“Emperor of the Angels” in the Crypto Art Revolution with Basileus
Dec 09,2023 Written by New Society
Has Crypto Art met its demise? This question looms amid the recent ebb and flow of the NFT market, prompting skepticism.
Yet, the unequivocal response is a resounding "NO," evident in the transformative influence of technology on art collection and interaction, the fervent gatherings at flagship events like NFT Paris and the Non-Fungible Conference, the vigor and zeal propelling the digital art revolution. In the Web3 society, collectors transcend conventional consumer roles. And those unwaveringly supporting creators are playing an indispensable role, more pivotal than ever, in shaping the artistic landscape.
In light of these dynamics, we engaged in a compelling dialogue with Basileus, acclaimed as the anonymous "Emperor of the Angels" in the realm of digital art collection.
Drawing inspiration from speculative science fiction predating cyberpunk in the early '80s, the cryptic moniker "Emperor of the Angels" provides a tantalizing glimpse into the essence of his work.
As a devoted art enthusiast with a history of frequenting museums, Basileus has consistently championed art movements.
Intriguingly, his collection leans heavily towards crypto art, a departure from traditional forms, primarily due to the logistical challenges of preserving physical artworks.
According to Basileus, "If you're inclined to collect traditional art, your contribution might be best directed towards museums. With crypto art, the pieces are secured in a virtual vault, which is why I often assert, 'I couldn't truly collect until the advent of crypto art.'”
Curious about the noteworthy acquisitions of a collector of Basileus's stature, safeguarding thousands of pieces in his digital vault?
How does he perceive his responsibilities in the crypto art movement? Additionally, gain insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of the "Cult of Crypto Art (CoCA)," a collective founded by Basileus three years ago, now comprising 150 crypto art artists – “A CULT” for the culture.
New Society: Is there any criteria you use when selecting artworks for your collection? Are there specific artists, styles, or periods that resonate with you?
Basileus: My favorite art transports me emotionally and mentally to another world or vantage point.
My goal once I identify a piece I want to collect is to determine if the artist is someone I believe will continue making art in the future. Once I look over their other work, I start to figure out how deeply I want to collect from them.
For the artists I want to build my collection around, I try to devise a strategy for collecting their 1/1 work, knowing it may take me awhile to get there.
And like all collectors, I know that I can’t collect everything I love — I have to be strategic and focus on artists whom I haven’t already collected deeply. And price matters (a lot) as I always tell artists my fondest hope is that I can no longer afford their work. That time has come for many of my favorite artists, and that’s just the way life works.
New Society: Interesting. Can you share a memorable experience related to acquiring a specific piece for your collection? What made that acquisition special?
Basileus: There have been many enjoyable, even hilarious auctions, but one of my favorites was for a piece entitled “Influencers'' by Moxarra. Moxarra is a super talented cryptoartist living in Mexico City who is one of our foremost social satirists and some of his OG cryptoartist friends, including 𝙼𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚢𝙼𝚘𝚘𝚜𝚎ART and WGMeets piled into the auction just for fun.
As you know, cryptoart auctions require you to put the bid in full so it can be expensive fun but nevertheless we had a lot of it, with original memes produced that were themselves works of art.
New Society: The meme war looks too much fun! It's as if OG collectors were partying under a bid war tweet. How do you view the role of collectors in the Web3 landscape? Do you see your role extending beyond the private sphere?
Basileus: I think collectors should support artists and the art we believe in to the utmost, to help this art movement become the true renaissance it can be. This meme war is one example of collectors exchanging directly with and supporting artists, but there are many other ways. For example, I have visited some studios and I draw inspiration from meeting the artists I’ve collected IRL.
And oh yes, for the next act in my time as a collector, I hope I can extend beyond the private sphere and actively help build the world’s awareness of this art renaissance. At some point, I also hope to see collections of crypto art - including art from my collection - in public museums. Actually, I talked to a few galleries about possibly doing that, but it's still pretty early-stage. A lot of them don't even really want to do crypto art or talk about it. But I hope the time will arrive one day.
New Society: We're sure it will happen one day with all the people advocating the revolution of crypto art and spreading awareness of it. And actually that's why “Cult of Crypto Art” really grabbed our attention since the very beginning, it's inspiring to see so many artists and art collectors gathering together in the same realm for the culture. Can you explain to us a bit further what is “Cult of Crypto Art”? How did it start?
