As the next artist in this ongoing series, we’ll be highlighting another incredible NFT artist who has been paving the way for several years now. I had the pleasure of catching up with Olive Allen in Manhatten during her third NFT NYC. Allen has been active in the NFT space since 2018 and is considered one of the early celebrated “crypto artists.” Being one of the few women in the space in the early days, Olive Allen has more than proved herself as a powerhouse not to be reckoned with. I had the chance to interview her once before remotely for a piece I did for Institut by Unit London, and it was a pleasure to get to know her a bit better IRL. So without further ado, I’ll let you watch or read my catch up with Olive Allen earlier this fall in NYC:
David Cash: Hello everybody, we’re here in New York City for NFT NYC. My name is David Cash, editor-in-chief of NFTS.WTF and I am here with Olive Allen. Thank you so much for joining us today, how are you?
Olive Allen: Hi, thanks for having me. I’m great. What a week, right?
DC: Still hanging in there, day four. I don’t know how we’re doing it.
OA: I know, barely, barely. But hey, I love NFTs, it’s a drive, I mean culture and community. That’s what it’s all about, right?
DC: Absolutely. You’ve been in this space forever. Tell people how things started for you and then we can maybe talk about how exciting it is to be here with all of us actually in person for once!
OA: Oh my god yes, this is my third NFT NYC actually.
DC: So you’ve been there since the first one, wow.
OA: Yes, it’s been a minute. I’ve been in the space since its inception; early 2018. When I heard about NFTs. I mean they were not called NFTs obviously. ERC721, Ethereum contract standard, I was like yeah that makes sense.
OA: That really does make sense, and I feel like there is a future. In the beginning I didn’t think about art immediately. I was like okay, gaming. It’s a trillion dollar opportunity industry and I have to get in. I mean I was an artist at the time, I was making paintings, I had a moderate amount of success. I was very young, I was starting out in New York. But, I always wanted to explore what a future holds, and I believe that technology is the future, combining art and tech. It’s going to be something that will be relevant to our times, and I wanting to learn more. So, I just dove deep into all of this.
DC: And here we are now.
OA: NFTs were my entry point, something I really, truly believed in, like tech wise, and something I wanted to explore more. So yeah, here I am!
DC: And here we are. That’s super exciting. Especially for you now that you’ve been to a couple of these events. One of my panellists here, he said he’s been to the past few, and last year there was one venue, now there are five. We can barely keep up with all of the things going on. How has that been for you, going last year and now seeing this year being such a boom?
OA: I mean, crazy. There were like 200 people at the first NFT NYC. The second one, 500 people. And now, 5000 officially, unofficially –
DC: – 10,000 people are here in New York right now for this, it’s insane.
OA: A gazillion, yeah right. And I feel like new ones are joining every day. They’re like ‘oh, what is NFT, why, what’s the hype? I wanna get in.’ I feel by now it’s like 20,000.
DC: I think our community has probably onboarded another, at least 10 or 20 thousand people, just like cab drivers and waiters this week.
DC: So we met through an art show; you’re obviously doing a ton of different stuff. You’re curated into a whole bunch of different exhibits. Do you want to tell the people – I know you started in fine art – but do you want to tell people maybe about your journey doing more 3D, and now recontextualizing that in the gallery setting. Not to go too deep, but it’s super cool.
OA: Yeah, I feel like I always created in that context, of the fine art world.
DC: Yeah, absolutely.
OA: Even though I’m very in this space. But, I still, I love art. It’s all because of the art.
DC: That’s what we’re here for, you know?
OA: That’s what we’re here for!
DC: At least that’s the idea, no?
OA: I know there’s hype in this space, a lot of things are going on. But, art is art. Art is something that would stay after the hype dies, you know? It’s an exciting moment in time, and in NFTs, I’m sure it opens so many opportunities for digital artists, and other creators, like musicians, you name it. It’s just incredible to see it’s happening, it’s history in the making. Yeah. And fine art is just one aspect of it. It just so happened that I do well in the fine art world, a little bit, too.
