ROBNESS CYBERPOP - THE ORIGINAL OG CRYPTO ARTIST

Confessions of a Crypto Art Collector

I love my job. As a crypto writer I get to hang out with artists and writers all day. I'm living the dream. Especially when I get to meet one of the first crypto artists on the planet. Ask any artist in the NFT community the first crypto artist they ever heard of. Nine out of 10 will say Robness Cyberpop.

Before NFTs were minted on the Ethereum blockchain, Robness was part of a crypto community making memes on a very early open source project called Rare Pepes on the peer to peer CounterParty platform, utilizing the Bitcoin blockchain. This allowed users to create and issue their own tokens. In September 2016, the first User/Artist trading cards were issued. This was arguably when the global underground crypto art movement was born.

Eight months before the Ethereum world took the idea and created CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties, the early Pepes were created. They started as a joke and were purposely horrible. Robness designed a number of Rare Pepe cards in Series 1 to 3 including NEON PEPE and is the proud owner of a limited edition analogue book (The Rarest Book published by Eleonora Brizi, a physical kind of NFT Bible) cataloguing all 1774 digital Rare Pepe cards created across 36 series. Many Counterparty wallets have been lost over the years reducing the circulation of cards making them rarer. Yesterday, 5 years after it was created, the first Rare Pepe Nakamoto Card sold for 147 ETH ($502,97054).

BANNED ARTIST

Fast forward to 2019 and the SuperRare digital art platform. Frustrated by platforms favoring whale collectors rather than supporting artists, Robness created a piece to push the boundaries of the crypto art establishment, a trash can GIF, 64 GALLON TOTER.

Utilizing a photo from the Home Depot website, the PhotoMosh app added cool glitch effects. The ethos behind the piece was comparable to French artist Marcel Duchamp who, a century earlier, had introduced the idea that anything can be art by taking a ceramic urinal and calling it Fountain. Afraid of being sued for copyright, SuperRare took the decision to remove 64 GALLON TOTER from the platform. As the first piece ever to be removed from a collection, the piece became all the more significant.

Never concerned about his art being copied, Robness champions the ethos that crypto art is open source and should be moving away from copyright laws. He welcomes artists to remix his work at will.

After being banned from SuperRare, Robness worked harder and was inspired to make art that was reactionary to the art on the platform. The incident spawned a series of simplistic Trash GIFs, produced in record time. This created the first crypto art movement and encouraged a freedom of expression, sparking thousands of trash cans made in tribute. He jokes, “If you don’t make it in under 5 minutes, it’s not a Trash GIF. So I was having fun with it. It was like punk rock, you know, I can make a song in under five minutes. It’s the same kind of concept.” 64 GALLON TOTER won the People's Choice Award at the 2020 NFT Awards and is currently for sale on OpenSea at 30,900 ETH ($109,560,894.00).

MORE CONTROVERSY

When the Rarible marketplace launched with its RARI governance token, Robness immediately understood the opportunities to earn tokens from buying and selling art and gamification of the friendly rivalry to be the top selling artist each week. As a collector, I remember complaints in the governance forum calling for Robness to be banned from the site. Without hesitation, I jumped into the chat and defended him saying, “As the bad boy of crypto art he sometimes bends the rules and whatever he’s done, the crypto art community needs more free thinkers and rule breakers like Robness.” 

A big fan of collaborations, Robness met Max Osiris when he first bought Max’s art. They became great friends and went on to shake things up in the new decentralized world of crypto art.

But I have a confession to make… A few days after I defended Robness I heard that he and Max had been wash-trading. This is the practice of buying each other’s art and selling it back again to artificially inflate popularity rankings.

I consider myself a champion of fairness. In the UK we form an orderly queue and wait patiently for our turn. Rule breakers are not tolerated. Maybe it’s because of Robness’ impressive crypto art credentials, but I find his rebellious antics really cool. The Rarible stunt is classic Robness. Rather than wash-trading in a sneaky fraudulent way (that other artists do), Robness and Max openly passed NFTs back and forward between their named wallets so that they would be caught.

The first Robness piece I collected was part of a series dedicated to the aesthetic art of Japanese neon advertising signage. The piece is dedicated to women, entrusted with the safety and continuance of the human race. Whilst many crypto artists still choose to create artwork that is square, Robness’ work is not constrained in shape or dimensions.

ᴛ트ⱤⱤᐱ𝜤п ⲟⱤᏟΉ트ಽᴛⱤᐱᴛ𝜤ⲟп (Movement 02) is part of a pre-pandemic Fine Art Signature series of landscapes created in Day-Glo colors. One of the great powers of abstract art is that artist and collector can see the art differently. In this case the contours of the landscape could equally be interpreted as a woman lying on a couch with her arm across her body and her hand between her thighs.

The next piece in my collection was part of an abstract offshoot series focused on the sexual side of crypto. In more of a fine art/pulp/voyeur style combination, SNAP! was released on Rarible with a tweet that simply read, “'THAT’S THE BEST ASS I’VE EVER DRAWN.”  

Tweets are always in BLOCK CAPITALS which is normally associated with shouting. These belie his fun, friendly nature. In another experiment in social media theatre, he changed his Twitter account for a week to tweet from the perspective of a sassy woman, 'Digital Art Bitch' and was blown away by the positive response from followers.  

Having sold hundreds of artworks worldwide, his style is constantly changing and morphs at will. Experimenting with different blockchains, he started using Hic Et Nunc minting his work under a secret name. Teaser tweets were sent around the time the anonymous pieces dropped on the site using a masked Zorro GIF.  Over 50 collectors own a Robness piece but don't know it for sure.

BURNING A CRYPTO PUNK

Most recently he famously burned CryptoPunk #2317. The act is visualized in an incinerator burn video using PhotoMosh to leave a permanent burn mark.

Robness has mixed thoughts on the trend for avatar profile picture (PFP) projects. Some are very well done with a strong community behind them. These may be a bubble but they're also here to stay. He predicts a big crash of the PFP market before they go silent for a while. Having already been here 5 years, he reassures us, "We're still early and these projects will be part of history so people should be OK if they just HODL."

VISION FOR THE FUTURE

Growing up, he was influenced by the crossover between art and music. He loves Andy Warhol’s iconic Banana immortalized on a Velvet Underground album cover. A talent for music runs in the family and when he can take a break from creating art and song writing 24x7, he loves to play guitar and DJ in the Venice neighborhood of L.A. As a visionary he sees the future of NFTs, art and the music industry converging to provide a full audio visual experience. He even built a monument to the Statue of Liberty in Decentraland with DJ decks inside.  

He likens the crypto art movement to the movie The Artist which chronicles the move from silent movies to 'talkies' where the old actors didn’t have the skills to make the transition. The ability to adapt to a new art form and medium will be key.

There are 2 questions regularly debated in the blockchain space:

  1. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

  2. Who invented crypto art?

We may never find definitive answers, but one thing is for sure. Crypto art is probably the most important movement in the history of art and iconic artist Robness played a significant role in starting the NFT revolution.


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