Lucien Smith, whose abstract paintings have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, is making another foray into the world of NFTs. Last week, Lobus, an equity management firm focused on artists and collectors, said it had picked the artist as the director of its Cultural Innovation Lab, a position that will see him pitch artists on using blockchain technology to manage their assets.
Best-known for his “Rain Paintings,” which were flipped by collectors during the early 2010s as part of a craze for a style known as zombie formalism, Smith has in the past year grown interested in NFT technology to circumvent the market’s most exploitative structures. In an interview, he said he was instantly attracted to the potential of smart contracts, which make it possible to assure that, each time an NFT is sold, a certain percentage of the sale goes automatically to the artist.
“There’s no getting around it,” Smith said. “Payouts are just triggered during a sale rather than having to go through a lawyer or chase someone down for resale payment.”
Founded in 2018, Lobus manages some $7 billion worth of assets, with a powerful client list that includes the Rothko family and the Louis Vuitton Foundation. After the NFT craze kicked off earlier this year, Lobus rapidly pivoted to absorb blockchain technology into its asset management model. Lobus’s goals include helping clients reap automatic payments on the secondary market through NFT smart contracts and fractionalizing ownership of particular assets. According to self-reported numbers, Lobus has raised more than $7 million from investors to build out its technology.
In a statement, Lobus cofounder Sarah Wendell Sherill said, “Lucien is a visionary in this field, having experienced first hand the imbalance of economic control when the secondary markets are capturing the upside of value creation.”
Smith first made use of NFTs via his non-profit organization Serving the People, which aims to support emerging artists. He began searching for partners who could help him realize his vision for an artist-forward NFT platform and was interested in Lobus’s desire to develop blockchain in a way that would serve artists.
“My first priority is making sure that our platform and marketplace create a healthy environment for emerging—and even not-yet-emerging—artists,” Smith said.