A New NFT Venture Has an Innovative Idea: Make Buyers Prove They Know Something About an Artist Before They Bid

Amid the explosion of NFT initiatives over the past year seeking to cash in on the crypto arts craze, how do you stand out? The six month old child TR laboratory (for the Latin term “tabula rasa” or blank slate) thinks it has the answer, with a thoughtful mix of newbie artists and seasoned art stars, a focus on measures to build true community and, most importantly, powerful team leadership.

For more than a decade, former model and basketball player Xin Li-Cohen has been a rainmaker at Christie’s, advising and bidding for contemporary art collectors, including some of Asia’s top buyers. In a profile from 2014, the the Wall Street newspaper nicknamed it the “auction house”secret weapon. “Today, she is both co-founder and president of TR Lab (she also retains her responsibilities at Christie’s under the slightly modified title of non-executive vice president).

The other founder and CEO of TR Lab is Audrey Ou, a New York-based specialist who worked closely with the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, founded by her parents. in 2010. Or worked on solo exhibitions by artists there, including one dedicated to Cai Guo Qiang. She is also a member of the Young Collectors and Asian Art committees of the Guggenheim Museum.

Both Li-Cohen and Ou told Artnet News that getting to grips with the crypto art field involved curiosity, research, and a lot of time spent on both Twitter and Discord, both learning to speak NFT lingo. and explain it to others in simple terms.

“Even in February, I really didn’t know anything about NFT,” Ou said. “So it really has been a crazy learning curve. I always ask questions.

Li-Cohen added that “everything has changed” after Christie’s sold Beeple’s Everyday for $ 69 million last March. Since then, she has focused on the growing NFT space.

The co-founder and CEO of TR Lab, Audrey Ou.

The co-founder and CEO of TR Lab, Audrey Ou.

“When we were preparing for the [Beeple] sale, I was really interested in the innovation that surrounded it, ”said Li-Cohen. “I also like to build something new.” She says she has also responded to a plethora of inquiries regarding NFT from even more mainstream clients.

TR Lab was incubated by Dragonfly Capital, a leading China-based cryptocurrency fund that wanted to invest specifically in art NFTs, as well as reaching more Chinese collectors. When Dragonfly struggled to find a team they believed was “properly equipped” to do so, Ou recounts, they approached the Rockbund Museum. (Other funders / partners of the business include Artsy, the art trading website, and Art021, the Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair.)

One of the site’s first launches, in July, was Chinese art star Cai Guo Qiang’s very first NFT, a one-of-a-kind work called Transient Eternity-101 Ignitions of powder paint. It was commissioned by the Rockbund for its 10th anniversary charity auction and sold for $ 2.5 million on the TR Lab platform after a 48 hour bid. Cai has more drops planned for this year.

Meanwhile, TR Lab also supports AI2041, a a multi-artist and cross-media collaboration between authors and artists which has a new decline every week. The grand finale of the project will be a drop this month featuring well-known AI artist Refik Anadol.

An image of Min Shi's Genesis drop on TR Lab, a 1/1 animated NFT short called Gods Behind The Masks, which sold for 4.4 ETH ($ 16,500).  Image courtesy of TR Lab

An image of Min Shi’s genesis drop on TR Lab, a short animated 1/1 NFT called Gods behind the masks, which sold for 4.4 ETH ($ 16,500). Image courtesy of TR Lab

Behind their strategy, there is the feeling that fatigue has already set in with the available NFT collection models. “Our thesis is that collectors are looking for something new and new…” Ou explained. “It can be taken in a number of ways, from innovative downfall mechanisms to innovative community involvement and benefits. ”

For artists new to NFT, TR Lab helps from start to finish, including an in-house digital media production studio. It was the platform’s support that helped Cai turn an on-time meditation into his first NFT, notes Ou.

A photo by Ness Graphics on TR Lab (a limited edition of 50 out of print called QU4NTUM).  Image courtesy of TR Lab.

A still image from Ness Graphics on TR Lab (a sold-out limited edition
edition of 50 copies called QU4NTUM). Image courtesy of TR Lab.

Even when it comes to experienced digital artists, she noted, “they struggle to work with different platforms and maintain the scarcity.”

As for the community component, TR Lab hosts weekly AMA (“ask me anything”) events between its artists and WHALE, a popular NFT collectors community created by a large Hong Kong-based collector who’s calls WhaleShark. He has some 20,000 people on his Discord site.

Another innovative measure undertaken by TR Lab is a tender request form known as a “white sheet”, aimed at eliminating bots or robots.

“We really do our best to make sure that works of art go into the hands of collectors who value the pieces and aren’t just robots trying to return them to the aftermarket,” Ou said. “You can only successfully apply to be whitelisted if you answer all questions about the artist, her background and her previous works. ”

Observers of the scene take note. “You can see that the management team has a lot of experience in the traditional art world,” said Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, a big NFT collector who has bought and sold major NFTs, including Beeple’s. crossroads for $ 6.6 million. “They know how the system works.

He also praised the TR Lab’s white sheet. “This is sor as a test … I find it fascinating. It’s very, very smart.

And after? Li-Cohen says the TR Lab team is focused on creating a combination of physical and virtual experiences that “bridge the gap between the traditional art world and the digital art world.” One recent event was a virtual studio tour where around 100 people observed and asked about Cai’s gunpowder painting process.

“We want to create [a sense of] community and deliver experiences that no other platform would provide, ”she said. So far, so good.

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