Imagine the cro-magnon artist, dutifully wiping a finger through some concoction of berry juices and mud, tracing lines on the sweeping red walls of a sandstone cave. The magic of sudden understanding sets down upon our prehistoric creative as one half-circle collides with another. No, not collides. Connects. Here appear legs — four — and a few swarthy dabs of west-slanting dye come to signify a tail, a hand, a goldenrod arc of drip-drip-dripping sunbeams. Unto the cave wall is born setting, is born subject, is born style. Our neanderthal visionary steps back from their creation, awash in admiration and disbelief. Into their brain emerges the concept of ego: Look what I have done. I did this. Me. I.
Behind them, the sound of scuttling footsteps heralds an intruder. No, in fact this is not an intruder at all, but a cousin-sister-husband with whom our artist has great intimacy. The two have spent many nights lying awake together, staring at the stars, praying in silence to their nameless Earth god, tranquil in each others’ company.
“Tunga,” the artist says, grabbing the guest by the hand and bringing them further into the cave. “Tunga,” the artist says once more, presenting a wooden bowl full of dye. “Tunga,” and they point towards the wall. Where the artist’s hairy finger draws a line on the wall, so, soon after, does their beloved’s For the first time in human history (probably), two artists lend their visions to the same canvas.
Might we call this — our two pre-sapien virtuosos — an artist collective? Or does that title require greater numbers: three artists, four, fifty? Must a true collective share some deeper thematic core: A declaration of values (The Unga Gunga Manifesto) or a conscious interweaving of sensibilities?
No. This is enough: Multiple artists engaged in creation alongside each other, bound by the fire of manifestation itself.
That the artist collective remains a rarity within crypto art is somewhat surprising. This was a movement founded with community as its Pole Star. But despite the constant calls for community, it’s individuals who are most routinely exalted, and it’s individual success most seem to chase.
But with a growing reputation, our attention, and a series of impressively consistent sales, MakingIt 24/7 has reinvigorated the idea of the artist collective, its members boasting that title with pride. MakingIt 24/7 is an art collective without a fixed membership. They have no manifesto. Their aims are as loosely-aligned as aims can be. But by all appearances, that fire of manifestation burns brightly within them.
Now, MakingIt 24/7’s is not a success story in the traditional sense. It’s hard to get a sense of their story at all, so fast and loose is their structure, so haphazardly did its members assemble. Nor are they a perfect organization (I’ll discuss some of their self-proffered flaws later), and artistic success is as hard to quantify today as it has been throughout art history.
Regardless, I believe that MakingIt24/7’s financial and self-motivational momentum may represent a path forward, as crypto art fights daily against its own self-doubt. This collective itself is a kind of cave painting, an eternally-recognizable marker of a yesteryear many of us might have assumed to be long gone.
Writing about MakingIt24/7 is difficult, however, as they lack a clear origin point, or any written notation of the collectives’ history or values. From what I can glean, MakingIt 24/7 (or MI, as it is often called) came together slowly through an ever-growing group-chat that began sometime in 2021. Artists like Steinology would tell others like Bruno Vistas “to get active on twitter and that there was a groupchat with some people I knew that are sharing work and learning about crypto.” Vistas would soon tell another artist, Nuh milo, to get involved thereafter, and on and on and on. It’s this informality — a chain of excitement and intrigue — that to me best captures MakingIt24/7’s spirit: The organic growth, the network of casual support. As NumbOne told me, “The collective is structured in such a way that there are selected members that can help you with certain areas. So for me it was like I had my hand held during the entire process, literally from lending me Ethereum and helping me set up my first wallet, to teaching me which contracts would benefit me most on Manifold.”
You should hear how the artists themselves talk about the collective. You’d think we were dealing with the second coming of some artistic Messiah:
As per Anubis3100: “Creation begets creation, and we aim to create for a long time.”
And as NumbOne says: “Everyone in the collective has a really great energy, is artistically unmatched in their style and creative output.
Teji is perhaps the most direct: “MakingIt is going to be one of the blockchains most historic collectives.”
The overwhelming sense of pride and self-belief within MakingIt 24/7 is already special. Of the 14 members surveyed for this article, nearly all mentioned that participation in the collective had been instrumental in helping them weather crypto art’s recent winter. Mike Stein even called the bear market “so much fun thanks to all the positive relationships we make & sustain through [MakingIt].
