in Ecatepec, a municipality of over two-million residents just north of Mexico City. Plagued with poverty and scarce on water, Ecatepec is one of the most dangerous places in the country, with over a thousand femicides recorded in the last decade alone.

Shouting all day was taking its toll, but Marco had a plan. One night, after waiting until the street vendors quieted and the stray dogs calmed, he asked Maria to repeat the words he chanted all day into the recorder’s microphone. Breaking the night’s silence, she created the now iconic recording known to all Mexico City residents:

“Se compran … colchones … tambores … refrigeradores … estufas … lavadoras … microondas … o algo de fierro viejo que vendan!”

Fierro Viejo recording at work. Clips by: Guillermo Olmedo and Fortu & Mendoza

Other scrap collectors took note. Copies were burned, over and over, until the recording known commonly as the “Fierro Viejo ” had been duplicated thousands of times. Today, Maria’s voice is heard daily, blasting from megaphones attached to pickup trucks across Mexico City, as emblematic of the culture as tacos al pastor or vendors on the Metro. 

Despite the pervasiveness of the now registered copyright (not to mention its use in movies and albums), Maria and her father have received next to nothing for their intellectual property. Like artwork released on Instagram, the recording replicated through a network beyond their control, and as with art, it is NFTs that could return ownership to the creators.

Minting Maria

Gus Grillasca is an anarchist and Bitcoin maximalist born and raised in Mexico City. He speaks globally at blockchain conferences and records podcasts about digital property. On any given Friday, he can be found debating Bitcoin’s merits in local taquerias, clasping a beer with fingerless gloves. Trained as a chemical engineer, in 2017, Gus turned his attention to cryptocurrency’s potential to revolutionize finance and undermine ruling classes. He now occupies an office filled with books on economics, political philosophy, and Rare Pepes. Portraits on the wall can be scanned through his app to view their associated NFTs.

“There’s this girl in Mexico City named Raquel,” he said. “She came up with this very entertaining idea of doing an NFT for the original creators of the [Fierro Viejo].”

Raquel, an American expat, reached out to Maria to propose the project, then invited artists to participate. “She called me in December,” Gus said, “ offering me the main commission for the art.”

Gus, a SuperRare artist, saw an opportunity to communicate a message.

“For me, immediately, it became a challenge to show people how, through NFT fundraising, you can do way better than going through the traditional channels, through the traditional Mexican copyright mechanisms,” he explained.

This was a chance to make a statement, a declaration of the independence attainable through blockchain.

“The exciting part for me is to show someone like [Maria and her father] that, despite being completely non-technical, they can monetize any idea they have immediately with crypto,” he said. “This is an exercise, a way to show other people how they can potentially monetize without the intervention of lawyers and regulation.”

The artwork Gus created, to be minted through SuperRare this May, depicts Maria and Marco, driving a rusty flying pickup truck (think: Jetsons-era Kieth Urban video) filled with old appliances and mattresses, floating through a nondescript cityscape with a futuristic rendition of Fierro Viejo blasting through a megaphone. The sale proceeds will be split between the creators, with a percentage flowing into the hands of Gus, and the lion’s share to Maria and Marco.

Gus thinks crypto can bring forth a more equitable society, and that such ideas might first take root in countries like Mexico, where citizens might have less faith in existing power structures than nations like the US.

“Artists in Mexico are very aware of the value proposition of NFTs and crypto,” he noted. “My feeling is that most of the people hating on NFTs, and cryptocurrency, in general, are Western privileged people that don’t really understand the value proposition of sobering money. But in Mexico it is pretty clear.”

Gus admitted that crypto might have a difficult adolescence, but he expressed confidence in its long-term prospects.

“With Bitcoin, we have for the first time this sobering money that is very hard to confiscate,” he said. “For me, that’s a game changer. Like people fleeing from Ukraine today is not the same as Nazi Germany decades ago, because they can move all their wealth in a pen drive, or even memorize their seed phrase. I think that’s a game changer because it limits the capacity of a group in power to just confiscate the wealth of everyone else.”

