Robbie Barrat, 22, the NFT and crypto-art star no one saw coming

Posted Apr 8, 2022, 12:16 PM

When crypto-artist Robbie Barrat offered NFTs to congress attendees gathered at Christie’s four years ago, long before the meteoric rise of these digital objects protected by lines of code, he had no idea that his gifts would end up… in the trash. Invited to give a talk at the London auction house with collector Jason Bailey, the artist saw 300 of his coupons, giving access to works created using artificial intelligence, “thrown” in the trash .

Only a dozen people kept these little cards, and the NFT – non-fungible token, non-fungible token in French – that goes with it. A simple series of numbers, unique and tamper-proof, attesting to the authenticity of the image and acting as a title deed. These certificates are protected by blockchain technology, which notably governs cryptocurrency exchanges.

The works of Robbie Barrat, which have become very rare, to the point of being nicknamed the ‘Lost Robbies’, are snapped up today for six-figure sums.

“No one knew what NFTs were”

If he came to create these works, it was at the request of collector Jason Bailey, one of the pioneers of crypto-art and NFT, a market which has exploded in the last two years with 44.2 billion dollars of transactions in 2021, according to the firm Chainalysis.

“Christie’s asked me to intervene twice in London, in 2018”at the time when “no one knew what NFTs were”explains Jason Bailey to AFP during a videoconference.

The auction house offers him at the time to come with a ” gift “. He then solicits Robie Barrat, who creates vignettes representing the design of a credit card, a sort of sesame towards a work protected by NFT.

” A nutjob “

For this project, Robbie Barrat salvaged 10,000 nudes from the classic era on his computer, and modified them using a system that “combats” two algorithms to generate the final image, explains the 22-year-old artist, student at the Beaux-Arts in Amsterdam.

The result was a series of misshapen masses in pink and brown tones, reminiscent of paintings by Salvador Dali or Francis Bacon.

“I told them several times: ‘it’s the future (…) Don’t throw away this sticker’, assures Jason Bailey. They were traditional collectors, for sure they said to themselves: ‘who is this crazy? Nobody collects digital art’”he laughs.

One of the ‘Lost Robbies’, called ‘Nude Portrait#7frame#64’, sold on March 2 at Sotheby’s auction house for 630,000 pounds sterling, or approximately 750,000 euros.

No new projects

Despite his success, Robbie Barrat says he’s frustrated to only hear about the price instead of “the image itself”. He does not intend to market other NFTs for the moment. ” I have been very lucky. If we look at the artists on OpenSea (the main crypto-art sales platform, editor’s note)the vast majority did not sell a single sticker”he points.

Four years after the episode at Christie’s, Jason Bailey continues to defend the merits of NFTs, which allow creators to collect royalties from each sale. “I completely understand and respect Robbie’s choice to distance himself from NFTs. They may not be suitable for everyone”he concludes.

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Robbie Barrat, 22, the NFT and crypto-art star no one saw coming

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