Sure, most, if not all, of the artists within MakingIt have their own individual practices and methods of release. But MakingIt 24/7’s most important directive — that which has proven practically responsible for helping artists survive a general stagnation of sales — is their innovative structure for releasing artwork as a group, a structure that prioritizes togetherness and artistic growth.
Their monthly, themed drops flout the more commonly-abused models to financial success like individually-offered and marketed works, derivatives, open editions, memes. This is serious art made by serious artists with real purpose. Their first such drop, Omente Orange, featured 28 artworks that all included the sultry shade of sun-dried orange that abstract artist OmenteJovum popularized and has become known for. An homage in 28 flavors. The second, Who Mi?, contained 31 self-portraits in every style under the sun: surrealist, pencil-shaded, impressionist, collage, etc. While all the works are open for public purchase, many sales come from the more established MakingIt members like Em0tionull and Terrell Jones. The collective’s latest 30-piece drop, Children of the Internet, is currently being exhibited by the Museum of Crypto Art, and as artist Femzor told me,“Every drop MakingIt does sells out within 24 hours. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small artist, everyone gets that equal recognition.”
Each artist is obviously incentivized to publicize their own pieces, but in doing so, prospective collectors are led to the larger MakingIt 24/7 drop, exposing them to further works of meaning and significance elsewhere in the collective. Larger sales are routinely paid forward to other members in the collective, who hail from all over the world: Australia, Egypt, Brasil. And as bears frequent repeating, a .1 ETH sale might not be enough to put food on the table in the U.S., but in locales all over the world, such an influx of funds can dramatically alleviate one’s financial hardships.
But it’s more than the sales structure which are emblematic of MakingIt’s devotion to collective success. It’s in the formation of a community, the existence of an always-on groupchat where like-minded artists all seek to hone their craft. Anubis3100 said “30 heads are greater than one creatively and allow for far easier movement and also evolution.” Finn mentioned that “Obviously having a group of friends to share things with, discuss works/projects, and even just daily life has been extremely valuable,” while Vad says that “[MakingIt24/7] allows me to be able to almost feel at home because I can come into the chat, shoot the shit, and then get their opinions on something relating to my art or give feedback on theirs, or anything going on within the art world.”
It sounds somewhat ironic to claim that one of MakingIt’s chief successes is in fostering an artistic space that isn’t just about artistry, but this calls to mind the Impressionist, Anthropofagic, Surrealist, Modernist, Dadaist and countless other movements where members were often friends, chatting in cafes, attending parties together, wafting through eachothers’ studios. Van Gogh’s chief source of sales was his Post-Impressionist comrade Paul Klee. Surrealists Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst lived together in southern France for years. Gertrude Stein’s salon was a perpetual event.
MakingIt 24/7 members, without hierarchy and without set direction, seem hellbent on fostering an environment of togetherness and growth by every available means. Their attitude of radical self-sustainment and mutual development harkens back to crypto art’s yesteryear.
I asked ROBNESS — the prolific artist who has seen the space grow from its very inception– about the spirit of togetherness which was early crypto art’s defining attribute.
“I BELIEVE THE COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT WAS ANOTHER SORT OF REBELLIOUS ETHOS IN THE CRYPTOART EARLY DAYS, SINCE ARTISTIC COLLABORATIONS OF THE OLD ART WORLD WERE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN,” he told me.
I’m not surprised ROBNESS feels this way: In previous conversations he’s mentioned the VaporWave and RarePepe communities as vital inspirations for crypto art’s foundation, both being movements which emerged from enclosed — though far from exclusive — communities, and which prioritized artistic dialogue between creators. This was the same ethos upon which DADA.art was built, and it still defines one of crypto art’s most persistent movements, Trash Art.
One could see that same collaborative spirit evoked in the actual artworks too. I think of pieces like Through Time and Space (2020), a collaboration between “@fewocious x @JonathanWolfe x @MERCPIN x @BLACKSNEAKERS x @mushbuh x @harvmcm x @fakito x @FedericoBona x @femzor x @etienecrauss x @parrott_ism.” The Async Art release First Supper (2020), which featured Alotta Money, Sparrow Reed, Coldie, Connie Digital, Hackatao, Jose Bellini, MLIBTY, Matt Kane, Rutger Van Der Tas, SHORTCUT, TwistedVacancy, Vansdesign, and XCOPY is another prime example. These artists frequently minted collaborations with each other, which you can see on any shallow dive into their SuperRare pages, for instance.