Although many people believe that the crypto markets are chaotic, Gus contends that it’s our current traditional financial systems that are truly unhinged. “Most people think that we live under some international law system that keeps them safe from tyranny,” he told me. “Whereas, we believe it’s the complete opposite: We live in absolute anarchy, but most people live [under the illusion of] safety because they think there’s a privileged class that is looking after them.”

Speaking with Gus, I’m reminded of a 2018 quote by journalist Chris Hedges regarding the difference between American Democrats and Republicans: “There’s a difference [between them],” Hedges observed. “It’s how you want corporate fascism delivered to you. Do you want it delivered by a Princeton-educated, Goldman Sachs criminal or do you want it delivered by a racist, nativist, Christian fascist?”

“[Those in power] can steal, they can kidnap, they can lie,” he said. “And that’s ok because those are the ruling class. And I think it is pretty clear that if you frame it like this, it’s pretty obvious that there is something wrong.”

From Left to Right: Marco, Gus, and Maria (Photo by Nain Leon, SuperRare Magazine)

For Maria, minting the Fierro Viejo NFT comes with less idealistic goals. It provides a way to give back to her family for creating something that’s empowered her impoverished community for almost two decades. “I know where I come from and I know who I am and I know where I’m going,” she expounded, standing in her home with Gus and I, holding two of her children while a third peeks naked from his bedroom door. “Of course, I am very Mexican. And that I’ve been able to help many people who are now using the recording to support their families, I like that very much.”

She credited their lawyer, a family friend, for encouraging them to pursue this NFT project. “She was the one who told us, ‘Hey, you know what? This is a fantastic thing. This project is going to work.’ We still have a lot to learn [about crypto] but, as long as it is for a good use, here we are with Gus.”

We all laugh. “They already have their crypto wallets,” Gus added. “They’re already Bitcoiners.”


Luke Whyte

Luke Whyte is SuperRare's Editorial Director.



Curators' Choice

Fear & Minting in Tulum: A Music Industry Revolution or Just Another Party?

Fear & Minting in Tulum: A Music Industry Revolution or Just Another Party?

Above: Tale of Us

Fear & Minting in Tulum: A Music Industry Revolution or Just Another Party?

2 years ago

Zero hours and zero minutes

I’m waiting in line to board a flight at Gate C6 of Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport behind a man whose God-given right to epidermic liberty refuses to be restrained beneath his double XL t-shirt. With his lower back hair tufting out like a plumber’s merkin, he personifies this journey (this American right of passage) from Texas to Cancun.

In fact, this whole flight is a parody of itself. It always is. A primary American export: One (1) fuselage of swollen stomachs, breasts and biceps packaged in Tommy Bahama and tribal tattoos that will try to order a margarita before take-off and get shipped back reddened and queasy 3-6 days later.

I don’t plan on stopping in Cancun, but instead renting a car and driving to its successor: Tulum. A strange, boutique replica of the same decadence, Tulum can be thought of as the affluent Millenial’s Cancun – less “20 shots of tequila” and more “five bottles of orange wine.” Located in the Riviera Maya of Mexico’s southeast coast, it’s a tantalizing combination of private luxury nested in tropical vegetation with back balconies opening to Instagrammable beaches. I’d driven through the town at least four times before I first stopped last February. We pulled into a local convenience store at around 9PM and, inside, I watched a muscle tee-adorned man with a Southern California accent shout the word “toothpaste” over and over at a confused and slightly frightened attendant.

Today, I’m returning to report on what I’ve been told could be the seeds of a music industry revolution: Equitably distributed royalties, fan ownership, and creator empowerment, all achieved without having to ask Sony or Warner Bros. for permission. At the center of this insurgence are two Italian men: Matteo Milleri, one half of the renowned Italian techno music project Tale Of Us, and Alessio De Vecchi, celebrated 3D artist and Chief Curator of the NFT platform SuperRare. Their vision, Anyma, could become the first large scale music industry use case for blockchain and NFTs: one that doesn’t discard existing tools like Spotify, but manipulates them to build fan-owned enterprises and cut out parasitical middlemen.