DC: Absolutely. So I know you’re based in New York, and you’ve been to a few of these NFT NYCs. But I think so many people are finally coming together here for the first time, I mean we’re meeting physically for the first time.
DC: So many people physically for the first time. Is there anything that happened this week that, for you, was very cool? Somebody you’ve never been able to meet, or a company you’ve worked with who you finally actually get to meet the people behind it?
OA: Oh yes! Actually, it’s true there are so many of those moments. But, one that’s notable is the Sunbox.
OA: I started working with them, I created an art experience within the Sunbox game early, early on. Commemorating the Black Lives Matter movement, etc. I created the whole experience, like a mini-game. This week I got to meet them in person and celebrate their success. They came such a long way, and now, they’re a billion or trillion dollar company at this point. I mean, it is the meta-verse.
DC: Yeah. Especially since the Meta announcement, I mean, oh my god. Everything’s just completely blown up, yeah.
OA: Yeah, I know. It’s the future, I knew that, but yeah. Now it’s official, everybody knows, right? Every investment banker is like ‘oh bro, I heard about Meta. Like, metaverse bro, you heard? Like, we gotta learn. Oh my god, what are we gonna do?’
DC: I got so many emails like ‘what do you think about Meta?’ I’m like, I’m not going to email you.
OA: Right? Like, I’m in the metaverse, of course. Like, we all believe in it. Now it’s mainstream.
DC: No it’s so cool, it’s taking people from a zoom call and bringing them in person. It’s like a totally unique experience, so it’s really nice.
OA: Of course, like IRL is unique, it’s rare nowadays, funny as it is, and pretty special. I was really happy to meet people that I knew just as an avatar or twitter nickname. I was like ‘oh, this is you, okay?’
DC: You’re a person!
OA: You’re a person! This is a pretty surreal experience, and I have many of them. Like, wow.
DC: Absolutely. I’ve brought this up on almost every interview that I’ve done, and I’ve talked about it in my talk, but for me the biggest jump was from Web2 to 3. It went from growing an audience, like people you’re almost preaching to, to community, people who are a part of what you do. So, on that note, meeting people. Have you had a chance to meet any of your collectors in person or anything like that? Either this year or just in general? How has that been for you?
OA: Yes! Yes, a lot of them. I mean, that was a true honour, really. I mean they’re all amazing people and I’m really grateful for their support. And it’s amazing to meet them in person.
OA: Some became friends over the years, and others I met for the first time, and both are incredible, I mean.
OA: I like when people just come up to me like ‘Oh hey, I have you on Rarible.’ I’m like ‘oh my god this is awesome, this is, like, really awesome. Thanks for believing.’ I mean, it means a lot for an artist, of course.
OA: If somebody believes in your work and supports you.
DC: Especially from such a decentralized community –
OA: – Yeah!
DC: – You know, you almost never expect to actually meet them in person.
OA: For sure, yeah, and people are excited, they love your work. It just like, I don’t know, puts a giant smile on my face. It’s darn special.
OA: It really is.
DC: So this week there’s so much going on, I know you’re speaking on a panel, were you showing work anywhere? Because I know they were doing the Times Square thing. Tell us a little bit about what you had going on this week, in terms of your art.
OA: Oh my god, it was all last minute, putting the NFT NYC together. Everybody had last minute plans all over the place, so my artwork is in two places.
OA: At Postmaster gallery they had a special exhibit called ‘Gas Station.’ It’s pretty, you know ‘Ethereum gas’ and ‘Gas Station’ –
DC: I love it.
OA: So, I had a piece there and I have a piece at Dreamverse.
DC: Awesome. It’s so nice to be able to actually physically exhibit your work and be there –
OA: – I know, I know.
DC: And, of course, you’ve also exhibited a lot in the metaverse, and now we’re really seeing those worlds blend. I’ve been to a couple shows here where they have VR headsets in the space. How has that been for you bringing your work from the metaverse into IRL settings, even if it is in this blended ‘mixed reality’ kind of vibe?
OA: I don’t know. I feel like the work should exist in both worlds, why not, right?
OA: I mean, I’m into physical, making physical work as well. I feel like both are relevant, both should exist. Because [inaudible], like exist IRL, and you are real.
