In September 2022, I wrote an article on why the famous abstract expressionist Frank Stella was making an NFT centered around Stella’s well-documented involvement in defending artists’ resale rights. At Frank Stella’s Geometries grew out of his involvement in the early 1990s with Artist Rights Society (ARS). Founded in 1987, ARS represents artists’ rights through the copyright, licensing and oversight of visual artists in the United States. His lobbying efforts focus on the ART Act, which would impose resale royalties, and the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which would allow tax deductions when an artist donates to museums and other public institutions. .
For Katarina Feder, NFT and digital art was a natural growth from the company’s original mission. This led her to found ArsnlArt,, ARS’ digital platform, last year, building on the company’s 35-year legacy of promoting and protecting artists’ intellectual property.
For the past five years, Feder served as Director of Business Development at ARS. For the past three years, she has run a monthly advice column on clean art“Know Your Rights,” where she answers questions about intellectual property issues and more.
I spoke with Feder about how Frank Stella’s NFT 2022 drop was received and Arsnl’s latest project with Gee’s Bend quilters.
Gretchen Andrew: How did Frank Stella’s drop go and how was it received by the mainstream art world?
Katarina Feder: Frank Stella’s fall went remarkably well. We were incredibly lucky that Frank and his studio trusted us with this project, especially since it was our first. But the long-standing relationship with ARS has given them confidence and the results have been amazing. We sold all 2,100 tokens and most importantly brought in resale royalties for secondary sales, something Frank has been advocating for for decades.
Of course there were a few anxiety, one might say, in terms of the reception the sale would receive from the mainstream art world. But overall the reception has been outstanding, with a major museum acquisition and incredible critical coverage, like the play you wrote for The arts journal. Frank was truly a pioneer of new technologies – he started working with computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. always relying on these technologies has really been a catalyst for the project and, I believe, one of the main reasons why it has been so well received by the mainstream artistic community.
GA: How have NFT collectors outside of the mainstream art world reacted to it?
KF: Of course, if you’re selling NFTs, you can’t forget about NFT collectors! While some knew [Stella’s] work, many were not. To contextualize his work, we created a process video and had an amazing curatorial statement by [the art analytics expert] Jason Bailey. These digital collectors fell in love with Frank and his work and many of them created their own derivatives, which Frank allowed. We showed some to Frank and he loved them.
GA: Your next exposure is also unusual in the NFT world. Who are the quilters of Gee’s Bend?
KF: The Gee’s Bend Quilters are a quilting collective whose members hail from a tiny patch of plain located in a bend in the Alabama River. It was once a plantation, and today virtually all of the residents of Gee’s Bend, Alabama are descendants of the slave laborers who worked the land. Many bear and share the slave owner’s surname: Pettway.
For generations, the city remained isolated. The only road was paved in 1967, around the same time its ferry service, the most direct way to and from, was halted in a bid to prevent its residents from crossing the river to get to register to vote. Although this isolation almost ensured that quilters had little or no exposure to the “world of art”, the works of the benders evolved remarkably. Lacking other resources, quilters created geometric designs from old breeches, sacks of cornmeal and whatever Women saw themselves working on clotheslines or in their neighboring homes, sparking a legacy of appeal and response. This sense of chance and improvisation is felt in their quilts that vibrate with rhythm and color.
GA: How did you hear about Gee’s Bend quilters?
KF: Like many, I first heard about quilters in the early 2000s, when they finally gained long-awaited recognition for their remarkable contributions to the art. It was around this time that the Artists Rights Society (ARS) began to represent the intellectual property rights of quilters, helping to ensure that the woman would have proper oversight, as well as financial compensation, for the reproduction of their work. . Since then, quilters have seen dozens of successful business partnerships. Recent examples include a quilt line for Keeco Home exclusive to Macy’s, as well as a clothing collaboration with Greg Lauren.
Today Gee’s Bend quilts are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as countless other institutions.
