The Untold Story of Olive Allen: Crypto Art Pioneer

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by RD (Twitter: @RogerDickerman)

Olive Allen (OA) is a New York-based visual artist working at the intersection of art and technology. Her art, sardonic in nature, explores current cultural shifts through deeply personal experience. Olive is one of the early adopters and founders in the blockchain space. She got her first Bitcoin in 2013 and became actively involved in the community, whose idealistic ideas of transparency, individual privacy, and economic freedom she still shares.

Name a more diverse crypto artist than Olive Allen.

You can’t.

Look at the breadth of her work.

Olive is releasing a No One’s Available, Everyone is Busy series across SuperRare and Open Sea. While dropping a surprise Holiday Special collaboration with Twisted Vacancy on MakersPlace. While her CoinDesk Most Influential portrait of Charles Cascarilla is being auctioned on Nifty Gateway. While she builds her own Metaverse gallery space and NFT Factory — Mad Toy Junction. Just after releasing Hallowcracy on Async Art.

You might think her work suffers from being in so many places at once.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Olive Allen’s art and messaging extends far deeper than the cuddly surface of her trademark bears, birds, and toys.

“You can’t take my art at face value; there is always a hidden meaning.”

Olive’s story begins with Furby. 

A Generation 7 Red Wolf Furby, that is. 

Talking about her youth, Olive mentions how lonely it felt being the only child and growing up in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a time of massive societal change with an air of uncertainty and instability hovering over every aspect of people’s lives.

Olive was shy as a child, and often her toys were her only company. She talked to Furby, and Furby talked back.

“I always preferred those surreal otherworldly characters to more realistic toys. Maybe my desire to get away from reality had a contribution. I like things that could not exist in real life, but yet they do. Even if only as toys. Your imagination makes them come alive. I like that duality of imaginary and real.”

According to Olive, real life needs some help. Stop taking yourself so seriously, will you?

“If you take life too seriously, it can become mundane and boring. I feel like I’ve always wanted to make things more festive and playful for myself and others.”

“Growing up, I was always making stuff: drawings, paintings, weird collages — so many of them! As well as holiday postcards for the whole family …”  

But art was never supposed to be the thing. It was just something she did.

“I never thought of a career as an artist because hey — I grew up in a country where that just wasn’t a thing. You always had to pursue something more ‘solid’. Yet, I always gravitated towards art.

I pursued industrial design, media studies, film, architecture, and even acting, believe it or not. When I started making art full-time four years ago, the cognitive dissonance made me put it on hold and try myself as a tech founder chasing that Silicon Valley Dream of changing the World.” 

Olive has no regrets. Her time in the Bay Area taught her a lot about herself. It gave her insights into building and developing innovative products. It unlocked the use of platforms and technology to enhance her art practice.

Nifty Gateway – a digital art primary and secondary market sales platform – is known for the concept of an art drop. Limit the number of artists available. Limit supply. Limit the time window for purchase. Behold the market frenzy. 

Olive Allen is the drop OG. Her first art drop took place even before Nifty Gateway debuted.

On Halloween 2019 under the brand name Decadent [Olive’s startup at the time] she released 13 Dreadful and Disappointing Items. After the drop not going as planned and the site crashing multiple times, Olive decided to mint 2nd editions of the items and send a random collectible to each of the people who subscribed. They are 1/1 NFTs that still live on the blockchain.

“That’s actually the first NFT drop in the sense of an entire collection dropping on one day and only being available for 24 hours. I’ve always been fascinated by those techniques, utilized by streetwear brands.

I understand the mechanics of it. You buy and you flip. It’s an adrenaline rush. Achievement unlocked.

That’s the OG way. I did that [first] drop. I priced it. I determined scarcity myself. After me, people were doing the same thing.”

Evolution is important to Olive. Moving forward is the only way.

After bringing her drop style to Nifty Gateway, Olive did something else unique.

She released a collection of HYPEBIRDS, an ode to Furby and HYPEBEAST culture. They were paired, in scarce packs, with pieces of a fractionalized painting – SOMETHING. Purchase and open a pack and receive either a HYPEBIRD or one of 195 pieces of SOMETHING (each aptly named A Piece of Something). Those pieces interlock to form the meta painting, theoretically allowing a collector to “piece” it together over time.

A final auction presented its lucky winner a choice: either collect A Piece of Something #196 – the painting’s final piece – or a Gold HYPEBIRD. Choose the HYPEBIRD and the 196th piece disappears forever, leaving the painting with a permanent hole.

SOMETHING is now missing a piece. The winner chose the Gold HYPEBIRD. 

“The Collector going after a shiny golden object symbolizes the flaws in modern values — our focus on instant gratification. Chasing the hype makes us lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Olive knows you. A ReFurbished Gold Nugget #1/1 now exists and the 196th Piece of Something is gone forever.

Don’t get it twisted. Just because she knew what you’d do, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do the same.

“Hell, I would choose the HYPEBIRD myself.” 

VR Time
Edition 1 of 1
Final piece of ‘No One is Available. Everyone is Busy’ series exploring the nature of escapism — intentional detachment and distraction from the real world. In VR Time the lonely pangolin immerses himself in the world full of colorful characters inviting him to play. And he is no longer alone…Until he is again. Is living in the fantasy dangerous? Is it sustainable? What if through escaping we gain the true freedom which saves us from the reality overdose and makes us happy? Then why living in the reality is good for us? Maybe safer is not always better?

Your choice of a Gold Nugget HYPEBIRD isn’t the only thing that Olive Allen can predict. She knows your future.

Her current release No One is Available – Everyone is Busy addresses exactly that.

“It’s about alienation. We make ourselves unavailable. Technology disconnects us more and more.”

Four pieces of technology are depicted: a game console, television, phone, and VR headset. She leverages a collection of cuddlies interacting with them to deliver the message of disconnection.

The series is available in two formats: VR Time is a #1/1 reserve auction on SuperRare and Lost and Found is an Emblem Vault on OpenSea. The latter requires further explanation.

“The NFT is the vault. It’s an interesting concept. It took me 2 to 3 hours to understand it. Don’t tell anyone it took me that long.

There is a possibility of opening the vault and getting three artworks out. They are prisoners. But then you lose the cover NFT.”

Much like her HYPEBIRDS drop, Olive Allen is putting you to a decision. Do you keep the unique cover art or discard it in favor of the three trapped inside?

Life in a Simulation
Edition 1 of 1
If a simulated reality is indistinguishable from “true” reality, which reality is “real”? My second self-portrait in 3D…or a simulated me which is indistinguishable from “true” me… This piece is about finding oneself and creating one’s own reality.

Olive Allen is a vault.

A wide-ranging, multi-talented cover holds plenty of substance beneath the surface.

Olive’s most recent 3D portrait experimentation – Life in a Simulation – is the perfect metaphor. At first glance, it’s easy to think that it is Olive.

“It’s not me, but it’s me. I was never behind the camera. I don’t even own that kind of a dress. I made myself a virtual being.

If a simulated reality is indistinguishable from ‘true’ reality, which reality is ‘real’? This piece is about finding oneself and creating one’s own reality.

I watched The Matrix as a kid. I don’t think I should have watched it that early in life. It makes you weird. 😜

Why do you think the world is what it is? It’s very possible we live in a simulation.”

Is Olive Allen herself a simulation?

In the end – much like your perception of her art – it’s up to you.

“I do not wish to impose the meaning. I’ll leave its discovery and the interpretation up to the viewer.”

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