Nestled in the heart of London’s posh Mayfair district lies one of the world’s most elegant digital art galleries.
Situated on New Bond Street, just around the corner from Sotheby’s and across from Chanel’s global headquarters, the gallery resides above the flagship store for the storied luxury house Asprey.
Featuring dignified displays of digital works by Yatreda and Jesse Woolston alongside intricate ceramic vases sculpted by Ryan Barrett, the white-walled space is immaculate and anchored by a centerpiece statue of Asprey Studio’s signature “A.”
Its architect is Alastair Walker (known to his friends as Ali or Reklaw), a longtime artist who has become the primary force stewarding the 243-year-old brand into web3 by creating Asprey Studio and serving as its artist and chief creative officer.
Founded in 1781, Asprey is renowned as one of the world’s leading luxury goods retailers, with specialties in jewelry, leather, and silver and a client list that includes royal families, heads of state, and A-list celebrities. Dating back to the 1800s, the brand has held a Royal Warrant with every British monarch since Queen Victoria, producing a succession of royal heirlooms ranging from pearl necklaces and dressing cases to Princess Diana’s famous aquamarine diamond ring later given to Meghan Markle.
Now, through Asprey Studio, the brand is writing a fresh chapter with the creation of a new entity comprising a state-of-the-art design studio, a tokenized membership club, and a gallery. Walker has leveraged its legacy to become an early mover at the intersection of luxury and digital art, bridging the physical and digital with trademark craftsmanship and boldly betting on emerging technologies like Bitcoin Ordinals.
“I believe digital art is the most important art movement happening now,” says Walker. “It’s been hindered by the word NFT and crypto and all the rubbish we went through last year. But in that is rising a very interesting, highly collectible space that many people are starting to move into. I want the gallery to be at that forefront and constantly innovate.”
Asprey Studio Origins
Walker’s introduction to digital art came remarkably early. He recalls creating his first pixel artwork on a Commodore Amiga computer that his father had won, the same model that Andy Warhol and Keith Haring famously used for their first forays into digital art. After discovering rendering software like Imagine and Cinema 4D, Walker decided to pursue a career in art and film.
“I was animating and drawing literally every day,” he recalls. “That led me to a path in the art world, in the film world, visual effects, working for a lot of brands, films, and music videos. Not really concentrating on my own work because I had bills to pay, right?”
Walker first began working with Asprey in 2016 as a freelance visual artist on a creative project. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was assigned to spearhead the launch of Asprey’s relocation to Bruton Street. During that time, he conceptualized the business plan for Asprey Studio. In April 2021, he officially launched Asprey Studio as its chief creative officer and struck a partnership with Bugatti soon after.
“Asprey Studio is a separate company but owned by Asprey,” Walker explains. “There’s the design studio, which is really state of the art. Then there’s the members club and the gallery. The idea is that we’re creating things we’re offering members and exhibiting them in a high-end luxury environment right in the middle of Mayfair.”
First drawn to NFTs during the bull run’s hype cycle, Walker chuckles as he recalls buying “a load of crap” before coming to the understanding that the technology’s real promise was “opening up digital art properly.” Realizing that this new movement was at its incipiency, he pushed for Asprey Studio to embrace web3 fully, and with the support of chairman John Rigas, the gallery opened its doors in June 2023.
In designing the gallery, Walker wanted to create an elevated space that defied expectations immediately upon entrance. The gallery marks a striking contrast from typical displays of digital art, which are sadly often plagued by cluttered screens, visible wires, and questionable aesthetic presentation. None of those concerns need apply to Asprey Studio’s tasteful exhibition.
“We have walls that literally move around,” he adds. “We can rotate screens at any angle. We have a ton of AV and a very high-end, state-of-the-art kit here. The vision is to display digital art with a lot of space around the works. The lighting is nice. I wanted to keep it clean so there’s no distractions. You’re just looking at one thing, and then you move on.”
On the eve of Frieze London, the space hosted an exhibition titled “Digital Muses,” featuring a panel hosted by the Financial Times’ Georgina Adams that included traditional collectors Pierre Sigg and Alexander de Prat i Pont paired with crypto-native collectors Benny Gross and Vlad Ginzburg.
“The idea there was to say, look, this is digital art,” recalls Walker. “This is not about NFTs; this is not about crypto. This is purely about digital art as a new medium, collecting a new medium for artists exploring a new way of expressing things. And we’re at the very beginning of that.”