GA: How did Gee Bend quilters come to get an exhibition of digital art based on NFT? Tell us who Anna Lucia is and why she’s involved with quilters
KF: Anna Lucia is a pioneering generative artist who weaves traditional textile techniques with modern technology, creating a space where “logic and creativity meet”. Finding connections with female textile artists who have been overlooked throughout history, her 2021 ArtBlocks project Loom is inspired by the female artists of the Bauhaus movement often relegated to weaving, other disciplines being deemed “inappropriate”.
GA: And with the Gee Bend quilters, she created Generations. What is Generations?
KF: Generations focuses on the works of four of the most prolific quilters – Louisiana Bendolph, Loretta Pettway Bennett, Essie Bendolph Pettway and Lucy Pettway, represented by her daughter and fellow quilter, Mary Margarett Pettway.
The show adopts Gee’s Bend’s polyrhythmic call-and-response style: the quilters shared their process with Anna Lucia, who in turn created an algorithm to generate digital quilts that share key elements with the source, but are unique and surprising in their own way.
Greg Liburd, activist and co-founder of Refraction DAO, who wrote the show’s curatorial statement, explains:Generations fosters a dialogue between handcrafted art and digital art through blockchain, immutably and universally conveying an essential story that transcends bloodlines. The goal is to disrupt the age-old cycle of appropriation of black culture by enabling sustainable attribution and fair exposure to the value created by the works.
GA: How did Arsnl get involved in the show?
KF: Arsnl actually received a request, vis à vis ARS, to license the works of several of Gee’s Bend members for digital art collaboration. The more we talked to the original organizers of the show – who helped us bring it to fruition – the more we all realized that Arsnl really was the right place for this project. The decades-long relationship that ARS nurtured between quilters and the Souls Grown Deep Foundation allowed us to start with a certain level of trust that was probably impossible for anyone else to replicate. And it just took off from there.
GA: What were the challenges in carrying out a collaboration between digital and traditional artists?
KF: We wanted to create interesting and nuanced content worthy of a collaboration, while preserving the integrity of the source material. It is not an easy task. But Anna Lucia immediately understood this and used it to develop her technique. As she says, “It was clear to me that transferring the depth and warmth of quilts to the digital world would be impossible. Something always got lost. So I worked on the patterns and colors. At first glance, duvets may seem simple. But I found great complexity in the patterns by describing them in logic and code and looking for the shared language between them. It brings me great joy that the quilt makers have selected the final results. »
GA: Quilting is often a communal activity, with many quilters coming together to work on a project. How important was the social aspect of quilting in this work with Anna Lucia and Gee’s Bend?
KF: Capturing the community aspect of quilting was key to this show. The collaborative process between Anna Lucia and the quilters took place over a good part of the year. Watching this dialogue was fascinating.
As living works of art on the blockchain, the collection also fosters direct dialogue between artists and a wider audience of digital collectors. The geometric patterns of the quilts are, for the purposes of this exhibition, the analog version of Anna Lucia’s code, and we thought it was important to include physical works to contextualize this interaction.
Ultimately, the sale includes digital quilts based on physical yarn as well as physical quilts by Essie Bendolphy Pettway, Loretta Pettway, and Mary Margaret Pettway.
Additionally, Mary Margaret created a physical quilt in response to one of Anna Lucia’s productions. This digital/physical is also offered for sale. This quilt served as inspiration for an additional “utility” as collectors of digital works will have the ability to have their NFTs transformed into miniature physical quilts by quilters. This will be done upon approval and at cost, with 100% of the profits going to the quilters.
GA: When and where is this program broadcast?
KF: The presale will go live Wednesday, May 17 at 12 p.m. EST. The public sale begins 24 hours later on Thursday, May 18 at 12 p.m. EST. It’s exclusively on Arsnl.art. All works can be purchased with Ethereum or with a credit card.
To celebrate, we’ll be hosting a live event at LUME Studios in New York on opening day, Wednesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. This live event will feature new digital quilts from Anna Lucia, as well as physical quilts from Loretta Pettway, Essie Bendolph Pettway and Mary Margaret Pettway.