Is Love a Myth? Basileus Looks for Answers in a New Exhibition
The NFT collector and now curator asked 24 artists to explore what he calls the “queen of emotions.”
by Trent Morse | December 7, 2022
In the 1983 short story “Basileus,” by sci-fi author Robert Silverberg, a Bay Area computer programmer named Dan Cunningham learns how to download angels. Eventually, he spends so much time chatting with his cohort of more than 1,100 celestial beings (and inventing new ones) that he’s too tired to focus on his Defense Department job and loses all interest in socializing and romancing in real life. The story culminates in Cunningham’s starting a nuclear war by way of computer code and transforming himself into Basileus, Emperor of the Angels.
Four decades later, the Internet has a new Bay Area computer maestro named Basileus. This one is much less scary. Rather than downloading angels, our 21st-century Basileus (who borrowed his pseudonym from Silverberg’s story) roams Web3 marketplaces scooping up NFTs. So far, he has amassed more than 1,500 works of cryptoart and cryptomusic.
Basileus was one of those smart and fortunate techies who invested in crypto well before the big boom and subsequent fizzle of the early 2020s. “I got into cryptocurrency pretty early because, as a computer scientist with a background in finance, I found the basic concepts straightforward,” he says. “And since I’ve always been fascinated with art but found collecting to be too difficult, I was an easy convert to cryptoart.”
Through his collecting, Basileus has forged deep connections with artists and become a collector to watch in the NFT realm, where major players are often followed by those hoping to get in on the next überprofitable crypto discovery.
In his communications, Basi, as he’s affectionately called by some artists, reveals a tenderness and generosity that shines forth in the theme he’s chosen for the new NFT exhibition he’s curated, “Mythic Love.” He selected two dozen creators for the show, including some, like WGMeets, Angie Taylor and Stina Jones, whose NFTs he collects.
“I wanted to give them free rein to work in the theme of the queen of emotions,” the Berkeley-based curator says. “By qualifying the theme as ‘mythic,’ I wanted to give them an extra degree of freedom to choose something classic — some of the artists have done thrilling work on mythological themes — or to treat the existence of love itself as a myth.”
The artists ran with it, finding inspiration in everything from Pre-Raphaelite paintings and regional folklore to dating apps and their personal histories. “Absolutely one of the most interesting ideas within the theme of love is the different types of it,” Basileus says. There’s familial love, universal love, divine love, platonic love, love of nature, love for pets and so on. “At the same time,” he notes, “I think we are all fascinated by the mythology around true love in a romantic sense.”
Here, all 24 artists tell us about their “Mythic Love” works and how they address the topic at hand.
My Contribution to Mythic Love Exhibition is "The Forgotten Love"
My hometown is not far from Brocéliande, a mystical forest in the Arthurian legend. It feels special there — I feel the vibes from the land and the ancestral magic. I thought about a legend in which Arthur would come back home and realize that what he was looking for all along lay in Guenievre, in her unconditional love and support.
“And you can reflect back on all these legendary women who have been the strength of humanity, keeping it all together while their men got all the credit, like Mary Magdalene to Jesus (I know it’s controversial), Winnie Mandela to Nelson Mandela, Mileva Marić to Albert Einstein, et cetera.
“By staying in the shadows for the sake of love, these women created a precedent by showing the ideal of femininity as being caring, hiding and giving their all to masculinity. So, underneath all the cuteness and peace in this artwork, there is a message about bringing to light those women who have been forgotten by history.
“As for the medium, I started with my usual watercolor, and I blended it with natural elements I brought back from a romantic walk in the Great Malvern, like flowers and leaves. I left them on the wet paper while the watercolor was drying, creating a structure in the splashes of color. Then, guided by the random stains and the remaining white of the paper, I drew the silhouettes of Guinevere and King Arthur in ink. Afterward, I extended the power of watercolor with digital tools, bringing it to life.
“There is a sense of universal, unconditional love here — almost in a religious way. As an artist, and as myself, I feel love for everyone by default. This is something deeply anchored within me. Hence, my art always comes from a happy place. I want people to enjoy my art as if they were children, as I create like a child, too, prioritizing the fun and joy of creating.