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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 of mixture of beginner artists and seasoned art-world stars, a give attention to measures to construct actual group—and, above all, a powerhouse management workforce.
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 a few of the high consumers 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 beneath 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 intently 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 turning into acquainted with the crypto-art area had concerned curiosity, analysis, and a variety 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,” stated Ou. “So it has really been a crazy learning curve. I’m always asking questions.”
Li-Cohen added that “everything changed” after Christie’s bought Beeple’s Everydays for $69 million final March. Ever since, she has been centered on the fast-growing NFT area. 
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,” stated 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 group part, TR Lab organizes weekly AMA (“ask me anything”) occasions between its artists and WHALE, a preferred NFT gathering group created by a significant Hong Kong-based collector who goes by the identify WhaleShark. It has some 20,000 individuals on its Discord website.
One other progressive measure undertaken by TR Lab is a bidding consumption software type generally known as a “white sheet,” geared toward removing 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 observe. “You can see that the leadership team has a lot of experience in the traditional art world,” stated Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, a high NFT collector who has purchased and bought 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 workforce is targeted on creating a mixture of bodily and digital experiences that “bridge the traditional art world and the digital art world.” One latest occasion was a digital studio go to the place roughly 100 individuals noticed and requested questions in regards to the means of Cai’s gunpowder work.
“We want to create [a sense of] community and give experiences that no other platform would provide,” she says. To this point so good.

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