Walker acknowledges that Asprey’s traditional clients and Asprey Studio’s clients still reside in “two separate worlds,” but he believes that the clientele will start to merge over time. He says Asprey Studio’s clients largely come from the traditional art world, and the gallery has helped change their minds about NFTs.
“We’ve had events in the gallery where people who have seen or heard all the negative stuff about the NFT space get a completely different perspective,” he says. “With Asprey Bugatti, quite a few traditional, non-crypto buyers have purchased their very first NFT or Ordinal. So that’s really exciting.”
Notable collector Daniel Maegaard, known in the web3 community as Seedphrase, is featured in the gallery with his signature seven-trait CryptoPunk adorning the Asprey Studio Club member wall. Maegaard praised Walker for using his talents to elevate and expose digital art to those who might otherwise remain skeptical.
“Ali has a remarkable talent of bringing people from all industries together,” says Maegaard. “He has managed to put a human touch on what is predominantly online and digital through his craftsmanship. This has allowed a much broader interest in digital art from outsiders as he continues to build a bridge between web3 and mainstream.”
The Asprey Bugatti Egg Collection
Asprey Studio is perhaps best known for the Asprey Bugatti Egg Collection, a series of 111 physical objet eggs accompanied by unique generative Bitcoin Ordinals inscriptions coded in partnership with Metagood. Comprised of carbon fiber and encased within a sterling silver diamond weave lattice with a complex hinged diamond door that opens to reveal a scene from the Bugatti estate’s Chateau Saint Jean, the eggs come in four editions — the flagship “Royale,” “Crown,” “Carbon Noire,” and “Carbon Noire Precious.”
The Asprey Bugatti partnership came together after Walker discovered a Carlo Bugatti quote stating that “the purest perfect shape of nature is the egg.”
“I looked at the Asprey archive, and Asprey has made tons of egg-shaped objects in its history,” Walker says. “It’s done so many for royalty. I thought there could be a cool thing here. The actual egg shape is on the grills of every Bugatti, so it’s part of the brand’s DNA.”
Inspired by the classic Bugatti Type 41 Royale, each egg features the dancing elephant motif first created by Rembrandt Bugatti. Always with an eye for detail, Asprey Studio visited the Bugatti estate in France to 3D scan the bonnet mascot of one of the few existing Type 41 Royale models so its silversmiths could accurately recreate it.
“It’s about taking a very innovative step forward but retaining a lot of the traditional craftsmanship and brand heritage,” says Walker. “It’s quite incredible that these eggs are made in London by master craftsmen. They have all the hallmarks of the London Asprey Office. There’s no other supplier abroad making this. Then, you link it to a very innovative digital artifact in Bitcoin Ordinals. I’m looking at the relationship between the digital and physical aspects to see how these two worlds can combine and be necessary for each other.”
The Ordinal is a cursed inscription on uncommon satoshis, featuring generative art that changes over time and shares identical proportions to the physical. “We announced this in March, when there were only 30,000 inscriptions. It’s crazy how early we went in,” says Walker.
Following the eggs, Asprey Studio also announced “Silver Scream,” a series of 10 physical sterling silver artworks oxidized using the original lithograph from Edvard Munch’s classic work, “The Scream.” Due to be released in February, each physical piece is linked to a unique Bitcoin Ordinal inscription, forever immortalizing it on the blockchain.
Walker is particularly enthralled by Ordinals, a new way of permanently inscribing artwork on the Bitcoin blockchain, likening the technology to “a collection of rare books.” Satoshis are the smallest unit of Bitcoin, and each satoshi can feature a different level of rarity, which Walker harnessed in inscribing “Asprey Bugatti Egg Number 1” on the oldest uncommon satoshi.
“It adds a new level of collectability and another element you can’t do in Ethereum,” he says. “I think it could be a more premium level of blockchain for artists in the future. At the moment, I think many people aren’t using it right. They’re rushing through, inscribing as much crap as they can, and not paying attention to what they’re inscribing on. But I think that’s going to change. You’ll see some top artists and brands enter Ordinals fairly soon.”
Leading traditional art world institutions are already starting to follow suit. This week, “Asprey Bugatti Egg Number 10” sold at Sotheby’s for $85,550 as part of the auction house’s first curated sale featuring Bitcoin Ordinals and rare satoshis, with the winner entitled to claim the corresponding physical gold egg.
