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Xin Li-Cohen, dubbed Christie’s ‘secret weapon,’ is co-founder of TR Lab. Artists together with Cai Guo Qiang are on board.
Eileen Kinsella,
Amid the explosion of NFT initiatives of the final yr trying to money in on the crypto-art craze, how do you stand out? The six-month-old TR Lab (for the Latin time period “tabula rasa” or clean slate) thinks it has the reply, with a thought-about mixture of beginner artists and seasoned art-world stars, a deal with measures to construct actual neighborhood—and, above all, a powerhouse management group.
For greater than a decade, former mannequin and basketball participant Xin Li-Cohen has been a rainmaker at Christie’s, advising and bidding for modern artwork collectors together with among the prime patrons in Asia. In a 2014 profile, the Wall Road Journal dubbed her the public sale home’s “secret weapon.” Now, she serves as each co-founder and chairwoman of TR Lab (she can also be sustaining her tasks at Christie’s underneath the marginally modified title of non-executive deputy chairman).
TR Lab’s different founder and CEO is Audrey Ou, a New York-based specialist who has labored carefully with the Rockbund Artwork Museum in Shanghai, based by her mother and father in 2010. Ou labored on solo reveals of artists there, together with one devoted to Cai Guo Qiang. She’s additionally a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Younger Collectors and Asian Artwork committees. 
Each Li-Cohen and Ou advised Artnet Information that changing into acquainted with the crypto-art area had concerned curiosity, analysis, and lots of time spent on each Twitter and Discord, studying each to talk the NFT lingo and to clarify it to others in layman’s phrases.
“Even in February I didn’t really know anything about NFTs,” mentioned Ou. “So it has really been a crazy learning curve. I’m always asking questions.”
Li-Cohen added that “everything changed” after Christie’s offered Beeple’s Everydays for $69 million final March. Ever since, she has been targeted on the fast-growing NFT house. 
TR Lab co-founder and CEO Audrey Ou.
“After we had been making ready for the [Beeple] sale, I used to be actually within the innovation round it,” mentioned Li-Cohen. “I also love building something new.” She says that she has also been fielding a plethora of NFT-related inquiries from clients, even more traditional ones.
TR Lab was incubated by Dragonfly capital, a high-profile cryptocurrency fund based in China that wanted to invest specifically in art NFTs, as well as to reach more Chinese collectors. When Dragonfly had trouble finding a team that they felt were “properly equipped” to do so, Ou recounts, they approached the Rockbund museum. (Other backer/partners of the venture include Artsy, the art commerce website, and Art021, the Shanghai contemporary art fair.)
One of the site’s first drops, in July, was Chinese art star Cai Guo Qiang’s first-ever NFT, a unique or “one of one” work, titled Transient Eternity-101 Ignitions of Gunpowder Painting. It was commissioned by the Rockbund for its 10th anniversary charity auction and sold for $2.5 million on the TR Lab platform after a 48-hour offering. Cai has more drops planned for this year.
Meanwhile, TR Lab is also backing AI2041, an ongoing multi-artist and cross-medium collaboration between authors and artists that has a new drop each week. The grand finale of the project will be a drop this month featuring well-known A.I. artist Refik Anadol.
A still from Min Shi’s genesis drop on TR Lab, a 1/1 short animated NFT called Gods Behind The Masks, which sold for 4.4 ETH ($16,500). Image courtesy TR Lab
Behind their strategy is a feeling that fatigue has already set in with the available NFT collecting models. “Our thesis is that collectors are looking for something curated and new…,” Ou defined. “This can be taken in a lot of different ways, whether it’s innovative drop mechanics or innovative community involvement and benefits.” 
In the case of artists who are new to NFTs, TR Lab helps with the process from start to finish, including an in-house digital support production studio. It was support from the platform that helped Cai turn a meditation on time into his first NFT, notes Ou. 
A still from Ness Graphics drop on TR Lab (a sold-out limited
edition of 50 called QU4NTUM). Image courtesy TR Lab.
Even where experienced digital artists are concerned, she noted, “they are finding it tough to work with different platforms and maintain scarcity.”
As for the neighborhood part, TR Lab organizes weekly AMA (“ask me anything”) occasions between its artists and WHALE, a well-liked NFT accumulating neighborhood created by a serious Hong Kong-based collector who goes by the title WhaleShark. It has some 20,000 individuals on its Discord web site.
One other revolutionary measure undertaken by TR Lab is a bidding consumption utility kind referred to as a “white sheet,” geared toward hunting down bots, or robots. 
“We really try our best to make sure that the artworks are going into the hands of collectors who appreciate the pieces and are not just bots who are trying to flip it on the secondary market,” says Ou. “You can only successfully apply to be a part of the white list if you answer all the questions about the artist, their background and previous works.” 
Observers of the scene are taking word. “You can see that the leadership team has a lot of experience in the traditional art world,” mentioned Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, a prime NFT collector who has purchased and offered main NFTs, together with Beeple’s Crossroads for $6.6 million. “They know how the system works.”
He additionally praised the TR Lab’s white sheet. “It’s sort of like a test… I find that fascinating. It’s very, very smart.”
What’s subsequent? Li-Cohen says that the TR Lab group is concentrated on creating a mixture of bodily and digital experiences that “bridge the traditional art world and the digital art world.” One current occasion was a digital studio go to the place roughly 100 individuals noticed and requested questions concerning the technique of Cai’s gunpowder work.
“We want to create [a sense of] community and give experiences that no other platform would provide,” she says. Thus far so good.

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