DC: Right, I love that!
OA: I don’t know. I like how it sounds.
DC: I love that, actually.
OA: Yeah. I believe that a lot of works of art will exist in the metaverse going forward, and NFT technology is amazing for preserving provenance, and ensuring that artwork is not lost, and seemingly transferred into the digital realm. So, it’s pretty fascinating, but the physical artwork is pretty incredible too. It’s something special to see the painting or a sculpture up close, it’s like – it’s a totally different experience. Even NFT on the screen, you know? They’re also cool!
DC: Right, yeah, big! Like, big, not just on your computer.
OA: Yeah, I’m like okay, this is cool.
DC: Absolutely, I wrote an article about um – for this publication actually – about how digital art and the metaverse is facilitating works that could never be created fully IRL. And now we’re taking these insane sculptures or really cute characters that are completely unrealistic but dope, and bringing them into IRL settings through AR and through VR, etc. How has that been for you? Is there anything that you’ve created recently that you’re like I would never be able to do this if it wasn’t for 3D and all of this technology?
OA: Um, yeah, of course.
DC: If not everything that you’re doing.
OA: I mean tech makes your artwork come alive. You know, in the metaverse everything’s possible, there is no gravity. So you’re not limited to canvas or a sculpture –
DC: – It’s so empowering
OA: – The metaverse is limitless, that’s what fascinates me about it as an artist. I’m looking forward to exploring more and more. There’s limitless potential, that’s what attracted me to the whole world in the first place.
DC: Absolutely. And I mean you’ve been existing in this bleeding edge side of tech for a while and I feel like you really enjoy trying the newest thing. What’s something you’re working on right now or you have coming up that you’re really excited about? NFTs are like the gateway drug, it’s just tokenizing your artwork, right? You said it – you said it really well. Like, it’s just certifying your artwork on the blockchain. It’s great. But, you know, the utility and the Web3 aspect and VR, AR, all of these elements of this world are so in depth. What tech is really exciting you right now?
OA: Oh my god, I’m working on so many things right now. I have a lot in the pipeline.
DC: – 2022, it’s going to be big.
OA: – Yeah, right after the conference I’ll be like ‘Okay, it’s time to go to work.’ And to actually make it happen. Both physical, sculpture, painting. I’m adding an AR component to my work.
OA: Yeah I have plans to create, like, a completely virtual experience in the metaverse.
OA: I mean, yes.
DC: Of course, it makes sense.
OA: Yeah, I have a solo show coming up in spring 2022, next year. So I’m preparing a mixed media show for that.
OA: I mean, I have so much, and I really want to do so much. I wish I had more time, I wish I had, like 25 hours a day, you know, there’s so much.
DC: It would be nice if the whole world could pause for a week or something. We’d get so much done. Yeah.
OA: I know! But, yeah, you always want to do something. The NFT space is so fast paced but also so inspiring at the same time. You see what people are working on, especially after this week I’m like ‘okay I want to try this, I want to try that.’ Now I’m excited oh my god, I want to collab. It’s never ending.
DC: Also this year there’s been so much more exhibited because now we actually have all this space, right?
OA: Right. Yeah.
DC: Is there anything that you saw this week that you want to take and use. You know, steal like an artist, right? You want to see their favourite little elements of all these different things and then take that and bring it into your practice.
OA: Right, right, right.
DC: What’s really exciting you from this week?
OA: I love the advertisements in Times Square.
OA: I’m like, okay I like this kind of place, you know, that irony. There was a giant panda just standing in Times Square in a very casual manner. This is so ridiculous! I love that! I love those kinds of things, like unexpected, weird things. I think I want to do more of that.
DC: I don’t think any of us expected to see all this 3D art taking over Times Square right now, I mean if you said a year ago. It’s a cool thing for me as well because I was a child actor, I was working in New York and then they showed all of our faces on the Times Square screens. And it’s just like, to me that’s insane, you know, going from –
OA: Damn, that’s cool!