The collaboration was commercial as well as creative. Crypto artists have always been some of their own biggest collectors. Many of the most impressive and wide-ranging collections in crypto art continue to be those of early artists in the space like Coldie, Matt Kane, Mattia Cuttini, and Gisel Florez; the usual suspects.
The organic growth of that early crypto art community in many ways mirrors the organic growth of MakingIt24/7. Individuals supporting each other freely because they knew they could count on reciprocal support when it was needed.
I imagine it’s extremely difficult to build any kind of similarly self-supporting network today without appearing like a salesperson. Many of us ignore messages from unknown folks in our DM’s by rule. Requests for eyes on a new piece, or more direct appeals for collectorship, often seem like a kind of marketeering we’re vehemently uninterested in. We don’t know who to trust, and with scams galore, we fear the unknown. I hesitate to visit a link. I’ll be damned if I sign an un-vetted contract.
I’m tempted to say that going it alone may no longer be possible, but was it ever? Community support was the backbone of the crypto art movement, and a collective understanding about the whole space’s need for uplift resulted in some of its revolutionary characteristics, like, for example, the Matt Kane and Sparrow Reed-led “Minimum 10% NFT Royalties — Letter to Platforms.”
A rising tide lifts all boats, we know that. But why is MakingIt24/7 seeming to succeed in a way that other collectives or DAOs haven’t? Perhaps we find their dedication to artistic experimentation attractive in a moment where that kind of experimentation seems rarer and rarer. Or maybe it’s just dumb luck, this the right collection of artists appearing at the right time with the right panache and the right strategy, all arrived at by chance.
Makingit 24/7 is not without its problems, after all. It’s quite young, with most of its members minting their first works in 2021 or 2022. The collective has only produced three drops so far (as of November 2022) so who knows how variance in future financial success will affect the group, with membership already dramatically contracting and expanding. Subtle Bubble mentioned having already seen “the groupchat go from 12 people to 70 and back down to 45” but where will it go from here? Individuals will undoubtedly try and gain MakingIt’s membership to ride the coattails of their success. Will we still be able to point to MakingIt 24/7 as a paragon if they increase their exclusivity, become invite-only or closed to newcomers altogether? Hard to say.
And being that many I spoke to mentioned being somewhat burdened by the weight of MakingIt’s general disorganization — ”Communication can be complex with so many members” and “The downside…is the avoidance of hard truths, mostly as it concerns creative stagnation” and “Sometimes one voice can get drowned out by another when we’re all adamant about speaking at the same time” were all weaknesses voiced to me — maybe MakingIt will ultimately prove unfit for longevity.
But in this moment, having just completed its third drop, and with many more seemingly on the way, with a bevy of staggering artistic talent among its ranks, and with a well-explicated emphasis on group growth and group artistic development and group financial success, there’s a real chance that MakingIt 24/7 can continue to represent a way out of the woods for many who are unable to see the crypto art forest for the trees.
Because community is as important now as ever. The highest-selling artists, you may have noticed, don’t create in a vacuum. They are constantly and publicly offering each other support, promoting conversation, bidding on each others’ artwork. Just because this set of artists and collectors have congealed does not mean they are not doing things the right way. MakingIt 24/7’s greatest innovation may prove to be their novel new method of community-building: A conspicuous devotion to addressing the specific needs of its members so as to keep the group strength alive and accelerating. Rather than just trying to break into the current artistic meta, they are building one of their own through a take-no-prisoners adherence to their values. Luck is always going to be necessary in such cases. A lot has to go right in the first place to get a mossy stone rolling.
Hopefully the curious case of MakingIt 24/7 is going to inspire other artists to group together, to identify and hold tight to their values, and to prioritize self-support. Every success story, no matter how small, ultimately rises the tide we all bob along upon.
I’m tired of not celebrating these successes. I’m tired of success being treated like some zero-sum game: Them or us, and always primed for poked holes. I’m tired of being here for the art in maxim alone. Here in MakingIt24/7 is so much art. And so much self-love. Should that alone not be cause for celebration? If a few dozen young creatives in a groupchat can set such an exciting spark by din of their devotion, I will not be one to turn away from the blaze. I will watch it burn higher or I will watch it burn out. I will praise its virtues — present or past — either way.
All artworks used in this piece (other than First Supper) are from MakingIt 24/7’s release Children of the Internet. View these works on exhibition through March 2023 at the Museum of Crypto Art’s Children of the Internet exhibition.