Matteo Milleri, left, and Alessio De Vecchi, right (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

It’s Monday at 7:30PM when we touch down. A tropical storm thunders against the tarmac and my stomach churns. I’ve got 46 hours to locate Matteo and Alessio for an interview at a former Pablo Escobar mansion turned luxury hotel on Tulum’s costal jungle, attend Afterlife, a nine hour live performance by Tale Of Us (2AM-11AM) culminating in the display and sale of one of Alessio’s NFTs on a 100ft tall screen at sunrise, and then drive sleepless back to Cancun in time for my return flight.

Afterlife is one of 11 Tale Of Us shows over 12 months at which one of Alessio’s NFT artworks will be released as a capital raise for Anyma. As a venue, Tulum holds no special value to the project, but as a cautionary tale to the NFT community, I’d posit it’s packed with lessons.

Unless you spent the last 12 months ducking COVID on the Appalachian Trail, you’ve probably noticed the NFT space had a hell of a year – a wild year, a profitable year, arguably a terrifying year. Though JPEGs have been on the blockchain since 2016, it wasn’t until early 2021 that people started putting enough faith in their future to add six zeros to their price tags.

Ask any enthusiast what makes NFTs special and they’ll say, “the community.” And there is something unique there. Blockchain networks allow for peer-to-peer connections – direct artist to collector relationships – and have enabled a sort of anarcho-capitalist system of investment and support without the need for galleries, record labels, or other hierarchies.

In the early days, it seemed the community’s most successful members were those that invested back into other members’ projects. And yet, by last summer, prices had risen to a point that most promising NFT projects were accessible only to the super affluent. “Investing back into the community” was starting to look like “investing back in anyone else positioned to risk $20,000 on a volatile token.” By December, the wealthiest investors were plastering animated GIFs on Times Square billboards like boys with a ruler in a middle school bathroom stall, while the day trading class met at private parties in Miami nightclubs to dance around bikini-clad models holding cardboard cutouts of cartoon “Bored Apes.”(( Google “Bored Ape Yacht Club” and we’ll see you back here in an hour.)) For all the promises of revolution, you had to wonder if this was much different from the systems that came before it.

And you can’t be faulted for worrying that NFTs are no more than a multi-level marketing scheme. Sure, maybe you can see the value in the fine art digital assets that have been purchased for thousands of dollars, but what about the 8-bit pixelated profile pics now selling for millions at Christies?

Some will insist you put faith in the future of the “metaverse” – the foretold augmented hyperreality that Mark Zuckerberg so lustfully aims to make his own. But when? In five years? 50? And do we really want to live in a Minecraft server anyway? Isn’t this all just some virtual Tower of Babel built by tech bros, Wall Street sharks, and art speculators, climbing to the moon on faith and hubris alone?

Well, maybe. Or maybe these are just growing pains.

One thing that is clear is that if NFTs are going to avoid going the way of Dutch tulips in the 1630s or Beanie Babies in the 1990s, this year needs to see projects that create measurable value for more than a handful of speculators.

Anyma could be one of those projects.

The view from our balcony, the weekend’s noble steed (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Two hours and fifteen minutes

After some pleading and price gouging, photographers Nathan Beer, Kenzie McMillan, and I clamber into a rented Mini Cooper and head south. It seems every tourist is following suit, abandoning Cancun for Tulum. 

Long past are Cancun’s ‘90s heydays, when MTV would pipe footage of dancing swimsuit-clad coeds from its beaches to the living room of every 13-year-old boy watching “The Grind” with the lights out and his hands under a blanket. Today, the city’s reputation has sunk from sexy to saturated. Discarded by tourism’s elite, what remains is a sometimes dangerous, often depressing, culture of Vegas-style hedonistic consumerism.

