“I prefer to take a passive approach as a collector, I’m here to observe and support the artists that I’ve collected from, I love getting to know the artist behind the work better and forming relationships. It’s something that has always been a huge challenge in the traditional world, and now with NFTs, so many barriers have been taken down.“
Michelle Viljoen is a Cape Town-born photographer and creative director with over 12 years of experience. She is the founder of Studio Co, a global branding and marketing studio working in both web2 and web3. She is also the founder of LensClub Magazine and a founding artist of The RAWDAO.
From the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Pak to Neil Burnell and Hans Kemp, Viljoen’s collection walks a razor’s edge between the nascent investment potential of individual artists and the commercial success of certain PFP projects, that can only happen when a collector has a real sense of the landscape (and impeccable timing).
In our conversation, we discuss several different investment strategies for collecting, market cycles, and what she’s looking forward to in the near future.
ART3: What was your first introduction to NFTs and how long after did you begin collecting?
MV: I started noticing a buzz around NFTs in the beginning of 2021. My friend Dave Krugman was doing incredible things already – specifically his collaboration with Xsullo “Ecumenopolis: Sector 1 NYC”. This was still in the Clubhouse era, so I joined a room hosted by Dave and the rest was history. I’ve been in crypto since 2017 so the leap into NFTs felt very natural, but more so the technology of the blockchain merged with art immediately drew me in and gave me a newfound sense of excitement for the future of art for both artist and collector.
ART3: If you could only keep one of the NFTs you have collected, which would it be?
MV: This is a really tough question, but probably “The Net Menders” by Hans Kemp from his most recent collection “Work, Play, Eat and Pray. An Ode to Asia.” is my fav piece.
I’ve always been a huge admirer of Hans’ photography and had the privilege of getting to know him over the course of the past year. He’s an incredible person with a really beautiful way about him. When I first saw this photograph I instantly got lost in it. I love the water and spend a large part of my time in or near the ocean. There’s a peace that comes with water and the repetition of small tasks like a form of meditation. This photograph brings me tremendous joy and calm.
In terms of collectibles, it has to be my ape 9122!
ART3: Did you collect art before the blockchain? If so, does that inform how you collect digital art?
MV: I’ve always been a collector of things, I inherited the love for art from my mom who has always been an avid collector of art and antiques.
Being an artist and photographer myself definitely influences my collecting process. I look for connections in art. I want to be transported in the presence of work. This applies to both digital or physical art. I am traditional by heart and I do love seeing physical pieces–there’s something special about seeing ink on paper, and the brush strokes on a canvas. So when there’s an opportunity to get a physical of an NFT I usually jump at it. Not sure when I’ll hang it all but that’s a worry for another day! This however hasn’t ever stopped me from collecting purely digital art–I love both! The bonus of digital art is not running out of space in my home. I have actually found myself collecting almost entirely in the NFT space these days.
ART3: What kind of work catches your eye the most — are there specific genres or aesthetics?
MV: I’m a huge fan of photography and fine art, so I’m always drawn to those mediums. That being said, I never limit myself when it comes to art, if I connect with a piece, no matter the genre I would consider adding it to my collection. I love keeping an open mind, art can surprise you the most when you least expect it.
ART3: From what I’ve seen in your collection you have a mix of PFP projects and individual artists. Do you employ a strategy with your collection?
MV: I have always loved this question. I personally see collecting PFPs and collecting art as two entirely different buying strategies and mindsets. PFPs fall into a high-risk category for me, where it’s less about the aesthetic (though for me personally, it does still play a role) and more about a financial investment in order to potentially reap rewards. Another big aspect of PFP projects is about gaining access to token gated communities and the networking and guidance that comes with it. Utility and community play a massive role within the collectible ecosystem, adding a different level of value.
Whereas when I collect art I do so for no other reason than because I was absolutely moved by it. I don’t expect anything from the artists I support, other than the hope that they always continue to create more art. When I collect from an artist it’s purely because I connect with their work. I don’t collect art with the intent to profit off it. The process of collecting art is a very personal one for me.
ART3: Who are some of the artists that you think deserve attention right now?
MV: I’m currently keeping my eye on Mia Forrest, she’s an amazing artist pushing her medium forward – She’s always pushing boundaries and I look forward to following her journey!
ART3: Which was the collection, NFT or the artist who got away?
MV: I suppose one could say that I joined the NFT game too late, but it has to be Mad Dog Jones. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to add one of his pieces to my collection. One can dream!
ART3: What do you believe your primary role as a collector is?
MV: As both an artist and collector, I think about this a lot. I prefer to take a passive approach as a collector, I’m here to observe and support the artists that I’ve collected from, I love getting to know the artist behind the work better and forming relationships. It’s something that has always been a huge challenge in the traditional world, and now with NFTs, so many barriers have been taken down. I’m always available for conversations, bounce ideas, and offer support. Seeing artists be successful and able to continuously create because they can make a living from their art hits differently. There’s nothing better than that, and gives me tremendous joy!
ART3: Naturally, there’s a lot of speculation in the NFT space. Do you have projections as to what the next year will bring?
MV: Times are tough at the moment, bear markets are always a very stressful time for many. I’ve seen many of these cycles and it’s always a nerve-racking time. Yet I’m always an optimist. I hope that in the coming months we see a strong turnaround. I’m extremely excited to see what NFT NYC will bring this month. I’m looking forward to seeing art find even more traction and seeing more artists embrace the technology of the blockchain, coding in exciting new ways, and using new technology to add more layers to art in ways that haven’t been seen before.
I also wonder if we would start to see a slow disconnect from market cycles and the effect on art-based NFT sales as more people start to enter the space. It’s really exciting times, as you know a month can feel like a year, so an astronomical amount of things can happen in a year! I’m certainly going to be here for all of it!
See Michelle’s gallery here.