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  • Writer's pictureLorepunk

A Talk With A2 Cofounder Ben Roy


Ben Roy’s iconic blue Squiggle
Ben Roy’s iconic Squiggle

Ben Roy is a badass. He’s been around the space for many bulls and bears, is the author of the famous Fat CryptoPunks Thesis article, and has a fantastic personal newsletter, Digital Objects. He’s also a cofounder of Accelerate Art, helping to shape and shepherd the collective from an idea to a full nonprofit. I sat down with him for a wide-ranging call full of insights, advice and a little bit of alpha.


We spoke in June, but the ideas he’s talking about in the interview are already coming into fruition, with an upcoming exhibit in Paris as well as the first edition of CONTINUUM, a new A2 series of exhibits featuring emerging artists engaging in creative dialogue with some of the great artists of our human history.


lorepunk

lorepunk

How did you get involved in Accelerate Art?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

Early A2 Decentraland Gathering
Early A2 Cryptovoxels Gathering

At the beginning of 2021, I was spending a decent amount of time in early virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels, for example, or Decentraland. These environments were one of the onboarding points for me into crypto. And I felt that while they were janky back then, one day there would be some form of cultural activity or business activity in these spaces.


So I thought, “What can we do TODAY that would prove the concept and show people that these virtual spaces are interesting?” It seemed like a good idea to do some art shows. Have a virtual space for digital art and do some extra “cultural” work around it like interviews with artists. And that line of thinking led to the idea for Accelerate Art.


I reached out to Claire randomly on Twitter early in the process, she was interested in the arts and curation side of things, and so we formalized Accelerate Art and kicked things off.


lorepunk

lorepunk

You're also an angel investor who wrote a wonderful article recently about the ins and outs of angel investing. Is there an overlap, in scope and skill set, between being an angel investor and being the founder of an organization like A2 that's there to support emerging artists?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

That’s an interesting question. It's definitely a similar skill set. I think whether you’re talking about business or nonprofits, there are definitely core similarities to some of the work involved.


Much of the work that I do as an advisor or investor ends up being helping early-stage teams with community design, branding, storytelling—being able to build a durable project or service that people buy into and want to be part of.


When I look at what I do at Accelerate Art it’s a lot of the same things plus making connections in the background and building fundraising partnerships. In a remote-first attention economy, so much of everything is about brand-building and how do you get people to care about what you’re doing.


lorepunk

lorepunk

A2 Miami Art Basel Exhibit
A2 Miami Art Basel Exhibit (Scope Miami)

There is a lot of invocation of curation as a skill. But many people on crypto Twitter wind up surfacing and chasing after the same small set of artists, you get a bit of an echo chamber. Strategically, how do you get around this problem with A2, and succeed at actually reaching emerging artists?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

I feel like crypto art, or the intersection of art and blockchains, has a power-law thing in terms of what artists attract value. And that's a similar experience with traditional art markets, right? There are only so many artists that can sell for very high numbers and most attention in the space is on a shorts list of the top folks. With Accelerate Art we've taken an opposite approach. Early on, we had the option of going the auction house route. There probably would have been people who would have funded this as a business. But instead, we intentionally thought about what we could do to take some cultural capital from the high end, and deploy it down to the lower and early stage. We wanted to uplift people who are in the early part of their career, people who might never have sold their work—early enough in their process that they aren't in that consensus bucket.


The way I look at Accelerate Art is we're trying to gather some of that attention and cultural capital to uplift people who are on the bottom end of the pyramid, as opposed to the top.


lorepunk

lorepunk

Does it work? You see a beautiful show, you see gorgeous works. But when you shift that attention, does it work? Does it progress the artist's career? Is that a metric that you're actually even capturing?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

At this point, we don't do any quantitative tracking. We're not looking at someone's floor price—though, that could be of interest in the future. We do keep in pretty close contact with artists who have been in our past shows though. We keep track of these people in a qualitative way, and we try to funnel additional opportunities to those cohorts, and it does feel like artists see some value in connecting with us.

"Past is Prologue" exhibit (NFT NYC 2022)

There's also excitement about helping artists display their work. It grows their network, they build relationships with other artists, and they get to be part of something. There's that more subjective value. Being an artist can often feel lonely and being able to have that network of like-minded folks who are at a similar stage in their careers provides value. So I would like to think it works. We're still early enough to leave a question mark—let's circle back in a year.


lorepunk

lorepunk

One thing I really like about A2 is it is more representative. You're seeing people from all over the world, and from marginalized genders, diverse racial groups, and people who are exploring very challenging concepts of identity in their work.


In an organization like A2, what is its role and responsibility in combating default structural biases in the art scene?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

We gathered our initial member group of about 50 people, in this version of Accelerate Art, to guide us in what we do, and to share information. As part of that process we intentionally tried to capture as much diversity as we could… to incorporate different voices, different art mediums, diversity—literally–in all its forms. I didn't actually think too consciously about this. I just know it's something that's important to Claire and to myself. We wanted to gather a lot of people and create a space that's encouraging, no matter where you're coming from.


lorepunk

lorepunk

If you had a time machine and you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, when you started A2, what would you say?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

I probably would have pushed to create a nonprofit sooner versus later on. I think there was a point, in the two and a half year lifecycle where this project has existed, when I found that we were running into scaling limits—and we put off a conversation about that for too long. And then, when inviting this membership layer, there was a window of time in between, where it was unclear what this organization really was. Part of that, frankly, is the reality of entrepreneurship, whether it's in a non-profit or for-profit world—you have to build the bridge as you're walking on it, and try things out. But now that we're in a spot where we have a small team, it's a formal nonprofit in New York, and all our ducks are in a row administratively we're able to have real conversations. I’ve probably had around 40 conversations in the last two months in terms of sponsorships, fundraising, connections and partnerships. It's much easier to explain what A2 is and what our vision is. I think that coherence would have been very helpful earlier in its lifecycle.


I would probably try and tell myself to get my act together a little bit quicker. We've been very blessed with people like our executive director Spumma and Claire’s executive assistant Judy, to essentially bring us to that conclusion.


lorepunk

lorepunk

Finally, a request for alpha. What is the future for A2 going to look like? What cool stuff is coming?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

What I'm most excited about is for us to get into a rhythm of consistent physical shows each year. Up to this point, we've done a few—New York twice, Basel and then Romania. What's exciting me at the moment is by next year, we will have four flagship physical shows that will track the crypto conference circuit. If you can really settle on four physical shows, and find funding to facilitate that alongside digital-first programming like the newsletter and Spaces on X, you really have a light-touch but meaningful organization to support digital culture. That's how I'm thinking about the next 18 months. I'm excited to see if we get into that cadence and are able to commit to that consistently. What we're able to do as an organization will be very meaningful in terms of its reach.


lorepunk

lorepunk

Anything else you'd like to say?

Ben Roy

Ben Roy

I would end with a thank you to everyone who's been patient and followed along with us over the last two years. We’ve had a lot of people, in good faith, want to participate, show up at our events, whether they're physical or digital, and be supportive of Accelerate Art. There's a very positive feedback loop of people who really seem to be interested in A2, and that interest has allowed us to do what we’re doing.


I'm excited to invite everyone to continue to follow along. Thank you.

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