Grasping The Sword: A Chat With Tezos Foundation Digital Art Gallery Curator Misan Harriman

Tezos Foundation Digital Art Gallery Curator Misan Harriman speaks about the true motivations behind his journey into the world of Web 3.0 art.

By Stu Elmes


1,150 words, 6 minute read

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Misan Harriman is an important and influential artist. His work graces the walls of the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of their permanent collection. He was the first black man ever to photograph a British Vogue cover in the magazine’s 104-year history, and his efforts to cover the Black Lives Matter movement made him one of the world’s most widely-shared photographers.

Today, Misan operates as Curator of the Tezos Foundation Digital Art Gallery and has emerged as one of the most influential figures in the dynamic, exciting, and quickly-growing Web 3.0 art space.

As an artist first and foremost, Misan Harriman brings a much-needed keen eye for talent to the Tezos art ecosystem that has emerged as one of the most important digital art spaces in the blockchain-powered art world.

However, there’s a much larger motivation behind Misan’s journey into the world of Web 3.0 art than just art appreciation for art appreciation’s sake. As Misan will make crystal clear to anyone who takes the time to listen, for him, this endeavor is really about giving a voice to those whose stories have been relegated to the cold, dark corners of the art space for far too long, and letting those stories drive change in a world that needs to hear them…

“I always say that the camera is my sword and my shield. If you know when to hide behind it, you learn — it gives you wisdom. When the right time comes, you will use it as a sword to force change with the imagery it makes.”

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As a socially-conscious artist who believes that art has the power to drive change in the structures of power, digital NFT-powered art, with their potential to upend longstanding and problematic paradigms in the art world itself, were a natural fit for Misan. He dove headlong into this emerging world. Although he didn’t know it just yet, his explorations in the space would soon prove to be his first tentative steps toward the Tezos ecosystem, where a thriving art community and ecosystem was already beginning to take root

“Having thrown myself into collecting NFTs, I was in multiple Discord rooms with collectors and I kept seeing art that I was just like ‘What is that? Where is that?’, and it wasn’t on any other chain, it was on Tezos. I knew what Tezos was, but I didn’t know about the art movement that was there. I became a collector long long before I met anyone in the organization. I was just another person enjoying some of the best art I’ve seen in the digital realm.”

While many were still grappling with the concept of digital ownership and attributing value to virtual assets like NFTs, Misan Harriman understood what was going on right from the start. He’d been prepping for just such a moment for years as an inadvertent consequence of another personal passion of his…


With this unique understanding of the fundamentals driving the digital art ecosystem forward, Misan made a conscious decision to carve out an important niche in this space. All he needed was to find just the right like-minded folks and make his pitch. He found exactly that right here in the ecosystem, and things progressed quickly from there, something Misan spoke about during his recent appearance on TezTalks Radio

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“I was personally frustrated by the lack of support for the artists that need this technology the most. I just said ‘look, I love the art that I’ve seen, but it would be a really amazing thing to do to let the community know that you see them and that you want to support the vast array of diverse voices that are taking this brave step to be creators with this technology that you’ve created’. The folks at Tezos absolutely loved the idea.”

With this simple philosophical synergy and his newfound role as Curator of the Tezos Foundation Digital Art Museum, Misan Harriman set about defining what this role would mean for him, and what part his personal philosophies would play within it. In unapologetic fashion, Misan has held on to the reasons he was attracted to this world in the first place — namely, seeking out talent in places few had ventured before, and throwing the full weight of his support behind it when it is found…

“One thing I cannot stand about the art world is this sense of intellectual snobbery, where someone — just because of the lottery of life — knows all about whatever pillar of art that they’ve been educated in and they just look down on anything that they haven’t been taught. That is not what I call the democratization of merit based opportunity that Web 3.0 could be. I knew that if I was the first curator that I would do my darndest to make sure that those that would never be seen by that type of curator would be seen by me.”

This desire to lift up those who have historically been held down by the traditional art world is the very cornerstone of Misan’s approach to his curation work today. And, in the final analysis this is a very good thing for the Tezos art world. Web 3.0, blockchain technology, and NFTs represent a powerful, paradigm-shifting idea, and one with the potential to drive important change, not only in the art world, but in our global society itself. While these may appear to be lofty, pie in the sky ideas, they can be — and in fact are being — realized in a very acute and important way here in the Tezos ecosystem and its thriving art community today…

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“I always think about how many Jackson Pollocks and Gordon Parks or Maria Callases or Miles Davises or Neil Youngs or Nina Simones have dropped whatever pen or microphone or paint brush because they didn’t have the support that someone like me can give them. That’s what matters to me much more than any sort of floor price or ‘why doesn’t he buy this artist because they were on Tezos early?’. I’m thinking about the bird’s-eye view of supporting artists that really really need to be seen. I hope, in some small way, this will have laid the foundation of creating the next generation of digital storytellers.”

If laying the foundation of creating the next generation of digital storytellers isn’t a laudable idea that we in the Tezos ecosystem can all get behind, I don’t know what is. Here’s many thanks to Misan and his shared mission with the Tezos Foundation for the betterment of the Tezos community art world. I can’t wait to see what he curates next!