Tulum, on the other hand, until recently was no more than a village with a beach. When the fashion photographers and boutique hotels began arriving in the mid-2000s, there was promise of something different than Cancun: a loving destination for beautiful, barefoot people wishing to embrace the spirituality of the local Mayan community. But demand and money came too fast. In the words of Reeves Wiedeman, “in barely more than a decade, Tulum transformed from a backpacker’s beach into the next stop after Ibiza on the global DJ party circuit.” “Eco-friendly” hotel rooms with diesel generator-powered air conditioners now rent at rates comparable to Paris or New York. Tulum has become a foreign-owned playground for the rich, less a loving community and more something to be consumed and discarded as soon as the next unspoiled paradise is discovered.

There is a parallel between what is happening in Tulum and in the NFT space. The wealthy and the stylish have turned a struggling space into a flourishing one. And yet, with unfettered growth came an unfettered greed at high risk of destroying the thing it loved.

Arriving at midnight, we sit around with local friends Jesus and Rosalinda discussing the increase in kidnappings and gun violence. Our neighbor shouts from the balcony: can anyone sell him some weed?

“What’s your number, we’ll start a Whatsapp group” (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Twenty one hours and forty minutes

We’re late. We were supposed to meet with Matteo and Alessio almost an hour ago but the Mini Cooper is stuck behind an infinite line of taxis on a long dirt road canopied by arching papaya and palm trees. 

This is Tulum’s five mile beach strip where the fantasy unfolds. Stylish couples with good skin and filled lips flaunt ribbed stomachs and booty shelves, meandering from foreign-owned boutiques selling 20 manifestations of the same Aztec print sundress to soft lit open air bars where a mixologist with a man bun will make you a mezcal cocktail afront a neon sign suggesting you do something cliche/platitudinous like “Follow Your Dreams.”

There is a name for this aesthetic, but I can’t place it. “Boho-chic?” Kenzie suggests. I don’t know. All I’m sure of is we’ve been stuck beside the same vape pen vending machine out front a pharmacy advertising anabolic steroids and Viagra for the last 30 minutes, and Alessio keeps texting me to hurry.

Eventually we reach the less trafficked end of the road populated by the most opulent hotels. A sand path walled by candlelit railroad ties leads us to the villa Matteo has rented with his Italian wife, model Vittoria Ceretti.

“Nice to meet you,” Matteo says, barefoot, at ease, as we shuffle across a plush carpet to a wraparound couch pointing into the jungle canopy through an open, wall-to-wall window. There is tranquility. Tropical birds whistle. We sit.

Luke, left, and Matteo, right, discuss Blockchain’s great promises (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Born in New York, Matteo moved to Italy at a young age where he met Carmine Conte, the other half of Tale Of Us. In 2011, they released their first EP and – led in part by their immersive live shows – have since become a powerful force in the techno music touring circuit with a loyal fanbase.

This afternoon he’s dressed in a well-fit, white t-shirt and shorts, slender in shape and tattooed from palm to foot. He crosses his legs tightly, leans back, and takes time to articulate his words, not expecting to be interrupted.

I ask him about the roots of the Anyma project.

“The influence of art, and especially digital art, was always very strong in my music and in my performances,” he says. “So I said, ‘Ok, I’ll create my own environment. I’ll procure the communication. I’ll create the production. I’ll curate where it starts and where it ends. [I’ll create] the mood…’ So the people go into it like they go into the theaters. They are transported on a journey. So that was the beginning. And to do this I needed real art. Because the music wasn’t enough.”

By “real art” he means Alessio, who he invited to his home in Ibiza last summer.

Alessio is tall, animated, and opinionated about most everything, yet vulnerable in that way the most creative among us can be. Much of his work involves these beautiful, surreal worlds that fantastical characters interact with in ways that speak to the human condition. In 2020 he was accepted to SuperRare where he began minting his NFTs. Soon the platform offered him a job as Chief Curator and he was selling pieces for upwards of $100,000.

