Jerry Garcia’s Digital Art Is Back From The Dead As NFTs And We’re Grateful.

Here’s a little known fact:  Jerry Garcia, founder and lead singer of the Grateful Dead studied visual arts in San Francisco.  He was an early adopter of Macintosh computers as a medium to create digital art.  Garcia’s digital images are creative, bold and relevant more than a quarter century after the last pieces were made in 1995.

In celebration of Garcia’s art being made public, certain of his pieces will be sold as NFTs (non-fungible tokens.)   This twenty piece collection: An Odd Little Place, The Digital Works of Jerry Garcia (1992-1995) will be displayed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  The collection opens with a preview event attended by the Garcia family on August 5th, 2021 and to the public on August 6th.

Together, the Garcia Family and YellowHeart will be releasing these NFTs in three phases:

First, on July 19th, 2021 there will be a sale of first NFTs released from the twenty piece Garcia Collection alongside a separate release of tickets to the exclusive preview event at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on August 5th when members of the Garcia family will be in attendance.  There will be 25 NFT tickets to this event.  Five of these are VIP Vault Tour tickets at $10,000 apiece, each ticket allows two people to have a private Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Vault tour along access to the Garcia exhibition.  The remaining twenty tickets are $2,500 each for an Exclusive Exhibition Preview Experience, each granting access for two people to the August 5th event.

Phase two will be a release of seventeen limited edition pieces of Garcia’s digital art on August 1st, 2021, which would have been Garcia’s 79th birthday.  Pricing information for the collection is here: 

YhNFT Marketplace

Phase three is an auction beginning on August 5th, 2021 at 3 pm EST and ending on August 7th, 2021 for the final three pieces known to have been created by Garcia. These three pieces include ni kil After 9 Hours, which is believed to have been made in the last few days of Jerry Garcia’s life.  This auction will be for the single, unique 1 of 1 NFT for each piece. 

These pieces of digital art were found in files on Jerry Garcia’s old Macintosh computers. Marc Allan of Red Light Management explains:

“With regard to the origin of the collection, I think it is fair to understand that I was having broader NFT discussions at the beginning of the year in an effort to understand what the growing buzz was about. I was already familiar with certain benefits that the blockchain could potentially offer and the birth and growth of the NFT marketplace was definitely intriguing.

That dovetailed with a concerted effort by the Garcia Family and our team to raise the public’s awareness with regard to Jerry Garcia as a visual artist.

When Trixie Garcia and I first started speaking about NFTs, we were studying the visual works that were present in the Garcia archives and trying to see if there was a world that made sense to the family to explore this area. At some point in the process, while going through and categorizing potential pieces for a broader idea, we started honing in on the specific digital works that Jerry was making during the early ‘90s. Going through the art, it became more clear that Garcia was creating pieces in the digital space that feel very much in line with the current zeitgeist and at that moment, Trixie and I discussed pivoting and focusing specifically on the collected digital works of her father.

 As we explored deeper, that is when we saw the folder labeled “The Last 48” and the files therein. Those files included the names of the pieces and dates associated with their creation and we realized that we may very well be looking at the last creative works of Jerry Garcia. With that in focus, we then patiently went to work to give these works their proper due and are now ready to present the Collection.”

Once Trixie Garcia and Marc Allan understood the potential impact of releasing these digital art pieces, they needed a partner savvy in the technology behind NFTs and sensitive to the legacy of the musicians with the stature of Jerry Garcia. Their best match to assist in selling Jerry Garcia’s NFTs became quickly apparent.

This NFT sale is being handled by YellowHeart, a New York based marketplace known for its music related NFTs and other music related blockchain based ticketing innovations.  YellowHeart’s CEO Josh Katz is a lifelong fan of the Grateful Dead.  They have previously released NFTs for Kings Of Leon, XXXTentacion, ZHU and have other well-known musicians releases upcoming on their 2021/2022 schedule.

Last week I spoke at length with Trixie Garcia who is both Jerry’s daughter and an artist in her own right.  We talked about her father’s art, her own art and the surprising discovery of the modern relevance of the collection of her father’s digital art which is now being released.

Trixie discussed how her father took to art as a young man in San Francisco.  Jerry was a latch key kid growing up in the 1950s with a lot of time on his hands so with inspiration from the Beatnicks and poets who hung near the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach area he took pencil in hand. The lifestyle of an artist was something available to him and he pursued it. Jerry studied visual arts which ultimately resulting in two published books of his works.  Jerry recognized art was a possible career at a time when being a musician did not seem to be a potential option.

Later in life Jerry’s interest in art carried over to the new medium of digital art which was created and existed solely on a computer. These digital art pieces were created on Jerry’s 1990’s era Macintosh computer.  Jerry was at the forefront of the digital age of art’s development.

Trixie shared that her becoming an artist was prompted by her father’s engagement with art.  She felt fluent in digital art.  Although Trixie was raised to be computer savvy, she keeps that in balance by working in her garden.  This duality is why releasing NFTs is part of her role maintaining the family legacy and excites her as a way to maintain communication with the fan base.  She also can see forward to a path where other music and recordings contained in the Grateful Dead’s vault came be slowly released over time.  Trixie believes there may be as many as 1,200 live Jerry shows to be released over the next two decades.

Our conversation can be found here in both video and audio format:

This sale of early digital art using modern technology is yet another example of how the future preserves the past. Continuity is the glue which holds together the universe. The Garcia family may be selling Jerry’s digital art with the most current technology, but their ethic remains as grounded as it always was. They will be donating a portion of the sale proceeds from these auctions to The Wilderness Society, the Rex Foundation, the First In Last Out Festival and For Humanity and Sweet Relief. Music and art succeed when a community is formed which shares common interests. That community must be sustained. Jerry Garcia’s community continues even though he has left, protected and maintained by his family who understand they are the bridge from the past to the future. Although the technology is changing, the people making decisions remain the same. This is why 25+ years after Jerry’s digital art was created, their community remains interested.

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