Basileus: Ahah Cult of Crypto Art (CoCA) was a joke started by our patron saint Alotta Money and after he passed, a few of his friends including XCOPY, EclecticMethod, and Neurocolor started up a little group and created some pieces of crypto art around this theme.
I collected one of the early pieces known as “Cult Meditation Tape” by Eclectic Method and Vector Meldrew, among others, and with my funding we began to create Cult-themed events and sponsorships together. This includes the creation of the Cult Choir who had the likes of Angie Taylor, Arthr, and Cazlab who along with Eclectic Method and Vector Meldrew who produced some tremendous visual musical art shows.
New Society: That's impressive, this gathering of so many legends in the Crypto Art space. Just slightly digging deeper, did you have any mission or vision in mind when you were bringing together this diverse group of artists?
Basileus: The essence lies in the concept of "collective independence," a term coined by our friend @Dat_Ogar, aimed at encapsulating the notion of independently minded individuals collaborating for the collective good without compromising their individuality.
The framework is such that members, typically selected by their peers based on their dedication to art and fellow artists, have the freedom to join and depart at their discretion. Despite not being an artist myself, I hold the unique distinction of being the sole individual adorned with the official tattoo, featuring a logo variant (the original logo designed by XCOPY is CC0), courtesy of @skeenee.
New Society: How do artists usually join Cult Crypto Art? Is there a process?
Basileus: Requires a blood oath and a tattoo, but true to form: nobody conforms to this.
Joke aside, but there's pretty much no process. It's more about people in the Cult saying, “Hey, I'd like this person to join Cult. Is it ok? What do you all think?”. And then a few people from the Cult will pop up and if a few people say it's ok, it goes through. At first, it was just 75 artists, because we were initially in a Twitter group and 75 was the limit of the amount of people that were allowed in a Twitter group. But now we're probably about 150 artists in total, with the full list available here.
Furthermore, we collaboratively established a Foundation World known as “Cultishnya”, serving as a dedicated space for Cult artists to showcase and list their artworks for sale.
This Foundation World also serves a dual purpose — it represents our endeavor to construct an economic model that sustains CoCA. As an initiative started by a few artists in the collective, the objective is to shift away from sole funding by me, as a portion of the proceeds generated from listings in the world contributes to a treasury wallet.
This wallet operates on a multisig structure, placing control in the hands of three Cult members, ensuring that no individual can unilaterally manipulate the wallet.
New Society: That's pretty like a decentralized community! Browsing through the listings, we also notice a few beautiful pieces that are created by artists featured in the New Society book, and that are also among our favorites, such as Jæn and Basseado.
Can you share any memorable moments or achievements that the collective has experienced since its inception?
Basileus: We had an artist residency in Lisbon last year and worked with our friend and fellow cultist John Karp to help launch NFC 2023 with performances by Cult Choir members Arthr and Cazlab and tattoos by Souline - in fact, she did a tattoo for Cazlab during the artist residency! And yes, we’ve sponsored multiple events in Paris, Lisbon, and Mexico City. The sponsorships for NFC Lisbon 2022 and 2023 (including opening party) were certainly highlights for me personally.
Our favorite partners are:
Non Fungible Conference
Museum of Crypto Art
There are a lot of events happening around the world, so we always have to pick and choose a bit looking forward, but these are always my top picks. I love to work with people that inspire, and that's why I really loved the Non-Fungible Conference and its Founder, John Karp.
New Society: As we know, the art market can sometimes create pressure on artists to produce market-friendly work, especially at the current time. Do you also help artists to navigate this aspect?
Basileus: All creative responsibility lies with the artists themselves. In my opinion, commercially incentivized or not, there’s nothing off limits in terms of where they draw their inspiration or how they do it.
New Society: Apart from art collecting and building a community of crypto art, what fascinates you?
Basileus: I have a variety - maybe too many - of interests but a short list would include: ancient history, science, getting cryptoart tattoos, literature & film, and traveling to new places.
New Society: What vexes you?
Basileus: The rise of right wing politics around the world vexes me terribly, we can’t get to a humanist future (e.g. Star Trek, etc.) unless we can overcome these forces of evil.