Daniela Ciocca always had a fierce passion for giving back. When she was little she loved giving away her toys. “Whatever I had, I happily gifted to my neighborhood friends when we played together outside,” says Ciocca who spent fifteen years in finance working with multiple hedge funds. In 2019, she left asset management to pursue crypto-trading full-time.
But distributing her toys wasn’t Ciocca’s only passion. During her pre-tween years, when the local fair came to town she would ask her father for money so she could visit with her friends. While her pals headed for the stuff that kids typically like to do at fairs, Ciocca had other plans.
“My friends would rush to play games and go on rides while I made a beeline to the Fireman’s Booth where the local gamblers came together to spin a wheel of fortune and drop their money on a dream,” she recalls. Ciocca delighted in the gamble, staying until it was time to leave, “no matter how much I made or lost,” she shares. Ciocca would take her winnings and relish in buying something for her mother that her mom didn't need.
As a crypto trader and blockchain expert with a devotion for serving communities through the arts, all these skills and interests would end up serving her well. Through her company, Plutonic, Ciocca delves into the intersection between art, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. She has a vision how blockchain can help artists benefit from the success of their work while raising money for charitable organizations.
“I guess you can say crypto has allowed me to bridge these pursuits by offering me the opportunity to nurture my penchant for risk-taking while fueling my desire to give to others,” says Ciccola.
This month, from February 25 to March 6 Plutonic is hosting its first pop-up gallery installation, The Artist Died Poor, in New York City. “Each artist is donating a unique NFT (or work of art) for auction with 100% of proceeds supporting programs for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking through Middle Way House, designated as one of six model shelters by the US Department of Justice,” says Ciocca. In addition to the art, the multifaceted program features storytelling, jazz, beat poetry, a harmonic sound bath, a comedy night, Mardi Gras party and more. Visit here for more details.
“The Artist Died Poor is bridging the physical and metaverse art worlds,” observes Ciocca. “Both physical and digital art will be showcased in mixed media formats.” As she explains, NFT artists will get the experience of presenting their work to an in-person audience. “The events are intended to bring people together to enhance the visceral experience as a contrast to sitting behind a computer while taking life in through a screen," says Ciocca. "It’s meant to reconnect us.”
What inspired you to become interested in crypto and NFTs?
Sovereignty. I am inspired by the idea of a network that is not controlled by governments and corporations. So much potential can come from a system created by peers instead of the traditional gatekeepers. I was privy to tons of research from working in the hedge fund space for fifteen years and I’m a research junky, so after reading a piece about Bitcoin in early 2019, I went down a crypto rabbit hole and set out to learn everything I could about it. It felt so counterculture and, at that point, Bitcoin had survived ten years without disappearing into obsolescence, so it seemed like this revolutionary concept had moved past the experimental phase and found some significant footing. I was immediately hooked.
What is your specific interest in the field?
NFTs came to the forefront within the past year or so. My interest is in the intersection between art, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. I have researched how NFTs, as an extension of the crypto sovereign model, empower artists to benefit from the success of their work. This is as opposed to galleries and collectors reaping the majority of benefits.
Also, NFTs have the ability to create unparalleled opportunities for individuals and communities to raise significant sums of money for causes they believe in. This happens while smashing the barriers of the class system for artists and investors. It is an inspirational model.
How can artists benefit from selling their art as NFTs?
The process of tokenizing digital art onto the blockchain is called minting. It’s essentially creating a contract that is tied to your art. Artists can program that contract to include royalties. That means, every time their art is re-sold on the blockchain, they will receive a percentage of that sale value. For the first time in history, artists can benefit from the future success of their work. Imagine if the countless renowned artists, who died poor, had the opportunity to benefit financially in their lifetime and beyond from their masterpieces? Vincent Van Gogh turns in his grave.
How does an artist go about minting an NFT?
It might be surprising, but once you have a crypto wallet, it can be as simple as uploading your file to an NFT platform. Then you name it, fill in your royalty percentage and click "Create"
What are some unexpected ways artists can profit and also give back?
This is where this gets really exciting. Artists in the NFT space have access to a 24/7 international market of traders and collectors, creating a much more liquid environment than physical art offers. That, in addition to the price appreciation in the crypto sector and the euphoria experienced by participants, has led people to pay incredibly high sums for some NFT art.
