I grew up surrounded by fine art in Mexico City. My dad was an art connoisseur and informal advisor to collectors of Mexican art. He used to emcee charity art auctions. I grew up going to museums and art galleries. My parents were modest collectors; we had art on our walls at home. My idea of art was that it was something that would be displayed in such places: museums, galleries, the homes of people who could afford to buy a painting or a sculpture. Art belonged to an established canon and whatever didn’t fit that, was not art.
Years later, when I started working as a creative director in advertising, I came in contact with commercial artists; talented illustrators and photographers we would hire for our campaigns. In fact, that is how I met Beatriz, DADA’s founder. I was her client. Beatriz was (and still is) an amazing artist. Her company did wonderful work for us.
But it wasn’t until she told me of her dream to create DADA that I realized that my view of art was very limited. It was limited to the institutional, to art curated by formidable gatekeepers, to work by the very famous. DADA has made me realize that I was an art snob.
At DADA I discovered how many millions of people in the world are talented artists. In fact, DADA made me realize that everybody is creative, and everybody can be an artist, but we live in a society that tends to disabuse people of this notion. Art is seen as something childish and impractical, fit for dreamers and bohemians; or it is seen as something out of the reach of the average person — the province of a rarified few who are anointed by impenetrable institutions. Most people fear it as an elusive and incomprehensible human endeavor. I heard a tourist respond to her little daughter when she asked what was MoMa, “oh, that’s not for us”.
This is tragic because art is a human instinct. We can safely say that the vast majority of children in the world have at some point expressed themselves with a pencil or a crayon on a sheet of paper, or a stick in the mud. We all have made art at least once in our lives. As children, we are encouraged, or at the very least tolerated, to play and express ourselves creatively, and then this is taken away from us. It is a disaster for humanity that the arts don’t have a more prominent place in education.
A song by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler sums up how I feel about art today:
Harry made a bareback rider, proud and free upon a horse
And a fine coal miner for the NCB that was
A fallen angel and Jesus on the cross
A skating ballerina, you should have seen her do the skater’s waltz.
Some people have got to paint and draw
Harry had to work in clay and stone
Like the waves coming to the shore
It was in his blood and in his bones.
Ignored by all the trendy boys in London and in Leeds
He might as well have been making toys or strings of beads
He could not be in the gallery.
And then you get an artist says he doesn’t want to paint at all
He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on the wall
The birds of a feather all the phonies and all of the fakes
While the dealers they get together
And they decide who gets the breaks
And who’s going to be in the gallery
No lies he wouldn’t compromise
No junk no bits of string
And all the lies we subsidize that just don’t mean a thing
I’ve got to say he passed away in obscurity
And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree
So he’s going to be in the gallery.
At DADA, many of our artists are accountants, hairdressers, bodybuilders, salespeople, homemakers. Even though they have the skill and the passion, they can’t afford to make art for a living. They do not have an MFA or have toiled incessantly to be recognized by curators and experts. They don’t need to explain the conceptual framework of their creations in monographs written in pretentious gibberish. They just create. Their art is no less stunning and valuable than a piece that collectors and dealers inflate to millions of dollars (most of which may not even reach the artist).
Art presents an interesting paradox: people are amazed by works of art that fetch hundreds of millions of dollars but at the same time they balk at paying two or three figures for a modest work that they themselves desire. They don’t take seriously the effort, the skill, the time and the creativity of the artist. Or they claim that their child could paint a Jackson Pollock. Not really. Yes, we all have the innate potential to be artists. Some people are naturally gifted and work really hard at it. DADA is a platform for people to explore their artistic side. It welcomes one and all: from seasoned artists to you and me. And we do it by asking people to draw together; to be delighted by one another, collaborate and learn and grow as artists together.
As we have presented DADA to investors we’ve noticed that many people think that art is not a viable business, that it is a niche market (not: millions of people worldwide are artists), and that artists need charitable support. We have been advised to ask for grants or to crowdfund our project. Everybody loves the art; no one wants to pay for it. But there is no better support for our artists than for people to buy the art they admire from these creators, to invest in their future, become collectors, and champions of the artists, which benefits them both, and eventually, the community at large.
This is why we are enthralled with blockchain. We believe it is a better way of doing things, in which artists have much more control over their intellectual property and the fate of their work. A smart contract can ensure that artists will get their fair share every time their work changes hands. Collectors can benefit from verified ownership; they can collect, resell, and enrich themselves and the artist in the process. In terms of content, there is no real need for gatekeepers or curators. The community can eventually decide what to sell, as well as what to buy. It is a much more transparent and democratic dynamic.
Blockchain also helps to change the perception that digital art has no value. Once a digital drawing becomes a unique asset, you may take a screenshot of it, but as we like to explain, it’s like making a photocopy of a dollar bill. The screenshot is worthless because the value is inherent to the unique digital object itself, which cannot be transacted twice. We aim to change people’s minds when it comes to digital art so that they understand that they can value it, own it, and value the artist that created it. We want to change their behavior so that before they swipe an image online, they reflexively act to give the artist their due attribution, and ultimately, to pay for the value of what they enjoy having.
Art should be open to anyone, and everyone should be open to art.