The Calder Foundation seeks to gamify art history with a new Web3 experience that awards official NFTs to winners

Alexander SC Rower, the grandson of artist Alexander Calder and president of the Calder Foundation, is a self-proclaimed NFT skeptic. He had made plenty of arguments about the possibility of an Alexander Calder NFT when he spoke with TRLab founders Xin Li-Cohen and Audrey Ou at Art Basel Miami Beach last December. That’s when something finally clicked.

“It didn’t make sense to digitally reproduce pre-existing art,” Rower told Artnet News. “It just seemed really boring.”

That’s why, this week, the foundation is unveiling something different. By partnering with TRLab – which seeks to bring premier art-world credibility to the NFT space – the foundation is unveiling an interactive Web3 platform designed to teach the public about Calder’s art, gamify the art history and maybe earn some money to put towards keeping Calder’s IRL work going. (Notably, Xin Li-Cohen, co-founder of TRLab, who is also non-executive vice president of Christie’s, presented the winning bid for the most expensive Calder ever sold at auction, in 2014.)

Calder Foundation President Alexander SC Rower. Image courtesy of the Calder Foundation.

The Calder Question, as the initiative is called, is described as “an interactive educational collection journey that will challenge participants’ assumptions on Calder and deepen their understanding of his art, culminating in a unique opportunity to collect limited-edition NFTs created specifically for the project.

Here’s how it works: The creators mapped out an online educational journey that begins with a focus on the life and work of Calder and sets the stage for participants to explore four of his signature art forms: mobiles, early abstractions, figurative wire sculptures and sound works.

Although membership is free, each user must have a crypto wallet to claim participation tokens and continue the process, where they will encounter collaborative activities and challenges designed to highlight works of art from the foundation’s collection.

Participants will “unlock” access to more and more exclusive perks and rewards, including rare signatures quirky books and collectibles, plus a limited series of NFTs that will be unveiled at the start of the project this fall. There will also be several virtual and in-person events organized by Rower and the foundation team.

At the end of the program, a limited number of participants who complete all levels will be eligible to join Rower for a guided tour of Calder’s meticulously preserved studio and private residence in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Any proceeds from NFT sales will be used to establish a new conservation fund for Calder’s works of art around the world. But Rower says he’d be happy even if the project doesn’t end up making money (especially considering it’s being launched during a crypto crash). “We don’t care about the financial nature of NFTs, we’re interested in connecting with people,” he said.

Audrey Ou, co-founder of TRLab.  Image courtesy TR Lab.

Audrey Ou, co-founder of TRLab. Image courtesy TR Lab.

Early registration for The Calder question opens today. All potential participants are also encouraged to follow TRLab on Twitter Where Discord for updates; Calder superfans will get the chance to get an early taste by racking up tokens proving their participation in special online and in-person events.

“I think this will be an example for a new type of NFT experience,” Ou told Artnet News. She said NFT prices would be in the thousands, but declined to provide specific numbers.

“Calder was so inventive and such an advanced artist,” Rower said. “I mean he invented whole mediums [of art]. I’m sure if my grandfather were alive today he would be involved in this new field. [of NFTs] because it’s so multidimensional. This is exactly what he worked in.

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