Interview

OFUTUREzone: A Place for the Original in the Digital World Interview with Karolina Gadomska-Czapska – the co-founder of the Oz

OFUTUREzone is a new, digital gallery driven by love for contemporary art and new technologies, shortening the distance between the recipient and the creator, regardless of the geographical latitude, subject or creation technique. As the organizers emphasize, “The goal is to show the craftsmanship of digital works that, thanks to the NFT, have a great chance to appear as original and distinctive works.” In an interview with the co-creator of OFUTUREzone, Karolina Gadomska-Czapska, I talk about combining art with business, the issue of transaction security, the value of the original artwork and ways to support artists.

Karolina Gadomska-Czapska, co-creator of OFUTUREzone, new digital gallery
Karolina Gadomska-Czapska, co-creator of OFUTUREzone, new digital gallery

Dobromiła Błaszczyk: OFUTURE zone is a brand-new initiative on the market. Could you tell me more about it?

Karolina Gadomska-Czapska: Today, OFUTUREzone is a digital gallery project that combines the traditional way of selling art with a modern twist. We are not a marketplace, and therefore, the artist and his work are the most important in our gallery. We appreciate an open approach to art. We will not stop the development. The world is moving relentlessly forward, and digitization will affect all areas of life. We face digitization with our gallery.

OFUTUREzone, in its current version, is an online gallery zone for digital and digitized works of art. The original idea of Oz began in 2018, when, in cooperation with the City of Poznań, we covered huge, almost 800 m2 space, in the central point of Poznań, under the Kaponiera Roundabout.

The gallery was located underground on level -2, which forced the viewer to enter a different, unusual dimension. This place was once a fortification structure, rebuilt over the years, so we maintained its industrial character. We painted the walls black and hung up many monitors for displaying digital artworks. The opening took place in November 2018 with an exhibition of international artists: incl. Anna Zhilyaeva; Maria Śmigielska, who presented her Project DRAWN, and Krzysztof Gryzka’s digital sculpture.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 reality forced us to close the gallery space under Kaponiera and transfer it to a digital space, always available, safe and open.

DB: Why did you decide to create this project/gallery?

KGC: We have always been driven by the idea that for an artist to create calmly and creatively, they must have a backroom for this. We are that backroom.

About two years ago, a widespread crypto boom began, related to the crypto-art, mainly in the form of NFT. During this time, much digital art emerged on the market on different levels. Alone (with Michał Czapski), we started to closely follow this new trend and diligently learn about crypto-art. We have always been interested in artists operating at the crossroads of various disciplines and looking for alternative development paths. From there, it was just a step away from fully embracing digital art and the digitization of traditional art. That is how the idea to create a special space for OFUTUREzone artists was born.

We perceive this development of our business as natural progress in response to a changing world. Already in 2013, we established the Czapski Art Foundation operating at the interface of art, business and social activity. From the very beginning, we have been cooperating with artists of visual arts and new media. Originally, we dealt with the organization of exhibitions and vernissages. We invited many interesting artists to cooperate with CAF (Justyna Kisielewicz, Natalia Rozmus, Dominik Jasiński, Edyta Duduś, Krzysztof Musiał, Beata Pflanz, Mirosław Rogala). We organized workshops for artists on the possibility of their self-presentation, running and accounting for their own business, workshops for students of the University of Science and Technology, on problematic issues related to entering the art market. We cooperated with the University of Arts in Poznań on the organization of the “Art Fairs” in the “New Gasworks” (Nowa Gazownia) that we ran at that time.

The artists we supported and promoted as CAF took part in international exchanges, incl. in the 2MORO project in 2017, at the art fair in Dresden, or the Berlin Art Week. We have always thought about reaching the recipient as widely as possible, regardless of whether it is about artists, collectors or business partners.

DB: Right now, are you searching for the new NFT artists for your virtual gallery? In what type of art are you interested?

KGC: Our team of experts and curators, who every day spend much time following the activities of other galleries and institutions specializing in digital art, and closely follow the programs of the NFT art fair, are looking for artists working in digital art. We reach artists mainly via the Internet – which is the most natural environment for communication. Our befriended cultural institutions inform us about interesting artistic initiatives and artists who are worth observing.

Additionally, artists themselves can contact us via the form on the website: https://ofuture.zone/application-form/

However, the search for traditional artworks to digitize them is different. Our numerous contacts in the artistic environment, developed over the years, play a significant role here.

OFUTUREzone, new digital gallery
OFUTUREzone, new digital gallery

DB: What type of objects and artworks can collectors find in OFUTUREzone?

KGC: In OFUTUREzone, you will be able to find “traditional” digital paintings made with techniques resembling painting in its original form. We also want to present digitized three-dimensional art installations, so far, only exhibited in traditional galleries. Thanks to OFUTUREzone, they will be able to find their way to the global art market in the form of NFT.

We talk a lot with collectors about what art they are looking for and their expectations. This direct work with collectors teaches us how to look at art and is a valuable experience.

DB: Do NFTs suit only digital artists, or can they also be benefitartists who create physical artworks?

KGC: NFT is a digital creation, so of course, it is easiest to mint it from the digital artwork, but it is not only reserved for “computer works.”

We can transfer “non-digital” works to the digital world by digitizing them, for example, by scanning. Then we obtain a digital copy of the work done in a traditionally, and thanks to a specific NFT certification, we change such a copy into a digital original.

