Blackdove Founder Marc Billings on NFT Art Galleries and Two Decades in Digital Art
NFT Business News Without the Hype!
Blackdove Popup NFT Gallery for Pixelated, Miami
Blackdove will officially celebrate a new NFT art gallery in Miami on June 3rd featuring its digital canvases displaying art powered by its software platform. The project is actually the second NFT gallery which the company's launched since partnering with Superchief in New York. The company also participated in the Miami leg of the Pixelated event with a pop-up gallery.
But Blackdove's not stopping there. A third gallery is planned for Chicago with two more yet to be announced sites to follow.
I spoke earlier this month with Blackdove CEO and Founder Marc Billings about the company's history and overall approach. I wanted to learn more about Blackdove’s accomplishments to date and what's behind the displays visitors will see at Blackdove’s NFT art gallery in Miami.
Blackdove's Early History
Blackdove's history in the digital art space goes back to 2002 but the company did not introduce its prototype digital art market until 2014. In 2015 the company launched a Kickstarter in partnership with Samsung introducing digital canvases. The project page includes a company timeline of over a decade of activity to that point.
Marc Billings discussed these early years:
We have been serving the space and understanding and building and adding value in the space since 2002. We published a DVD series of the best digital art in the market back in 2002.
We launched a very prototype market in 2014...It didn't last very long, because the technologies we just didn't feel were ready to go.
The Kickstarter with Samsung [in 2015] was very interesting because what we knew is that if digital art was going to be respected at the same level that a traditional painting was going to be respected people had to have a very similar experience. So they had to walk up, see a work of art on the wall and be able to enjoy it in their environment.
And so we approached Samsung and we said, "Oh, you guys are the biggest and the best display manufacturer in the world. Why don't we do something together?" And we put together this Kickstarter campaign where they took one of their screens and they bundled Blackdove's software inside of it.
The Kickstarter campaign completed Blackdove's full-stack approach of offering digital canvas installations displaying digital art through sales and subscriptions using Blackdove's software platform to tie it all together.
What customers were looking for were ways in which to install the art. We were selling the art. We were always selling art or in many cases selling a subscription that we would curate because that's typically what our customers asked us for.
"Hey, we want to have multiple works of art that are rotating and we want to have the ability to change the art depending on what circumstances exist."
The foundation principal of the business is to be able to offer customers both the subscription and individual works to purchase.
The Moving Digital Image and NFTs
Another key to Blackdove's success is its focus on the moving digital image which has always driven the company's thinking.
Moving image is the hardest of the works to create. Still image, single frame is…amazing. Right? But when you can capture a moving image multi-frame experience, that's really where we saw the future of the medium coming. And so what we've built is, we think, the leading solution for management display, acquisition of moving image.
We handle moving image, I think, better than anybody else in the world.
After over a decade of experimentation and observation followed by the creation of a total system for art acquisition and display, NFTs were an obvious element to add to the Blackdove mix.
We really followed the customers in doing so and…what's happening now is that the NFT community is able to assign that ownership of the asset which is wonderful. That takes the medium to the next level. Because now it will be exclusivity. "Hey, I own this" and that really is what is so exciting about the NFT movement.
Digital Canvases and Software
Blackdove's digital canvases are an important piece of the puzzle and, especially in high profile installations, initially established the face of the company.
We have a line up of what we call digital canvases and we work with both LG and Samsung. But LG is our primary partner at the moment.
These screens are uniquely designed for digital art in that they are able to hang in portrait orientation. Consumer televisions, when hung in portrait orientation, have a heat dissipation issue because the ventilation is only designed for a TV when it's hung in landscape orientation. So if you turn a consumer TV in portrait, the electronics will burn out.
Jonathan McCabe - Sinet One
However, it's the software that forms the connective tissue with the Blackdove app, available for iOS or Android, that gives anyone displaying art the power to control the presentation. In fact, Blackdove's software does not require one to use a company-branded display.
We've written code for all major display manufacturers. Blackdove software can be downloaded on LG, Apple, Android, Amazon Fire, Samsung also. So any television in the world can download our app and immediately start to display their NFT's on their home television.
The technology allows you to add an unlimited number of displays and these displays can be anywhere in the world. Because they're all internet of things IP addressable displays.
