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Austin's Apollo The Curator brings together Austin artists to merge both physical and digital art in the city. (Javi Glz)

Austin already has a reputation as a hub for technology and art, making it the perfect candidate for the emerging crypto-art scene.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a form of digital collectibles that come in many forms, from digital art and animations to NBA Top Shot basketball highlights. It's a market that's exploding globally. In our neck of the woods, Grimes, girlfriend of "Mr. Dogecoin" and Austin transplant Elon Musk, has already sold $6 million otherworldly NFTs herself, and cryptocurrency giants like blockchain company Blockcap have recently made the move to the Texas capital.

Some say the NFT market is a bubble waiting to pop, while others question why a JPEG image that could be viewed by anyone has value. Thomas Dylan Daniel, an NFT publisher who has been in the cryptocurrency sphere for over a decade, said it comes from owning an original product. "You can see pictures of the Mona Lisa on the Internet, (but) nobody says that you own the Mona Lisa now because you saw it," Daniel said.

Daniel, a longtime Austinite, is creating what he calls the NFT world's Library of Alexandria ("It can't burn down this time") and said that while NFTs are becoming a household term, they're still widely misunderstood. An NFT owner isn't just receiving art, they're also gaining an invincible virtual certificate of ownership.

"The big benefit with an NFT is that it's an immutable link that sticks around forever," Daniel said. "That's the point. That particular link is inscribed upon the Ethereum blockchain until the end of time."

But NFTs have hardly broken ground on the local level.

One Austin curator who goes by the name "Apollo The Curator," is looking to bring the lofty NFT sphere back to Earth. He's seen celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton sell NFTs for millions, and he's hoping to transfer some of that success to Austin artists who are just beginning to get into the crypto-art scene.

"I simply put the dots together on why Justin Bieber sells NFTs," Apollo said. "I started thinking about how we experiment with that locally and reaching artists that are all in the physical space. Why (are they) not in the space right now? The answer is access."

Apollo, 26, founded Open Art Studios to bring NFTs down to the local level as he mixes Austin's iconic street art culture with crypto art. He started his passion project by hosting Battle Buses, an in-person event that pits four well-known Austin artists together in an interactive paint-off. Each canvas is then put up for sale in a bundle that bridges the gap between the physical and digital world.

(Javi Glz)

Austin curator Apollo creates live paint competitions with well-known street artists in events known as Battle Buses.

The owner receives the canvas and an identical NFT of the work, which serves as both an asset on its own and a proof of ownership. While still in its early stages, it's proven successful—the first NFT put up for sale by artist Tommy Disco sold in 2 hours for .1515 Ethereum (around $365 USD.)

Apollo said that his business model helps street artists by getting them in touch with graphic designers who can create NFTs for them and in turn marketing them in a sea of global NFTs. As a result, both value and authenticity is added to these artists' already successful work.

He's the first in Austin to bridge the gap between physical and NFT art, and he's one of the first to make an organized NFT studio in the state. "It's adding real authenticity to art," Apollo said. "I think that's where I'm really changing the game, is combining the physical aspects with visuals."

Apollo is eager to keep putting down roots in the city before the inevitable NFT boom takes over.

"I think being here in Austin just makes so much sense, because of our techie background," Apollo said. "Tackling that barrier to understanding some of those digital concepts isn't as hard, and there's a big social interest."


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