“Brands have to look at the long term. Some of Asprey’s products are 200 years old. Some of Bugatti’s cars are 100 years old. They’re still around, right?” says Walker. “The digital artifact has to last that long, if not longer. That’s why Ordinals are important. Because it’s fully on chain, it will be there forever.”
The Asprey Studio Club
Membership and NFTs are a natural match, so it’s no surprise that Walker has utilized the technology to build a community around Asprey Studio.
The Asprey Studio Club is an exclusive club comprised of 241 membership tokens. Released without marketing and spread through word of mouth, the club offers holders access to a wide range of releases, events, and exhibitions. Each member receives a solid gold signet ring with various customizable options, and the gallery features a member wall where collectors can exhibit their purchases with a forthcoming print initiative.
“I wanted the right people in the club,” says Walker. “It’s a club where there’s no part in hyping this and then getting people who will never use the utility because their intention is just to flip it and make money.”
For Maegaard, membership was a natural choice that aligned with his interests.
“I was impressed to learn that such a prestigious jewelry brand with a long and rich history was entering web3 in collaboration with a number of brands, such as Bugatti,” recalls Maegaard. “Ali sold me on the vision that he wanted to create a club that would bring like-minded individuals together through art. As London has a reputation for members’ clubs, art, and culture, I knew I had to be involved.”
The Asprey Studio Club has held events at the gallery with Bugatti, private banks, and other partners. In addition to bringing community members together in the flesh, the Asprey Studio Club also boasts a digital footprint in its own token-gated Discord server.
“It’s interesting because you can create communities that are quite close-knit, and you can take them on a longer journey from a brand’s point of view than you would with a traditional membership scheme,” says Walker. “I’ve found that you’re much more in contact with people. Part of web3 culture is being active in the community you created. Brands need to be aware of that and not think they can outsource it.”
With major partnership announcements, several artist releases, and plans to do “Digital Muses” bigger and better at Frieze London, the new year promises to be busy for Walker and Asprey Studio.
“We have a release with Ornellaia releasing the rarest wine they have ever made,” Walker says. “Our concierge service will grow as well, as we currently hold many traditional art buyers’ digital wallets in our $2 million walk-in vault.”
The gallery will host a forthcoming “The Art of Ordinals” event in April, an upcoming AI event with a private bank and investment fund, and another event for UHNW investors looking at digital art for the first time. A proper release for Ryan Barrett’s “Surfaces 036” is in the works, encompassing 41 physical ceramic vases accompanied by VR and digital artwork. Walker also hints at an upcoming project featuring generative art that generates physical jewelry.
“I think that could potentially change people’s shopping habits and how people buy luxury goods,” he says. “I want to really look at and work with other artists, work with other brands even on stuff that really does push the boundaries and change a few things here.”
“Asprey Studio is about innovation,” he adds. “So everything we’re going to do will be next level. That’s what people buy into. But I also want to give back. We recently donated two artworks, one by Jesse Woolston and the other by Ryan Barrett, for Leonardo Di Caprio’s charity auction in Miami. He visited me in the gallery, and we picked out the items. Neither of them were NFTs. I want to do much more this year and ensure we give back to nature and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Walker is heartened by the renewed energy in the crypto markets and recent developments in London’s tech and culture scene, including a16z opening its first international office in the city. “London is an amazing place to be,” he says. “The government is very pro-crypto, especially the prime minister. It’s a great city for the arts in general, and I think it’s going to be one of the major cities in the world that leads the space into the next cycle.”
While Walker stresses that Asprey Studio always comes first, he plans to explore his own artistry in an as-of-yet unreleased collection. “I’m a mixed media artist, and my genre is surrealism,” he says. “I like experimenting with absolutely everything. I’ve always been working for other people, so I’ve never had the time to release my own thing, but that’s coming.”
Until then, Walker is right where he wants to be — right in the beating heart of London, advancing the luxury and digital art revolution one client at a time.
“People say the space has too many technical barriers, and it does,” Walker says. “It’s pretty complicated. But if you look at Apple, they’ve managed to sell iPads and iPhones, and most 60-plus-year-olds are using them. So, for the technology, the barriers will go. It just needs that application, and I think it’s digital art. I think digital art will be the biggest art movement of our generation.”