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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.
🗡️The "War Nymph" collection is dropping tomorrow, February 28 @ 2pm EST.
Are you ready for this collaboration between @Grimezsz & @MacBoucher1? Who is excited for this drop? 👀👀👀
Don't forget a % of the proceeds from the #NFT sales will be donated to @carbon_180! pic.twitter.com/Z07WTvrM6g
— Nifty Gateway (@niftygateway) February 27, 2021
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.
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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As a lifelong Texan and 18-year Austin resident, street artist Goodluck Buddha wants to keep Californians out of Central Texas to preserve the city he loves.
As his business travels took him to states like California, he started posting his art there with a message to Californians in 2013. Buddha has many characters he creates but one, in particular, was created to draw attention to what he saw as a growing problem. Spotted all over Los Angeles is a skeletal monk holding a sign that says one of the following: "get out while you can," "total system failure" and most polarizing, "Austin, TX is at capacity, don't move there."
Buddha started developing his persona as an artist around 2013, keeping his art under wraps for the sake of his family and day job in the security industry. He asked his real name not be used on account of the work's potentially illegal nature. He had always admired street art and saw it as a way to interact with the community.
His disdain for the California migration started as a trendy joke but as the trickle of transplants turned more into a steady stream in the early 2010s, it started to seem like each new person he met was coming from Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.
"Austin started becoming a little popular with the California folks and everybody started moving here slowly and then it became kind of a problem," Buddha said.
The problem is not Californians, Buddha said, but the amount of money they come with, which he believes is driving up the cost of living and making it harder for the average Austinite to afford living here.
"I wanted to go straight to the source and put it out there for them to see that there's an issue—I don't know if they see it that way," Buddha said. "There's a lot of people that were able to make it with one full-time job and live in a nice house and now they're having to work a full-time job and a side hustle and then a side gig. It's making people more focused on trying to make money versus just living and having a good time."
Buddha can relate—while he would like to take his art career full-time, he is also a father and waiting until his children leave home to take a risk like that. He said he remembers a time when local artists could make a living doing what they loved while Austin nurtured them and wore the title "Live Music Capital of the World" like a badge of honor.
His art has since made its way to other big cities that he also goes to for business travels, including Portland and New York. And until he goes full time, he sells his art on social media.
"I always had this urge just to leave my mark and put stuff up," Buddha said. "It's kind of like a renegade art movement."
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With live music making a swift return to Austin, it's time to dust off your local music knowledge and prepare for the tunes that will likely be coming to stages near you very soon. Austin musicians are sharing the fruits of their labor after a year of creating—and the results are almost worth a global pandemic.
If you're looking for some new songs to add to your rotation, check out these local artists.
Amigo the Devil
In a genre that he calls "murderfolk," Danny Kiranos plays music about subjects that most shy away from under the name Amigo the Devil. The new album, titled "Born Against," which Kiranos said is more subdued than the last, references taboo subjects, the human condition and a fear of death. "Quiet as a Rat" examines moral depravity to a marching band beat while "Letter From Death Row" is a teary ballad of a death row inmate finally letting go. With a voice reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, Kirano takes a raw look at his emotional state in his new album.
This is the band that is keeping Austin Weird. In a new single titled "Animal Ending," Reigalman pairs the song with a kooky video that flips the script on a typical hunting trip, where a stereotypical hunter chases an anthropomorphic pizza while surrounded by forest animals. The indie-pop song comes with an array of different guitar riffs to add interest, Riegalman's pleasant falsetto and will probably make you want to go vegan after hearing it... just for a second though.
Croy and the Boys
If a cowboy and a hippie had a baby, it would grow up to start Croy and the Boys, a politically-charged country music quartet led by Cory Baum. Their new EP, "Of Course They Do," is reminiscent of Father John Misty's complex lyrics while maintaining the familiar twang that Texans love oh, so much. The song "Do They Owe Us a Living?" which indirectly serves as the namesake for the record, takes a frustrated look at the state of living in modern America, while "Ready to Fight" challenges imposed authority in an upbeat, danceable tune.
Somber sounding and bridging several different genres at once, Austin-based musician Tyler Dozier's new album, "I Am the Prophet," explores emotional opposites of all types. An Alabama native, Dozier jumps from country to pop to orchestra to blues like it's no big deal. "I Am the Prophet" tells a story of a woman who is rebuilding herself, while "Paradox" is about the idea of a woman of stone. In an album dedicated to learning about herself, unlearning toxicity hiding in her past life and forming a new identity like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, Dozier lays it all out on the table. This album is introspective, vulnerable and graceful in the face of change.
After releasing three projects in 2020, The Teeta, an Austin-based rap musician, recently revealed a new album, titled "24," with a complementing visual exhibit that meshes the barrier between music and perception. "The Teeta World'' is an interactive visual album that the Austin native said he hopes will bring people closer after a year of separation. The exhibit will only run through May 1 but has free entry and is full of surprises.
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The spirit of Austin legend and acclaimed singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston is alive and well as the late artist's family and the Daniel Johnston Estate auction a brand-new, never-before-seen and unconventional piece.
Titled "Daniel Johnston is Alive Somewhere," the piece was released on the auction site foundation app on Friday at 2 p.m. It will be available for 24 hours on auction as a nonfungible token, also known as an NFT.
NFTs are tokens that represent unique digital items, like artwork, video, audio and other forms of creative work. At 4 p.m., the piece was bidding at just over $3,000.
Though on a different medium than Johnston's traditional works, the whimsical piece features six of Johnston's signature "friendly frogs"—the very same that adorn Guadalupe Street and 21st Street—over a keyboard excerpt from Johnston's song "Fly Eye," from his 1985 release "Continued Story." The happy multi-colored frogs blink individually while responding "Fine thank you," to the evocative question, "Hi, How are You?" which shares the name of the artist's 1983 album.
This is the first of several pieces of art that the estate plans to auction.
Johnston passed away in Waller, Texas, where he lived next door to his parents, in 2019. The art piece, an authentic drawing by the celebrated artist, was discovered shortly after his death and became the foundation of the final product. Fittingly, Johnston was famous for merging visual art with his music.
Dick Johnston, the artist's brother, said it was important to Johnston that people were able to enjoy his creations and he was always open to embracing new technology, despite his internet-free lifestyle.
The Johnston Estate also launched a new website, which will sell drawings and post galleries. Known for his childlike qualities, many of the pieces in his array of works are drawn with colored markers and pens.
Honoring a spirit so widely celebrated in Austin, The Contemporary Austin Jones Center will host "Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams," an exhibit that intertwines his visual art and music. The exhibit will run from Sept. 11—the two-year anniversary of his death—through May 20, 2022.
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