DC: We’re developers, we’re 3D people, we’re, like, we’re behind the camera people, and now we get to, you know, be known for the things we love to do, genuinely, so I think it’s really exciting.
OA: Yes, indeed. I saw some new frames people are working on, display frames, and some of them are very cool. Very thin, like a picture frame. Even better.
OA: So I don’t think the question of, ‘how do I display that?’ is going to relevant six months or a year from now, so I’m happy.
DC: Finally, you know, those puzzle pieces are coming together.
OA: Finally, some people are figuring that out and it’s going to be solved.
DC: Yeah because even six months ago getting a good display screen was a challenge, you know?
OA: It’s true, but now look at us, you know.
DC: Overwhelmed with screen sponsors.
OA: There’s something to it. Yeah, and people need to get used to things.
OA: It happens gradually, always.
DC: This year – I’m definitely doing a bunch of stuff, I know Kenny’s doing a bunch of stuff, you’re doing a bunch of stuff – but I think this year is going to be maybe one of the most historic art events, like this is going to go down as one of the events that really pushed NFTs into the mainstream, because they’re taking over Art Basel pretty much this year.
OA: Wow. I know, it’s crazy right?
OA: Before there were like no NFTs and know everybody’s doing NFT events. I mean Miami, I mean there were a lot of crypto people in Miami –
OA: Right, there was Bitcoin Miami, it was huge.
OA: I think it’s going to be similar.
DC: I’m sure you’ve been to Art Basel’s in the past. What are you looking forward to knowing about what’s happened in the past, versus this year?
OA: Oh my god, what I’m looking forward to… Like pace myself, and actually get some sun, that’s what I’m looking forward to, you know?
DC: Go to the beach or something, yeah.
OA: Like, I never do that when I’m there, but like yeah. I feel like this is important, a little bit of balance never hurts anyone.
DC: Olive Allen’s guide to Crypto events, you know?
OA: Yeah. I mean, and it’s impossible to chase the parties, there’s always something you’re going to miss, and that you want to go to, but yeah. I mean, the schedule is very helpful.
DC: At least it’s a robust event, it’s been around for a really long time so I feel like I’m excited to see how existing infrastructure will serve with an NFT-ish event. Because it’s still not just an NFT event, right? You still have all the traditional booths –
OA: Right, of course. Everybody wants to do something, right? Everybody’s doing something – fashion company, every brand is doing something, it’s just like, they’re huge.
DC: And now there’s so many off-shot events at the same time as well, like, it’s insane, we’re going to take over another city.
OA: Wow, this is pretty insane, right? All the events, it’s like an endless party and celebration in Miami.
OA: I think it’s going to be wild this year, because of the lockdown, you know? And now it’s like everybody can go out and party, and it’s going to be crazy.
DC: I love it.
DC: I don’t want to keep you all day but I do want to ask you for people watching at home, anybody who’s feeling the FOMO, and wasn’t able to make it to the event, how would you describe the energy here right now? How has it been for you, apart from tired, because I think we are both exhausted at this point.
OA: Oh my god, tired, tired, no. It’s very celebratory, it’s very festive, everybody’s excited, new people are trying to get in. There’s a lot of hype, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of interesting events. It’s a really huge party, in a way. And there are interesting panels. I mean, it’s major.
DC: It’s major, it is.
OA: It’s major, right?
DC: Absolutely, yeah.
OA: I didn’t expect it to be like this, but it’s wild, right?
DC: And it feels really important being here.
OA: Yeah, history in the making
DC: Absolutely. We’re here covering it so it’s perfect, you know?
OA: Yes, right time, right place, and damn what a great interviewer.
DC: Aw thank you, thank you, I appreciate it.
OA: You have a great logo too.
DC: It’s by one of our DAO members, but very much a pleasure to finally meet you in person.
DC: Before we end this off, if people want to find you online or check out some of your work, where can they do that?
DC: Perfect! We’ll throw those on the screen here so you guys can check out her work, it’s been such a pleasure getting to chat with you.
OA: Pleasure’s all mine.
DC: Have a lovely rest of your New York experience, thank you all for watching.
OA: All right, thanks a lot!
DC: Have a great rest of your days.