Proponents of NFTs argue that the new technology is a radical force that will democratize art and drive out gatekeepers. The truth is that NFTs remain inaccessible to many. The team behind JPG, a new website that aims to be the Tumblr of the crypto world, hopes to change that.
“With JPG, you can build your own NFT gallery no matter who you are or what resources you have,” says María Paula Fernandez, the co-founder of JPG, comparing the venture to Are.na, a popular social media website that users in enables to collect and manage content.
JPG users can import and view any NFT available on OpenSea, one of the largest NFT platforms, to build their own gallery. The website, which was launched in July by Fernandez and co-founders Trent Elmore and Sam Spike, just received $3.8 million in a recent funding round.
Existing JPG galleries function as organized shows dealing with concepts such as deep time, alchemy and virality. JPG galleries are sometimes displayed IRL. During Art Basel Miami Beach, Sofia Garcia and Kate Hannah, who work for the generative art NFT platform ArtBlocks, put together a show about on-chain generative art on JPG that was showcased at the fair. Gabe Wise, who works for artist Sarah Meyohas and crypto art-focused consultancy GAC, curated the show “Blockchain Aesthetics” on JPG. That exhibition was on display during NFT.NYC, a conference held in New York last year, with the support of FingerprintsDAO, the Museum of Crypto Art and NFT platform Zora.
Wise, who said he left the traditional art world after a stint as an intern with Gagosian and David Zwirner, was drawn to JPG because it could replace a gatekeeper culture. “Right now there is no grand institutional legitimacy in the NFT space that would allow the traditional fine arts world to understand and evaluate the relevance of NFT works,” Wise said. “I think we can actually see JPG as a force that enables discourse and bottom-up curation that takes place outside of an institution.”
It is not that the NFT space is without problems. “I am very aware of the barriers that an increasingly wealthy group of people is creating,” Fernandez said. “It’s very hard to position yourself in this community if you don’t have money. You have to collect to show off your collection, buy these PFPs and flip tomorrow for twice the price, etc.”
Fernandez strives for JPG to be a palliative to this overly commercialized ecosystem. Since the website is free and there is no transaction component, users can focus on viewing and managing NFTs. Just as apps and websites like Instagram and Tumblr facilitate discussion of images and texts, JPG could become a tool for doing the same things with NFTs. Fernandez said shifting the focus from buying and selling NFTs will become essential in finding “long-term strategies to preserve space.”
Despite all the excitement surrounding the project, JPG still has a long way to go. Right now, the capabilities are rudimentary, and this round of seed funding could prove pivotal in bringing about improvements such as creator pages, a new exhibition interface, and more. Moving on, Fernandez hopes JPG users will have the ability to import NFTs from other platforms, even those on cryptocurrencies like Tezos. The ultimate aim is for JPG to be able to map networks of curators, makers and collectors. “This is just the beginning,” Fernandez continued. “People have to get used to a completely new behavior and find value in these meta-productions that are these curated galleries. We can build from there.”