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Erick Calderon: NFT Platform Art Blocks’ Rapid Growth ‘Felt Unreasonable’


During the bull run of 2021, the NFT art platform Art Blocks became very popular, and pieces of generative art made on the site sold for millions of dollars each.

But Snowfro, who made Art Blocks, said on Decrypt’s gm podcast that the platform’s fast growth “was too much, and it didn’t seem like it could last.”

He went on to say that the crypto crisis has made things “calmer,” which makes it easier for him to talk to people about art in a sensible way.

“From a mental health perspective it wasn’t healthy for Art Blocks as a team, and it wasn’t healthy for Art Blocks artists either,” Calderon said of the platform’s meteoric rise in September and October 2021. “Yeah, they were about to make a bunch of money on a drop, but that actually is not always healthy, especially when you question the actual value of the work.”

Calderon said that, despite the bad market, “Art Blocks has kind of started to have another rebirth” in the past few weeks.

Because of this, guesswork has come back to the fore.“In my travels, and having conversations with people in the contemporary art world to bring value to Art Blocks outside of our little echo chamber, the conversation shifts again to the speculation,” he said.

“Calderon said,“We don’t have a problem with speculation,” but said, “We want to make it clear that that’s not why we’re here. We’re happy when you make a bunch of money, and we’re gutted when you lose a bunch of money—but those things are actually extraneous to what our purpose is, which is to just host amazing art by amazing artists in this new way.”

When the market is bad, NFT hires people

The bear market doesn’t seem to change Art Blocks’ goals. Calderon told Decrypt that the site is hiring. “We want Art Blocks to grow, and we know how important time is,” he said, adding that the platform had just hired an artistic director.

“We’ve seen great artists on Art Blocks. Some come from traditional art backgrounds, but many are computer scientists who find out they have a creative side,” Calderon said.

He said that the new artistic director would help these up-and-coming artists move their careers forward. “We need to help teach artists how to manage their careers and give them feedback that will help them not only with their art but with their whole creative lives.”

Calderon also wants to add more engineers to the Art Blocks staff.

“We’re very aware of how lucky we are to be able to hire people,” he said, implying that companies that hired people during the bull market may have taken on too much. “You can’t just sit back during a bull market and say, ‘We’re not hiring until the next bad market because people’s pay expectations are crazy.'” If you do that, you’ll fall behind.”

Calderon, who has been through economic cycles before, said that during bull markets, “very skilled people are hired for huge amounts of money that can’t be kept up during downturns.” This means that when times are bad, “you might have to fire 10 people because you want to keep this one superstar but you pay them too much.” You start to think, “Okay, well, maybe I can’t pay that person so much because these other people are making a good living.”

He pointed out that Art Blocks is doing well in the current economy, which is good news. “We’re happy, we’re lucky, and we feel very lucky to be in this situation,” they said.

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