So if we go and take a look at, for example, Jonathan McCabe. Jonathan uploads artwork into our platform and if you want to play this artwork, you can [select the display]…Hit the play button and then wherever in the world that [display] is right now is now playing that artwork.
Then, not all that different from Spotify, I can create a new collection. And that artwork will be available now as part of this collection.
So you build the playlist and then the same playlist that you create in your web app, you also immediately have that synchronized to the mobile app. So the mobile app then becomes your remote control.
Galleries Add a New Dimension
Digital art and NFT galleries take the full-stack Blackdove approach and extend it showroom-style creating a new face for the company.
We've got five galleries opening up around the country right now in one form or fashion. Miami is under our own brand and then we've got Superchief in New York, <imnotArt> in Chicago and two others that we haven't announced yet.
What's happening is because we've got this very advanced management system for how you manage your digital art. Galleries that have a high demand for the ability to manage a number of different works on various screens are using our software platform.
Galleries are absolutely a critical component to exposing art in a way that people understand. So we're offering our platform free of charge to any new gallery that's opening up and we really become their partner. We help them get their gallery set up.
Private Residence: Four Seasons, Miami Beach
The final step of the process is white glove installation in the client’s home.
After a sale happens, the client will take delivery of their NFT through Blackdove and we will deploy one of our national installation network partners to go into their home and complete the installation.
If a client wants to do it themselves on a TV that's easy. There's no cost to that. But typically what's happening now is that buyers of NFTs are interested in hanging those works on a wall and so they're selecting from one of our digital canvas products from 43 up to 98 inch and they purchase that on our website.
We ship that out to the client and then an installation team shows up, completes the installation professionally, hands it off to the client.
So we're really moving towards a highly white glove model and the clients are able to have their art hanging on the wall immediately after our installation team leaves.
Blackdove’s Unique Artistic Requirements
Blackdove works with only a limited number of artists at a time so they can focus on building with them over longer periods. And the company has stringent requirements about what work is a strong fit for Blackdove's ecosystem.
We're very specific about it because what we've learned over time is that if the experience is not really spectacular inside the customer's home then they're not really gonna be interested in showing it off or enjoying it.
So we typically focus on a 2 to 5 minute work of art. It can be shorter as long as it's a loop.
The resolution is always 4K. We don't accept anything less than 4k.
We are nearly exclusively focused on 60 frames per second. It's a big, big quality improvement over 25 or 30 frames per second.
Probably the most difficult piece for artists who have not seen their work exhibited to understand is that the looping point, which is the last frame of the artwork to the first frame, is probably the most difficult and yet singly most important piece of the work to focus in on because the work is going to play for hours at a time.
Blackdove works closely with artists as partner to ensure a standard with which clients will be not only fully satisfied but delighted.
When that loop is happening, it has to be a fluid experience for the end user so that the end user doesn't see the beginning or the end of the work. We can display this work perfectly but it is dependent upon the artist to deliver a file that's gonna work.
We know what we're looking for. We know what's gonna look wonderful. And so we're constantly consulting with artists and understanding what they're working on, helping them understand…much like a book editor or a record label might work with a young artist or even a seasoned artist to make sure the final product is exactly what the market's looking for. We do that regularly to make sure the artist’s work is going to be best represented.
Poised For the Future
As Blackdove sees it, the physical presence of digital art in homes, businesses and galleries is the key not only to its success but to the growth of the larger digital art and NFT market.
It's obvious that this art form is now ready for global consumption and not only are we supportive of it, we're offering out this platform to make it easy.
Once somebody has an installation in their home, they become a real brand ambassador for the entire NFT market. They're showing off this beautiful work of art. And then, all of a sudden, they're going to come and buy another work of art.
Then whoever shows up at their home or business now becomes the next person who says, "Hey, that's really interesting. I think that works for me also," and so physical installations really are the next frontier of the industry.
While it is true that there are other digital art display companies, Blackdove's combination of full-stack services puts the company on a different level of the game. Combined with NFT art galleries, Blackdove has unique marketing and growth opportunities as well. Without initially planning for the development of NFTs, Blackdove now finds itself positioned to be a leader in the space.