“The Pact” by Alessio De Vecchi

“In my opinion,” Alessio says, “the problem we have with NFTs is that there’s no bridging between our scene and reality. Our scene is a fucking bubble. So Mateo said, ‘Okay, I play in front of 20,000 people every two weeks. We can start implementing these fucking visuals and people will start to get it,’ like, ‘Oh, this is an NFT. So somebody owns it, right?”

As mentioned, 11 of Alessio’s artworks will become visuals in 11 Tale Of Us shows. 10 of them will then be sold for 50ETH (around $160,000 at time of the event) in order to finance development of the central component of Anyma: a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO.

If you’re not scrolling crypto Twitter every day, you might never have heard of DAOs, but it’s worth paying attention. They could quickly rise to prominence in 2022.

If a blockchain is like an accounting ledger that uses code instead of accountants to track transactions, a DAO is like a corporation that uses code instead of officers and employees to manage shareholders’ investments. Similar to how corporations are organized around rules carried out by employees and bylaws, DAOs are organized around rules executed by code. They’re built atop blockchains, which they use to confirm their transactions. Instead of distributing shares that dictate investor ownership and voting rights, DAOs distribute tokens toward the same end. Thus, if a DAO issues one billion tokens and you hold 500 million of them, you control half of the DAO. Inevitably, tokens find their way into free exchanges where they find market value and disseminate to regular investors.

In the last couple years we’ve seen DAOs form for an increasing number of use cases. Some serve a strict investment purpose, like an index or hedge fund. The NFT world has seen a huge spike in art collection DAOs. Another intriguing use case is governance: Similar to a corporation, a DAO can be used to organize a network or business, allocating voting power through tokens and, hopefully, eradicating traditional hierarchies and corruption.

Anyma will deploy a DAO through which all the artists’ royalties will flow. “The music royalties will get distributed to the token holders,” Alessio says. Initially, a high number of tokens will be dispersed among the artists and the 10 NFT investors. Longer term, mechanisms will be devised to get tokens into the hands of all members of their community: fans, stagehands, opening acts.

Without those behind the scenes, there would be no scene (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

“We are starting with this niche collection for high-end collectors, to raise, let’s say, the funds to create the organization and empower the creators, which, for me, means getting out of deals with major labels,” Matteo says. “So no more advances to produce, no more advances to get out of publishing deals, get out of all these management deals where they find you a brand; all the shit you need to do to raise money, to do cool shit.”

The 11th NFT from their 11th show will be transferred to the Anyma DAO vault: the first asset to be owned by the community, like a Rembrandt held by a trust. Then as the DAO matures, Matteo intends to put tokens into the hands of his fanbase. “That is going to be the way to empower the people that usually we’re just asking for money,” he says. “Because for 10 years, I’ve been asking my fans for money. Soon I’ll get to give back.”

At such a point, if you are a fan and Anyma token holder, just by attending a show or playing a Tale Of Us track on Spotify, you’ll be boosting your personal bottom line.

“I’m giving back everything I make from the music to the community,” Matteo said. “I’m not making any money with the music anymore. But, of course, I’m also holding the token. So I’m like them: All the music is all to the community and we all have proportionate amounts of token based on how much we invest in it.”

Victoria taps Matteo on the shoulder. We should leave so they can nap. The Afterlife festival starts in eight hours.

The beautiful chaos awaiting us (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Thirty-one hours and forty-five minutes

By 3AM, the Mini Cooper is parked and we’re walking through the gates into Afterlife. The bass beats its chest through the ground. Earlier Matteo had said he envisions a world in which technology has advanced to a point where every facet of his shows become part of a living art experience, a transhuman journey through a hyperreality. Given what’s available today, he’s had a pretty good stab at it tonight.

