Digital Craftsmanship of Physical Art

When “NFT” recently became the buzzword among 60,000 art enthusiasts at the Miami Beach Convention Center, it’s almost hard to imagine that several months ago — before Art Basel, Miami Art Week, and BitBasel began, many long-established physical art galleries were observing the NFT crypto art movement from the sidelines. Their curiosity was piqued; they wanted to get involved, yet they weren’t exactly sure how to best exploit the technology.

Miami Art Week 2021 

Some of the inspiration for last week’s deluge of NFTs on the shore of South Beach can be credited to the trendsetting work of early adopters; traditional art market exhibitors who’ve been minting, onboarding, and selling NFTs for several months now. The best way to fail forward in crypto is to summarily succeed in becoming the first to do something. Although first doesn’t mean best, creative galleries like La Découverte set a high artistic standard and expectation for a community of physical art lovers now embracing NFTs.

“We want to stand for beautiful, gorgeous masterpieces of physical art, playing in the digital world,” said Valentin Lefebvre, Founder of La Découverte. Lefebvre and his creative team transform remarkable pieces of physical art into NFTs by capturing them digitally — then using animation to add motion, movement, and music. “Those galleries and collectors, they’re quite excited to see what we’re doing because it’s very familiar to their world. It just happens to be in this space that is so hard for them to understand,” he said.

La Découverte — Digital Canvas

The collaborative process between the original physical artists, animators, and Lefevre’s curatorial team results in the creation of distinctly new works of art. Once these intangible artworks are minted on the blockchain, each verifiable NFT is auctioned or sold in an official collection, which adds value to the physical piece as the digital collector community grows. “We’re going to be about rare and precious pieces that are going to appeal to the collector approach and mindset,” Lefebvre said. In addition to collaborations with contemporary artists, La Découverte is developing concepts and collections using images and artworks in the public domain, like pieces in its Versailles Collection in 2022.

Painter Esther Barend was skeptical at first when she received an email from Lefebvre about re-imagining Ravishing, her artwork, as an NFT. Painting is a way of living for Barend, so perhaps to her, it didn’t feel quite real that someone would want to make a virtual rendition of her lived experience. Lefebvre saw her original painting in a gallery and immediately felt its kinetic qualities. He flew to Spain to meet with Barend, where they discovered that she had similar ideas while creating her painting.

Intoxicated By Love — Esther Barend (voice of Valentin Lefebvre)

“The only way she would agree to have her art translated in a digital way would be to enhance it,” Lefebvre said in regards to Barend. “We both wanted to render something new, and that was attractive to her,” he said. To create the NFT, La Découverte visited the Parisian collector’s home to capture high-definition images with archival digitizing equipment.

The physical original Ravishing painting was on the cover of the 2019 invitation to Esther Barend’s 4th solo show at the ArtClub Gallery in Paris. The painting sold instantly during the opening of the show. Ravishing sold as an NFT on October 13th for Ξ3.4 at auction on Makersplace, which is more than the purchase price of the original painting. The auction was live-streamed on YouTube and broadcast on LinkedIn and Instagram. 

In accomplishing a number of firsts, “best” can only be decided when others join the chase. Ironically, Lefebvre’s former profession as a motorcycle racer is perhaps the only line of work where “first” is always synonymous with “best.”

Ravishing by Esther Barend — Makersplace

“It was thrilling because we were discovering a lot as we were going along. The Black Dove partnership was really exciting. We want to continue to partner with brands that hold and communicate the same high quality, high artistic values,” Lefebvre said.

Black Dove, makers of high-resolution 4K digital screens, featured La Découverte’s artworks in the prestigious Oliver Coal Gallery exhibition during Miami Art Week.   

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