Collector and photographer, Zach Lipp talks to Signal about collecting for the long term, why he was early to art editions, and what artists should prioritise ahead of their first mint. Léa Rose Emery tells the story.
“I don’t think that you can collect photography to the extent that I have and not feel some sort of personal connection with the artists,” says Zach Lipp. “Not only are you supporting them, but you also get to share in their art — you get to see what these people are ultimately going to create and be capable of.”
An architectural photographer and prolific collector, Zach brings an artist’s eye to the vast expanse of cryptoart that is available. He is a collector distinguished by his staunch creative instincts and a deep understanding of what it means to be — and to support — an artist, putting longevity and sustainability at the heart of his process. His collections on OpenSea and Objkt, totalling at almost 1,000 artworks, hold within them a huge range of styles, subjects, and aesthetics. But connecting each piece in this vast collection is his intuition for an arresting image. Whether the work is political or experimental, timeless or current, nearly every piece in his collection feels fit for its own space on a gallery wall, primed to make a unique imprint on the viewer’s mind.
This is the very quality that is pertained in Zach’s own work: his cityscapes possess an eloquence that makes you sit up straight, like the bold compositions starring in the photographs. He has a knack for capturing even the most emblematic skyline in a way that makes you feel like you are exploring it for the first time; the imposing buildings, unashamedly foregrounded, seem to reveal more of themselves the longer you look at them. Meanwhile, his architectural work displays the same eye for detail as the work that he collects, and his slightly surreal aerial shots utilise bold lines and unexpected shapes to challenge your perspective by offering one that is almost impossible to imagine unassisted.
Despite his talent, Zach is yet to mint any of his own photographs on the blockchain. With an extensive back catalogue comprising decades of photographs shot across the United States, he has plenty of work to choose from, but, for now, he is putting relationships first and financial gain second. “I feel like I get one shot at this, and I want it to change my life,” he explains. “I’d much rather spend time building relationships, trying to understand the space, and build and build and build.”
“The work comes before people release,” Zach emphasises. In his case, well before. He plans to create pieces specifically for his genesis mint, rather than digging up the archives. Above all, he is determined to move at his own pace. “Speed is not,” he says, pausing to laugh, “speed is not really how I move.”
“I get one shot at this.”
— Zach Lipp
That same thoughtfulness is apparent in Zach’s photography: each of his images is remarkably self-contained and immaculately composed, with expansive sentiments neatly compacted within. It is a breathtaking body of work, and once you have experienced it — once you have understood his eye — it becomes clear how he has amassed such an impressive collection of art on the blockchain, with each image standing on its own merits.
Indeed, Zach’s curated collection speaks for itself. From Misan Harriman’s Can You See Us Now? to Dilek’s BEATEN, each individual image has an imposing feature that makes the viewer pause. His architectural background is evident, with cityscapes and classical architecture being explored in pieces like WAGMI or The Old Town By Day. But while selecting the images themselves is one aspect of collecting, it is clear that Zach’s enthusiasm, curiosity, and respect for the artists behind them both thrill and motivate him.
“I think the difference with web3 is that I’ve been able to connect with different artists. That’s what I was amazed by from the start,” he explains. “I can go into a Twitter Space and I can ask questions to these artists that I think so highly of.”
Zach’s genuine zeal for the process and how creators think comes across when he discusses both individual artists and the space as a whole, illustrating why he was such an early proponent of minting open editions. “I’ve seen so many fascinating things happening with editions,” he tweeted back in May 2022, well before open editions began to dominate the cryptoart discourse last January. “More artists are transitioning to collecting, in addition to creating. Artists are finding new traction in the space by making their art more accessible. Artists and collectors are collaborating in new and fun ways.”
From Zach’s perspective, the edition approach offers two clear benefits: the potential to explore an artist at scale, combined with an added practicality in terms of value. “One of the reasons I liked editions, specially artists with large editions, one hundred, two hundred, is that they trade at two to three times the value of a unique 1/1 — and they have some liquidity. It was the one place in the photography market that had liquidity.”
Whether they are one piece amongst 500 copies or one copy amongst five, this is true for all editions — and, thus, they balance the two conflicting needs that pull a collector in different directions: how one resonates with a piece of work and its artist, as well as being realistic about its resale value. For Zach, this equilibrium means “collecting in the right way.”
“I want to collect from many different people, I want to represent as many different places and artists as I can. And while I want to do that, I have a wife and children,” he explains. “If I’m going to invest the way that I would like to and collect art the way that I’d like to, I absolutely do need to keep its value in mind.”
“I want to collect from many different people, I want to represent as many different places and artists as I can.”
— Zach Lipp
For most collectors, Zach notes, it is not possible to only collect on feeling, and he brings a refreshing realism to that narrative. “People say ‘collect what you love’,” he says, preparing to take the contrarian view. “I don’t necessarily think that’s completely fair. I do believe in ‘collect what you love’, but to completely disregard value when you’re collecting is not realistic unless you have an infinite amount of disposable income.”
Instead, it is about balance. “Find things you do love,” he stresses, “but let's say 80% of it you feel is going to increase in value, and then maybe 20%, you just don’t worry about and you’re literally collecting it because you love it.”
“To disregard value is not realistic.”
— Zach Lipp
It is natural to wonder what draws Zach to a piece — what earns a spot in such a wide and varied collection, whilst also ticking the boxes of value and love. “I think being able to express your personal vision is important; even if you are curating other people’s art, you can still share yourself,” he explains.
While cognisant of the longevity of his collection, Zach is also aware of the longevity of the space more broadly. He speaks passionately about his early experience in web3 — being able to connect directly to artists, stumbling into Twitter Spaces, and, crucially for Zach, engaging with different perspectives.
“I actually love it when I’ve collected something and somebody doesn’t appreciate it,” he says. “It’s okay for us to come from different perspectives and different sides.”