Can you offer an example?
I was at Sotheby’s in November and admiring the Degas, Kandinsky and Monet pieces that were showcased in advance of an auction. It is art you’d never imagine being able to afford. I remember looking at a Degas and converting the expected auction range price from USD to ETH (Ethereum), which was about $200,000 to $300,000 or 42-65 ETH at the time.
At the same time, CryptoPunks, a 10,000-piece collection of generative NFT art from 2017, were selling for 2-3 times more than the Degas. Owning a CryptoPunk was a status symbol in the crypto community and unbelievably was selling for more than a universally revered piece of art history.
How does raising funds for a non-profit come in?
Imagine an artist or a project using social cachet to raise money for non-profits or social enterprise. Whether it be through a percentage of a sale price, a donation of art or the creation of a unique piece for auction with proceeds going to support specific causes. The opportunity for fundraising is limitless.
My company, Plutonic, and our first venture, The Artist Died Poor, is seizing this very opportunity. Each artist is donating a unique NFT for auction with 100% of proceeds supporting programs for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking through Middle Way House (MWH), designated as one of six model shelters by the US Department of Justice. The fundraiser coincides both with their 50th anniversary and Women’s History Month, so the ideal time to highlight the groundbreaking work they do.
What is special about The Artist Died Poor? And how would you describe it?
The Artist Died Poor is a pop-up gallery installation. It’s an event. It’s a cultural critique. The Artist Died Poor is bridging the physical and metaverse art worlds. Both physical and digital art will be showcased in mixed media formats. NFT artists will get the experience of presenting their work to an in-person audience. The events are intended to bring people together to enhance the visceral experience as a contrast to sitting behind a computer while taking life in through a screen.
Psychologists and neuroscientists have conducted studies that determined when we share in-person, collective experiences like live theater and performances, our heartbeats synchronize with other people in the audience. Whether we know them or not. How beautiful is that?
You have to think on some level it’s important for us to share those experiences and it is something we’re sorely missing as we drift further into the digital era. That said, the digital age affords us the wonderful ability to reach an expansive audience and make friends with strangers across the world. We will also be livestreaming some of our events in hopes that some of that energy can resonate beyond the physical space. We want this to be accessible to all.
Some people feel that being in front of a computer 24/7 is isolating, but how can crypto unite and bring us together?
I’ve made more friends in the past few years in online crypto communities than I have made in the previous few years from in person experiences. Whether you’re on crypto/NFT Twitter or in a Discord chat room, this is a very real space where relationships are built. Even more so than traditional crypto, NFTs have catalyzed friendship making as people develop the culture of memeing and building community around some of the art and projects they love. Since the sovereign model is one where peer-to-peer networks are shaping our future companies and projects, each endeavor represents a team-building exercise and opportunity for people to connect. GrailersDAO and Bright Moments’ CryptoCitizens are great examples of decentralized community building, both in-person and on Discord.
What do you hope to accomplish and have people come away with after experiencing The Artist Died Poor?
A friend of mine astutely pointed out the parallel between my personal critique of the metaverse and the Richard Brautigan poem, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. It is a satirical piece written in the 1960s about machines and people happily co-existing in a sort of utopia and it’s become thematic to the show. I identify as an analogue girl suffering through a digital world but finding my way through as a survival skill because it’s here and it’s not leaving. I’m hoping people walk away from the gallery asking themselves what shape they think the future holds for us. Will we be vegetables in chairs with VR goggles or will our analogue and digital identities co-exist, but in separate spaces? Hopefully we can help anyone who comes to the pop-up gallery and is new to NFTs and/or crypto to navigate this space, learn about how trading in it can create generational wealth and feel empowered to participate.
How did you curate the shows and select the artists in the program?
I see the shows as an extension of this inquiry into how our interpersonal connections have and will continue to change. This will happen as we shift further away from the public sphere and go more into the metaverse (or what’s now being called web3). And each artist’s collection uniquely connects us to these themes of altered reality.
Who are some of the artists represented?
Lucinda Schreiber is an incredible animator, illustrator and director. She used the Brautigan poem to loosely inspire her debut NFT collection Cybernetic Meadow. It features solitary female characters staring off into the distance while surrounded by various conglomerates of nature and machine. She also volunteers as a graphic designer for Middle Way House and most recently created a PSA. The PSA is a collaboration with Amy Schumer, Jesse Eisenberg and Anna Strout. It centered on intimate partner violence awareness during the pandemic lockdown when incidents were on the rise.