The digital world has a life of its own, and it slowly becomes a parallel existence. We believe that in both of these worlds – digital and real – there is room for the other. More and more extraordinary virtual spaces are being created, for the decoration of which original artworks are used more and more, in the same way as in the real world.

DB: Let’s assume that I am an artist, and I would like to collaborate with OFUTUREzone. Can you guide me through the process of applying and becoming a part of your gallery?

KGC: The process of applying is simple. You just need to fill out a form on our website. Then, our curators review submitted works and decide if we want you to join us.

It is different when we seek someone else’s favour. We invite such a person, and if they are also interested, they fill in the above-mentioned form. However, they do not have to wait for the curator’s decision. They are already a part of OFUTUREzone.

We conclude a contract with each artist so that both parties feel comfortable. The creator then sends us artworks, and this is where their job is done. Of course, it is always welcome to promote your work at the same time as our activities to gain as many admirers as possible, but it is not a requirement.

Nevertheless, this is where our mission begins. We properly present the artist’s profile and their portfolio, so that the recipient finds in them uniqueness and that they feel the same as we do. Of course, what we care most about and the main field we that secure, is the sale of works. Let’s face it, the financial aspect for artists is also important.

We have planned numerous marketing and information activities. We’re preoccupied with developing Oz. We believe that this is our common future. Oz is our future zone.

DB: Based on your experience, who buys NFTs – the crypto art?

KGC: These are mainly people who have been using cryptocurrencies for a long time. They have gained experience and some kind of success in this field. We must remember that without a cryptocurrency wallet it is more difficult to purchase NFT. However, despite that, it is possible with us, because we also accept transactions in traditional currency. Then, the NFT can be picked up in the form of an electronic wallet, physically similar to the commonly known form of a flash drive.

We can generally separate three groups of NFT buyers. The first is relatively new to the art market and often very young collectors. The second group consists of stable collectors and their advisers who know the traditional art market very well and closely observe the crypto-art phenomenon, investing in it more and more often. And finally, the third one is “traders” who quickly sell the tokens they buy on the secondary market, put emphasis on fashion and trends, and pay attention mainly to the possibility of quick earnings/profit.

DB: How do you ensure safe transactions and guarantee that the objects on offer are genuine? Because this issue seems to be the biggest concern when it comes to buying crypto and NFT art.

KGC: The security of the transaction in the sense of the act of purchase itself is quite high. When paying in cryptocurrency, we use the largest and most recognized platform that allows NFT trading, which is OpenSea – it is one of the safest solutions.

In our opinion, the more difficult and more risky issue is the confirmation of the credibility of the work itself, which is the basis for the acquired NFT. Of course, this is not a reason not to do it, but the fact is that many of the artworks that we can find today in various marketplaces have an uncertain origin, I would be most afraid of losing my investment by unknowingly buying a plagiarised or illegal copy. I have encountered reports of the theft of works and their sale as NFT on many occasions.

Therefore, it is worth using the help or intermediation of such galleries as OFUTUREzone to guarantee that we are buying the original work, given to us directly by the creator. All NFTs we offer for sale are assigned to our gallery in a smart contract, i.e. a publicly available record of transactions made using a blockchain. Additionally, this fact is backed up by a traditional contract between us and the artist or owner of the work.

DB: What are the costs of the transaction?

KGC: OFUTUREzone is a typical art gallery, the only difference is that we operate in the field of digital art and, naturally, also in digital form. The artist, who starts cooperatingwith us, does not bear any costs, and the buyer receives his artwork at a price that already includes all additional fees. We believe that one of the paths to success is transparent trading rules.

DB: Many artists who are thinking about embarking on an adventure with the NFT fear the negative environmental impact of the minting itself or the subsequent trading of tokens.

KGC: Yes, working with a blockchain indeed generates a significant carbon footprint, although compared to entire banks and their infrastructure that is needed to ultimately make one ”eco” transfer, this is a different story. You can argue which solution is better and never come to a unanimous verdict, so I will try to use other arguments.

First of all, the very nature of our sale and its subject matter is different. It is not a multiple-trade product to increase the value of a given NFT. We sell selected and unique works that are dedicated to collectors, not traders. This means that we plan a single sale in a longer time, and not, for example, 20 microtransactions based on one token.

It should be remembered that our gallery offers the purchase of items not only in digital currency but also in traditional currency.

Thanks to the cooperation with OpenSea, the fact of minting the NFT certificate and the network load is created at the moment of concluding a sale transaction.

We allocate a certain part of the profit each month to support organizations fighting with the consequences of technological development, and some time ago, in our headquarters, there was even a meeting of young people from the climate strike.

I think that taking into account even the above arguments, it can be seen that we are aware of the situation in which our planet is and we intend to fight for it and not destroy it.

In conclusion, I can safely say that our way of selling digital art causes more good than harm to the environment.

read also Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), Everydays: the First 5000 Days, Auto-immune, One of the 5000 images that comprise the artwork

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About The Author

Dobromiła
Błaszczyk

Founder and director of London-based arts organisation Contemporary Lynx, since 2013. Editor-in-chief and founder of the print magazine Contemporary Lynx with a global reach and international distribution, listed as one of the best art magazines in London by Sotheby’s Institute of Art and recommended by Tate Modern bookshop.

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