The NFT art platform Art Blocks shot to prominence during the 2021 bull run, with individual pieces of the generative art created on the platform selling for millions of dollars.
But Art Blocks founder Erick Calderon, aka Snowfro, said on Decrypt’s gm podcast that the platform’s rapid growth “felt unreasonable" and "unsustainable.”
He added that the recent crypto crash has resulted in “calmer” conditions that “make it much easier for me to have rational conversations with human beings about art.”
“From a mental health perspective it wasn't healthy for Art Blocks as a team, and it wasn't healthy for Art Blocks artists either,” Calderon said of the platform’s meteoric rise in September and October 2021. “Yeah, they were about to make a bunch of money on a drop, but that actually is not always healthy, especially when you question the actual value of the work.”
In recent weeks, despite the bear market, Calderon said that “Art Blocks has kind of started to have another resurgence.”
That, in turn, has seen speculation rear its head again. “In my travels, and having conversations with people in the contemporary art world to bring value to Art Blocks outside of our little echo chamber, the conversation shifts again to the speculation,” he told Decrypt.
Calderon was quick to clarify that, “We don’t have a problem with speculation,” but said, “We want to make it clear that that’s not why we’re here. We're happy when you make a bunch of money, and we’re gutted when you lose a bunch of money—but those things are actually extraneous to what our purpose is, which is to just host amazing art by amazing artists in this new way.”
The bear market doesn’t appear to have dented Art Blocks’ ambitions; Calderon told Decrypt that the platform is hiring, “We want Art Blocks to grow, and we realize that time is of the essence,” he said, adding that the platform has recently brought on an artistic director.
“We’ve seen incredible artists appear on Art Blocks; some of them have traditional art backgrounds, but a lot of them are computer scientists that realize they have a creative side to them,” Calderon said.
The new artistic director will help these neophyte artists develop their careers, he explained. “We have to help educate artists on how to handle their career, to get critiques, to get feedback to help them through not just their art project, but their artistic career.”
Calderon also plans to grow Art Blocks’ engineering team.
“We’re very cognizant of how lucky we are to potentially be in hiring mode,” he said, suggesting that companies that hired during the bull market may have overstretched themselves. “You actually don't have the luxury of sitting back during a bull market and saying, ‘We're not hiring until the next bear market because people are being unreasonable with their salary expectations.’ Because then you're left behind.”
Having witnessed economic cycles before, Calderon explained that during bull markets, “incredibly talented people get hired for incredible amounts of money that become unsustainable during those downtimes.” That, in turn, means that during a downturn, “you're looking at potentially having to let go of ten people, because you want to keep this one superstar, because you pay them too much. You start to question, okay, well, maybe I can't afford to pay that person that much, because these other people are actually making a normal living.”
Fortunately, he said, that’s not a concern for Art Blocks, which is “thriving” in the current economy. “We're excited, we're lucky and we feel very privileged to be in the position that we're in.”