Walking through the angular wooden tunnel beyond the opening gates, blue and green lights splinter through tropical vegetation, a wormhole into Afterlife. A sea of DayGlo-splashed and flower-crowned influencers dance and skip through. Cowboy hats and bunny ears, shaved chests and bone necklaces. Flowing dresses, fishnets, and painted ass cheeks. Dilated pupils.

“You need ecstasy? Coke? Weed?” I’d bet MDMA plays a role in how they’re touching each other in that ankle-deep wading pool.

There must be tens of thousands of people. I feel outside of it all, an observer scribbling into a notepad I ripped in half to fit in my pocket like a court stenographer who lost his grip to meth. Our wristbands are the premium shit, not just backstage but onstage, and the more security checkpoints we pass through, the skinnier the women seem to get.

Up on stage the view is wild. The lightshow and 100ft visuals transform the night. Not arbitrary colors but calculated moods crashing across and filling the crowd. I feel as if stranded on a tiny tropical moon circling Jupiter with 20,000 lustful millennials – all possible investors in Anyma’s future.

And, oh boy, what beautiful chaos it was (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

The hours melt. The mood ebbs and flows. And then the sun rises. On a 100ft tall circular screen behind the stage adorned in a giant frame of lush vegetation, Alessio’s artwork appears. It’s titled “The Pact” and features a human and robotic hand dancing and rotating around one another without touching, like teasing lovers. Suddenly, the index fingers connect and a deep golden ring ripples from the artwork’s center. The canvas fills with light.

Sometimes, I get the sense that people come to festivals like this to tap into something primal, to lose themselves in a sea of bodies, sweating, dancing, bonding. For a moment in time there is empathy among strangers, there is understanding, there is, it seems, community.

Two days later, “The Pact” will sell for $159,770 to someone named @zalaxyhot4269 on SuperRare.

Tale of Us doing what they do best, and with quite a view (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Forty-one hours and ten minutes

It’s noon and we’re barreling in the Mini Cooper back toward the Cancun airport. Kenzie’s asleep in the back. Nathan’s reviewing footage and I’ve got time to think. If last year was the year of the NFT, there’s no reason 2022 couldn’t be the year of the DAO. Anyma is just one of many promising DAOs germinating in the NFT space, and the optimist in me wants to believe their utility and accessibility might not only save digital art from a devastating market correction but could, one day, become a tool in ushering forward a more equitable era of human governance and cooperation. The pessimist in me, however, is thinking about the parallels between this region and the NFT space, about the devastating impacts of unchecked growth and greed – consuming communities and rotting value like human melanoma. With this in mind, I can’t stop reliving the memory of our first night in Tulum:

Hungry and restless at around 1AM, Jesus, Nathan and I had driven to a taco stand selling tripas, a cow’s small intestines, arrachera, a boneless portion of steak cut from a cow’s diaphragm muscle, and al pastor, pig meat marinated in spices and spit-grilled. We order and wait. A sweet beige and white collie-mix street dog coils up on the ground, softly licking a wound on her foot.

“Table for two!” (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)

Suddenly, a furious taxi driver parked in front of the stand starts his van, matts the accelerator, and drives right over the street dog. If he didn’t know he hit her when the front tire rolled over, he certainly knew when the rear one did.

The dog yelps out in pain and horror. It flips and writhes on the ground. The taxi disappears. The dog’s intestines have been crushed. Nathan pets her head as a circle forms around her. She gasps. Jesus doesn’t stand up but all the gringos are frantic. We are distraught. We are beside ourselves. The dog dies right in front of us. 

One of the cooks pulls a trash bag from his truck, puts the body inside and carries it to a public trash can. For a moment there is silence amid the mourners, there is a sense that something is wrong here, that something should be done. Then, one by one, as our tacos get served, we pop over to sink our teeth into the meat.

RIP bud, we hardly knew ya (SuperRare/Nathan Beer)


Luke Whyte

Luke Whyte is SuperRare's Editorial Director.



Curators' Choice