Philip Colbert is a British contemporary artist based in London. He has a global following for his cartoon lobster characters and his self-described “hyperpop realist” paintings. Colbert recently launched Lobsteropolis City, his first digital exhibition on metaverse Decentraland, and wrote about his exploration of NFTs and encounters with the metaverse community.
I am fascinated by the whole ecosystem of the metaverse and the way people get involved and form communities on it.
The metaverse, for me, is what I perceive to be the next wave of possibility that changes the ways we look at and experience digital art. From an artistic point of view, I was inspired by the holistic idea. It offers a way to change the context.
The more I explored the metaverse, the more I saw a whole network of people devoting their lives and careers to the space. It’s a mirror of the real world, a reality that people live in. It’s like the American Dream, Part Two: if you didn’t succeed in the real world, you can have a go at succeeding in the metaverse.
Something I came across in the metaverse that interested me was digital horse racing platform Zed Run. The idea of horse races that people could engage in after breeding digital horses was fascinating.
I’m spending lots of time modeling and building my own metaverse. The digital space enables me to explore my Lobster world in a new and interactive way. Launching Lobsteropolis City on Decentraland means that people can now experience this digital universe from anywhere in the world.
Lobsteropolis opened to the public on June 30. I was really happy with the opening; we had more than 200 avatars show up, people loved the concert, and the museum and casino were popular places where avatars gathered and hung out. It was the top trending event for the week after on Decentraland; we had another event in early July and over 300 avatars came, so it seems to be growing.
I’ve previously exhibited Lobsteropolis in galleries in various cities across the United Kingdom and Asia. Compared to that, the event in the metaverse is very much a work in progress; it’s much more interactive and developed, as it’s very much about the user experience.
The digital medium has an immortality in its perfection, and physical art can always be copied in a way that you can’t do with digital art.
With the rise of NFTs, the digital art movement is now a tidal wave, and so many new ideas are possible.
The first NFT I made was called The Cryptofixtion. I’d been wanting to make a lobster crucifixion sculpture, inspired by studying Salvador Dalí’s paintings and engaging with the idea of technology as a new religion.
With society’s obsession with mobile phones, the idea of a cross made out of screens seemed logical. I then realized it would work better as a digital world: some things are more infinite, pure, and powerful in digital form. Since then, I have minted another NFT: Lobster Fountain.
In March, there was a bottleneck effect due to the huge interest in NFTs. The problem, however, was that not many NFT platforms had significant followings.
As a result, prices for NFTs went up, but that was not sustainable; it’s actually healthy for the market to become more “real.” Just because something is an NFT does not mean it has value. It’s just a system. The value is in the collectability of the idea. What we are witnessing now is the rise of things that are valuable within the infiniteness of NFTs.
Some say that traditional artists that didn’t make digital art before will be left out in the NFT era, but I think it depends on the artist. No one should have to do anything. It’s a matter of choice and whether one’s philosophy works with the digital movement.
Some artists only focus on traditional materiality and are not interested in digital mediums, which is fair. It has to work with what you are trying to say or explore. For me, NFTs make complete sense and connect with my process and interests as an artist.