In the digital emporium of artistry, Basileus reigns, a connoisseur who pursues a heartfelt resonance with each pixel-infused masterpiece before declaring it his own. In an interview with nft now, he unravels the narrative of his meticulously curated and self-endowed crypto art collection.
In Robert Silverberg’s short story “Emperor of the Angels,” a computer programmer engrossed by a world of 1,000 digital angels lets the weight of this virtual realm disconnect him from reality, ultimately adopting the mantle of ‘Basileus, Emperor of the Angels.’ The tale, while poignant, is shadowed by melancholy. Fast forward to today, and we find echoes of Silverberg’s vision, albeit with a sunnier disposition.
The Bay Area has birthed a new Basileus: a digital savant of the 21st century who, rather than being ensnared by angels, seeks them out in the radiant galleries of web3 marketplaces. This modern Basileus, donning his pseudonym in homage to Silverberg’s tale, celebrates the majesty of crypto art, with every NFT he acquires representing an angel in his collection.
Known only by his pseudonym, Basileus has been fascinated by the world of art since a young age, but it was not until the emergence of digital art that he began to collect. The computer scientist by trade lives small and enjoys traveling whenever possible. During his journeys, he seeks out museums, galleries, and, above all, artists’ studios in order to delve deeper into the world of art. Basileus’ passion for the history of art has even led him and his wife to visit an artist in jail. Understanding the situation of an artist and their creative process is an essential part of appreciating their output, he argues.
Basileus has followed the world of cryptocurrency since 2011 when it was only about a currency. After the introduction of Ethereum in 2015 and the experimentation with NFTs that proliferated a few years later, he felt it was only natural for him to start collecting art in the digital realm. “It fueled the rise of crypto art,” he recalls, “and the chance for me to connect with artists via the web3 medium is truly incredible.” Whilst Bitcoin was only about a currency, smart contracts built on Ethereum let users create self-executing contracts that allowed for “automated, complex interactions, such as between a marketplace, artist, and collector,” Basileus notes.
Initially, Basileus began his crypto journey with CryptoKitties and Marble Cards but quickly found himself gravitating towards his true passions: art and music. By focusing on these areas, he was able to build a more meaningful collection that reflected his personal interests. Despite initial skepticism from those around him, who ridiculed the idea of spending $50 on a JPEG, Basileus persisted. “Little did they know,” he reflects. As the market exploded, however, Basileus found that his detractors had only grown more hostile. “Their laughs turned to snarls,” he notes.
Despite this negativity, Basileus remained steadfast in his passion for crypto art and continued to build his collection with purpose and intention. His belief in the power of digital art on the blockchain was firm, and his early adoption paid off. “I really see crypto art as a new art movement, or even bigger than that, almost akin to the Renaissance,” he muses. “It has completely transformed the way that art is created, distributed, and rewarded.” Besides the democratization of art and creativity and the option to monetize native digital artworks.
Basileus sees the blockchain as a revolutionary tool for cultural development. He speaks of its ability to forge novel paths for collaboration: “Artists from disparate corners of the world can put their combined narratives and styles into a single piece on-chain, with all transactions transparent and contributions recognized in real-time.” And to quote one of his favorite film heroes, Jim Kelly, about the possibility of it all going away: “I won’t even notice; I’ll be too busy looking good!”
The internet’s ability to promote trends, culture, and art is well-documented, but most forms of digital creativity, like memes and GIFs, have proven hard to monetize. Today, GIF hubs and meme generators earn most of their money through advertising, with their income completely detached from the value they create. Basileus hopes that future internet trends will be built on the blockchain and thus more fairly compensate the creatives who shape digital culture.
For Basileus, the beauty of crypto art lies in its potential to democratize the art world and offer new opportunities for talented creators. He mainly purchases new art and does not sell it frequently. “I sometimes sell to reinvest,” he explains. “Last year, for example, I sold an XCOPY for nearly $1 million, and all of that was used to reinvest.” It gives Basileus great satisfaction to see an artist he supported from the very beginning grow to gain a significant audience in the space. “That’s what makes investing exciting and keeps me motivated.”
Basileus seeks to be emotionally moved by a piece before he adds it to his collection. Once he finds an artwork that resonates with him, he dives into researching the artist’s background, creative process, and regard by other artists he respects. Basileus evaluates each piece’s potential as an investment, considering whether he will still feel positive about the purchase a year down the line. “It’s important for me to truly love the art and also contemplate if I will feel good about the investment in the artist in the long run,” he explains.
Basileus’ digital art collection is now self-funded, thanks to his successful cryptocurrency investments. With over 2300 pieces in his collection, representing the work of several hundred different artists, including 145 on SuperRare alone, Basileus has demonstrated a particular fondness for animated pieces with a traditional feel. He admires artists who blend classical themes with a modern perspective, the ultimate fusion in his view.
For Basileus, no one did this better than Alotta Money, who sadly passed away last year. Known for his playful mix of cryptocurrency figures and neoclassical art, Alotta Money epitomized what Basileus regards as the best of crypto art. “It is about incorporating the stories of our time into powerful works of art,” he concludes.