PIONEER ART IN DIGITAL MEDIA
Founded in 2015, Daata is a digital art incubator that curates, commissions, exhibits and sells original digital artwork from emerging and established international artists. A pioneer of art in digital media, the platform has commissioned over 400 artworks from over 100 artists to date and has collaborated with galleries, museums, collections, art fairs, festivals, and other organizations such as NASA, Kiasma, MOCAD, Art Basel, Phillips, Hauser & Wirth and kurimanzutto among many others. With an interest in supporting artists making artwork that bridges physical and digital media, Daata’s projects are often multi-dimensional, ranging from image and video NFTs to installations and physical objects.
designboom spoke with founder David Gryn and web3 strategist and CTO Josh Hardy to learn more about Daata’s mission, his point of view on AI tools and how digital media they are disrupting the art world. ‘My role has been to work with artists who work with technologies like artists who work with paint tubes.’ Gryn points out during our interview. ‘The best artists always get the best of technologies. It doesn’t make you a good artist because you have the best tools in your hand. That’s always been the mythology, that the tool will actually make you a good artist. He has never done that to anyone. Read the conversation in its entirety below.
still from Damien Roach, SEED TWO (ii), 2022 | AI generated video with sound, NFT | courtesy of the artist and Daata
INTERVIEW WITH DAATA’S David Gryn AND Josh Hardy
designboom (DB): Can you introduce us to Daata’s mission? Do you collaborate with artists directly or through other galleries? How do you select who to work with?
David Gryn (DG): Data It started as a commissioning platform for artists working with digital media, ostensibly video and sound works, mp4, mp3. Our mojo has always been, even to this day, how do we empower and support artists working with certain technologies? We started with the startup, paying artists a fee to do their work, making sure they were paid a royalty on sales, and looking for ways to market it to the market with results beyond the website, like doing physical events. I have experience in curating, facilitating projects at fairs like Art Basel and encouraging galleries and artists to show their digital work when they wouldn’t normally take it to an art fair. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and we launched as Daata effectively nine years ago. In the time I’ve been doing this, we’ve commissioned about a hundred artists, we have many galleries that we work with, and we often collaborate with museums and art fairs.
I always hoped that there would be a bigger market and that there would be more than a couple of platforms that were doing what I did and what we have done. Now we have this tsunami of platforms and it puts us in a very interesting place. This possibility creates almost a lot of excitement compared to before, when we were trying to get people excited just for one person to watch a video. Expectations have changed, everything has changed in the last two years and we even had to recalibrate. We weren’t a tech platform when we launched, we were a website built by partners very close to us who had the technical skills to build a website where we could show videos, but we weren’t tech savvy. Josh (Hardy) joined us, took over the website and has built our skills to do projects with NFTs, augmented reality and all the things we realized we had to make sure we could do before we could breathe. . Everyone was reaching out to us to work with them, but we still didn’t feel like we were in the perfect place just because we had artwork and content from artists. We didn’t want to just say yes to everyone to help their business model. We probably should have said a few yeses, rather than noes, but it was the way we felt like we could believe in what we were doing and trust the process, not just for ourselves, but for the artists we represent and work with.
DB: Although some platforms, like yours, have been around for a few years now, this moment feels really fresh and exciting for digital art. As if somehow things were really starting now.
Managing Director: It’s one of those moments where you just know to take a deep breath, recalibrate, and not be afraid. Change often scares people, but I think nurturing an artist is always about nurturing something that will change all the time, because that’s what artists do. We have to be a platform that can support that, but also breathe with it and be able to change together with the artists we work with. But they also want to know that we will be a strong platform and protector for them as well. So it’s about how we move forward together, while new artists appear. We’re currently talking to artists who are literally in their early twenties who do brilliant work and we’re acknowledging that. They are attuned to technologies that someone possibly in their thirties, forties, or fifties might not have.
We’re seeing something very new and exciting, things like AI and VR just didn’t exist. Those who have grown up with these really have a different understanding. It’s a bit like going to Western City or going to see pottery somewhere like Tokyo or Kyoto. You realize there’s a different take on that stuff because it’s coming from a place that believes and trusts that stuff in a very different way than how we’ve been brought up. In a way, that clock has gone so fast with digital, whereas it took maybe thousands of years with ceramic.
still from Damien Roach, SEED TWO (ii), 2022, courtesy the artist and Daata
DB: Are you exclusively interested in the digital realm or are there physical extensions to what you’re doing?
Josh Hardy (JH): Actually ‘Seed’, the project that we just launched with Damien Roach has a physical component. It consists primarily of NFTs, which are videos generated from an AI model that he trained on 19th-century Dutch flower paintings.
Managing Director: He is a musician, so he also came up with a soundtrack with the sound of an orchestra. The first buyer of the longest video-based job gets a skateboard, and then there are an additional 55 NFTs that are shorter and come with a fragrance! We also have a limited edition of 55 non-NFT related t-shirts, all different. Merchandise is integrated into some of the things we do with artists because it adds a kind of repertoire and dialogue around the work. It’s not the logic of just merchandising, it’s more the feel of the NFT world and the idea of being able to own things. Not only for those who can afford the most expensive things, but also to allow for other types of property. It’s not really lucrative, but it’s part of the narrative. In fact, most of the artists we work with get very excited about merchandising. I think they look at the world of pop and think it’s the same thing. It’s not, there are such huge audiences with the pop world. Even at the top end of the art world, you don’t have that level of interest. You don’t have millions and millions of followers of any particular art form, people might know that, but I can’t see an equation. Perhaps with the world of music when it is at its highest level.
JH: I just think things get disrupted by technology. All industries are disrupted and in a way I think it’s the art world’s reckoning with the internet and technology. It didn’t work before, but solving the problem of ownership of digital files meant that you could distribute art and when you can have that scale of distribution then naturally you start thinking, well, if we can distribute to a lot more people we can bring the price down. So vertical thinking about the art world, where some people sit here and then everyone else just walks into a gallery and pays to see some stuff on the wall, is suddenly flipped on its head. It is much broader and everyone can get involved and participate. Maybe not so elitist.