When we last spoke with world-renowned photographer and artist Lyle Owerko, it was soon after he transformed his Thirty Four Fifty West residence into an inspiring studio that served as the genesis of his iconic, pop-culture-influenced works. Today, we reconnect after his swift reroute into a new world of art back in March 2020.
By virtue of his peerless talent and incredible foresight, Lyle entered the digital realm and teamed up with the Winklevoss twins to sell his work via non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on their new platform, Nifty Gateway. Learn more about Lyle’s new journey in his second Live-Work Life feature, below.
Hi Lyle, long time no talk! What have you been up to at Thirty Four Fifty West since last year?
I moved my studio into the unit at Thirty Four Fifty West in 2019 (my first studio in LA). Right from the get-go, new opportunities flooded in. LA has been the perfect place to re-stage my career direction based on the local resources and incredible pool of talent and vendors in California. The workspace is a joy to come to every day; the light and volume of the space inspires me on a daily basis. It’s incomparable.
We’d love to know more about your involvement with Nifty Gateway, the digital art online auction platform for non-fungible token art.
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss are old friends from New York. They texted me and said they’d bought a new company, Nifty Gateway, and wanted me to be one of the artists they launched with. It was an easy yes. On the first call with the Nifty Gateway team, they said I explained NFTss and the value of intellectual provenance back to them better than they could have to me. It was a proper meeting of the minds.
What they showed me clicked with my consciousness for intrinsic value to flow directly through to creators. Engineers, investors and artists would be able to see that this was the first time a proper “VIN” number could be married to a piece of art and see its full value into perpetuity. It’s been an amazing journey ever since, and to see so many vibrant talents find a voice (and audience) and come into their own via this platform is very special.
How and why did you decide to create for the NFT marketplace?
I was very lucky that the marketplace came to me. I happened to have some finished, unpublished works meant to be support materials for my main art practice, but after my first talk with the team at Nifty Gateway, I immediately sent them the files and about an hour later they said “yes.”
For someone who’s not well-versed in crypto, what’s the process of creating and selling art via NFTs?
It’s getting easier by the day. Platforms like OpenSea are inviting anyone to join the environment. You just need a Crypto Wallet and content to enter the space.
How many projects have you worked on thus far with Nifty Gateway?
I’ve launched four projects thus far. The most recent was in April and it was an incredibly sophisticated and ambitious one. It was the first sound-enabled augmented reality object that launches on your iPhone and populates itself as a smart object in your cell phone camera. It’s a very special work and will one day find its true moment in the NFT timeline. No one saw it coming and those who now own it are holding onto them forever. My collector base has what they call “Diamond Hands.” They simply buy and hold.
Any others in the pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?
Yes, I’m launching a project via S16 Gallery in Montreal in November. It’s a collaboration with the artist Stikki Peaches and we’ve worked nearly two years on it. I’m also in the process of finishing a number of sculptures that will be ready in November, as well. I’ll also be doing some “surprise” NFT launches before the year’s end and a “big” one in February.
How has your studio set-up changed now that much of your work is digital?
Everything starts digitally now and has become an intrinsic part of my studio’s workflow. In the last two years the work, the teams and the amount of 3D, CGI, animation, compositing and visual engineering we do on the desktop is a massive part of the daily process. My artistic practice thinks in motion, 3D and hyper-real visuals, and digital makes it come to life — especially online.
What’s your best piece of advice for those looking to purchase art via NFTs?
Like any investment, follow your tastes, believe in what you like (no matter what the market says) and love what you own. That applies to all great art, from music to painting and anything tied to expression from prose to filmmaking. Simply acquire and support what you’re drawn to in your soul.
And when it comes to NFTs, support the artists (not the trends), the living works and the innovators. Try not to be impressed by how high something sells for but for how high it dares to reach.
Is this the future of art?
It’s the future of everything.
For a look inside Lyle’s inspiring workspace at Thirty Four Fifty West, check out his first “Live-Work Life” feature here.