You are also featuring Urumumi.
Urumumi is a Catalonian artist whose minimalist techniques so perfectly punctuate the isolating mood in their creation of the Lonely Astronauts collection. These characters find themselves completely engrossed by the expansive, desolate, yet beautiful lands they discover.
How about Gossip Goblin?
Gossip Goblin is a prolific NFT artist with five different projects under his belt, some of which have achieved incredible success in the NFT space. This show will be featuring his work from The Divine Order of the Zodiac, an astrology-based project with an abundance of lore written by the project creators describing an alternate history of how the galaxy formed and humanity took shape.
And what can you share about Javier Piñon?
Javier Piñon is an internationally celebrated collage artist who is animating select pieces of his work for his debut NFT collection. Javier hails from the other side of the dystopian view with disjointed characters existing in visceral spaces. Some of his work celebrates the feminine divine through sirens and Medusa’s while other work shows prophets, hunters and drifters making their way through a disconnected reality.
Another featured artist is Joel Fitzpatrick.
Joel Fitzpatrick is a medium mystic who works in light, video and pixel mapping. Known for being a downtown tastemaker, he’s a maverick from behind the scenes, always at the threshold of critical cultural shifts. Malcolm Gladwell highlights Fitzpatrick’s influence in the beginning of his book The Tipping Point. For The Artist Died Poor he is creating a site-specific light installation and debuting his first ever NFT collection, which will provide a reflective lens for the entire curation.
How about the live events?
The live events are meant to serve as a complete counterpoint to the solitary experience. We are celebrating a multitude of sensory experiences, art forms and genres to complement the visual installation. The opening reception will feature a fair and honest appraisal of your appearance by The Bumby’s. It will also include poetically gothic cello compositions of Cellista.
We have an all-female brass band, The Brass Queens, for Mardi Gras weekend. Our comedy night features Emma Willmann, Zarna Garg, Josh Johnson, Kenice Mobley, Diane Neal and H. Foley. The storytelling event is replete with beat poetry and jazz. It will performed by filmmakers Ari Gold and Caveh Zahedi, comedian Diane Neal and authors Daniel Pinchbeck and Michael Leviton. I will also give voice to my own journey through the space.
And there's much more.
There will also be an NFT 101 fireside chat with famous astrologer and AstroTwin Ophira Edut of Astrostyle, a gallery dance party with DJ Mandy Weiss and a harmonic sound bath with Rudra Bach from Kripalu. Because what is a better juxtaposition to digital art than ancient instruments from the 1600s leading you into meditation? I’m hoping we get a heartbeat or two to sync up.
How does blockchain democratize the art world and philanthropy?
Crypto has created opportunities that extend to everyone, not just the privileged. Credentialism is beginning to fade. An artist doesn’t have to be represented by the next Leo Castelli to have a successful career. And the buyer doesn’t have to be a millionaire to build an art collection.
Yes, marketing still matters. People need to know your art exists in order to buy it. But your access to communicating has become more extensive via social media and particularly when your work is available to an international, online audience in a market that never closes.
By having this sovereignty model where individuals and communities are the decision makers instead of a traditional hierarchal structure, people get to focus on and campaign for what is important to them personally. I’m seeing more and more NFT projects donating a percentage of their profits to charitable organizations. I believe that has a lot to do with the community lead governance models behind them.
When it comes to NFTs and crypto, how can people be less intimidated? And what steps can they take to be more educated?
Plutonic is happy to help anyone who comes into the gallery to navigate their initial set-up so they can feel ready to enter this new terrain. Also, anyone who is interested in learning about how to access the NFT market can reference our FAQs at plutonicpartnerships.com or they can tag us in a question on Twitter or Instagram at @prettyplutonic. Consider us a hotline.
What is your next move in this space?
My goal is to marry my organizational skills from building infrastructure on Wall Street with my passion for giving back and connecting people. Plutonic will next focus on working with partners and artists to raise funds to research common, yet understudied, medical issues that plague women and come up with innovative ways to address them.
What I’m most excited about is the energy that exists in this space to rally behind causes— to use art as the conduit to unite worlds, industry and individuals and create community impact.