Few names stand taller in the emerging medium of crypto art than California-based Coldie. A pioneer of tokenised 3D art from 2018, he is recognised as a leader and catalyst in the field with his work highly prized by collectors and art institutions.
His recent work UBARAJA represents a shift from an earlier signature style, known for his satirical explorations of pop culture and financial themes that are intrinsic to the blockchain space. In collaboration with social impact organisation Monograma and their founder Hervé Delhumeau, it is a work that challenges and redefines perceptions of NFT art.
The piece is a multi-generational portrait of the leaders of an Amazonian tribe, a merging of a grandfather, a father, and grandson. Built in layers from all three of their faces, the men form a single avatar showing us the strength and power of lineage, heritage, and provenance - a representation of the unbroken Oyxabaten community and their embrace of blockchain as a tool for self determination.
It is one work among 63 others in the Monograma Guardian Collection - spanning poetry, indigenous song, video, and 3D art, including cultural artefacts from the Paiter Surui and Cinta Larga tribes of Western Brazil.
With UBARAJA’s inclusion in the Yahoo Future Shock exhibition, we spoke with Hervé Delhumeau to learn more about the work, the mission and his view towards the future of art as activism.
Yahoo: Thanks for chatting to us Hervé. How did you come to create Monograma?
Hervé: Monograma is an equation that combines every element of my life, a way to show where I came from and how my life has been affected by technology and travel. I was happy or lucky enough to collect art from a very young age. My parents educated me about art, and I have come to believe that through the intersection of technology and art we can start to create social impact.
We are a decentralised organisation that includes artists from 63 countries around the world. For each piece that sells, the artist receives 51% of net sales, then 30% goes to social impact. Our goal is to make people think about things in a new way, and then maybe they will want to take action. We won a competition for a curated space on the NFT marketplace SuperRare in February, we’re one of the first companies to do this.
Yahoo: The Guardian Collection is a striking statement that lives at the core of Monograma’s mission. How did the collection come to life?
Hervé: We were contacted by two tribes in the Amazon that were facing serious issues because of climate change, because of corporations who were burning their forests, and the growing crisis facing our planet. We thought it was important for us to come up with a plan to spread the word about their cause. And what better way to do that than through art?
Yahoo: The artist Coldie has been a major part of The Guardian Collection. How has that relationship come about?
Hervé: I met Coldie as Monograma was growing and we connected because I loved his creativity. When I told him about my new project with the Guardian collection, he said it was something special. His piece UBARAJA became a centerpiece for the Guardian collection, offering a way for viewers to understand the generational culture that informs much of the work we do at Monograma around awareness, preservation, and communication.
We’re discovering that there is a mystical connection with art, culture and technology that reaches back to our earliest ancestors. We are tapping into that power and bringing it into the modern world. Coldie’s work has always touched on that, and with UBARAJA, he reaches deeper into the realms of our roots and connections.
Yahoo: The pieces in the Guardian Collection are created with a variety of cultural and stylistic elements. This can create a challenging experience for viewers. Do you think this reflects the inherent complexities of the collection?
Hervé: In the real world, art is something that is very personal. It's easy to connect with physical art because you can touch it, and keep it with you. You can see it in museums or in people's homes. When connecting with digital art, it takes more strategy and education to onboard people.
We have seen that the power of art is in its ability to connect with people on an emotional level and to tell a story that can change the way people think about an issue. This way, they can show their support for the artwork and share it with others.
Hervé: In our work we’re combining mysticism, technique, narrative, entertainment and social impact. We’re using AR technology to geo-lock each artwork to a territory. This is technology as narrative tool to give each artwork a voice, as entertainment, to generate intrigue, with social impact built in. With every purchase the art supports two tribes in the Amazon that are victims of climate change and deforestation.
Yahoo: What’s next for Monograma and Ubaraja?
Hervé: The people we are working with are using blockchain technology to save their culture. They think it is a good way to protect themselves.
We’re so excited to showcase Ubaraja at NFT NYC this week, it’s the biggest event in the world for crypto art and Webe culture. The buyer of the piece will be invited to travel to the Amazon with Coldie, to meet the tribe and see first-hand the work that has gone into the exhibit. That experience will become a part of the artwork itself.
What we began as an exploration of the technical aspects of blockchain technology has become a vehicle for social and environmental activism. It’s a hugely powerful example of how artists are using new media to create meaningful change in the world.