SuperRare relates their own story to date

Wednesday 11th August, 2021 - Bruce Sterling

*That’s the NFT business for you.

Recounting the early days of the NFT art market & peering ahead into the decentralized future with SuperRare co-founder & CEO, John Crain

SuperRare was born from a simple idea: what if we could build an art market that put power into the hands of artists? This blog post is a window into SuperRare’s mission to transform this idea into a global artistic movement, as we reflect on our path so far, our community at large and our vision for the future.

The Before

For almost as long as computers have existed, artists have been using them to create art. Nowadays one could argue that we come across the work of digital creatives far more often than traditional artists, but, paradoxically, digital art still constitutes a very small subset of the overall art market.
Early on, we realized that this anomaly was largely due to the intangible nature of digital art. It lives everywhere and nowhere all at once, which makes it difficult to collect, own or resell.

Before SuperRare, and even before NFTs, there were murmurs of emerging internet art markets. There was Pepe the Frog, which, as early as 2015, had people thinking about meme markets and digital art ownership. Rare Pepe markets quickly sprung up on the colored coin protocol Counterparty. The Rare Pepe Wallet was built by Joe Looney for trading and collecting, and an entire ecosystem emerged around meme art. What previously occupied an obscure corner of the internet now started to grab hold of the collective zeitgeist. However, there still was no established way to verify ownership.

Then, in the summer of 2017, Matt Hall and John Watkinson created CryptoPunks – a generative art project on the Ethereum blockchain that utilized an early precursor to the ERC-721 standard for issuing NFTs. The Punk NFTs blew up (as did their cost), instilling the ERC-721 standard as a reputable certificate of ownership, and pointing to a major non-financial use case for crypto networks.

The creation of a standard for unique tokens was a profound development, ushering in a new era of digital scarcity.

The Beginning

When the ERC-721 standard was announced, we were working full time jobs and had barely enough free time to drink a beer, let alone start a company, but we were inextricably attracted to this incredible innovation. We were actually having a few beers and smoking some weed, enjoying a casual hack-a-thon, like, an excuse to hang out but we also felt sort of productive, because we were doing some coding as well. We were just talking about the existing things that were on Ethereum, and at some point we were like, oh man, they have these decentralized exchanges that are mostly geared towards different cryptocurrencies, but what if you had one of those that was dedicated to art? Then you’d have this globally-accessible art gallery, and a brand new art market….