the rise of digital art galleries in physical spaces

The frenzy around NFT art is now entering the physical realm, from CryptoPunks displayed on billboards around Miami to a major NFT exhibit, Virtual niche — Have you ever seen memes in the mirror?, which just closed at the UCCA Contemporary Art Center in Beijing. To compound this trend, brick-and-mortar malls specializing in non-fungible tokens are also emerging.

In March, the Superchief Gallery opened a New York space billed as the world’s first physical NFT gallery and is currently showcasing 300 artist works on high-resolution screens, as well as NFT uploads (through May 25). .

Also in March, ABV Atlanta Gallery collaborated with NFT Marketplace Nifty Gateway and Outfront Media Company to present Chain Reaction, showing the work of crypto artists on 20 digital screens within the gallery and on various public exhibitions at Atlanta and Boston.

In Denver, folk art cooperative IRL Art worked with curator Robert Gray, who founded the Black Love Mural Festival, to set up The Black Love Art & Crypto Gallery (The BLAC Gallery) at Art Place at RiNo Arts. District in February and March. , with more than 30 black artists. The show is also featured on Cryptovoxels, with works on Unique.One.

And in Germany, writer, artist and dealer Kenny Schachter, a staunch supporter of NFT, is hosting a show, Breadcrumbs, at Galerie Nagel Draxler in Cologne (May 12 to June 19), presenting a group of early and current non-fungible adopters, with the aim of exploring what NFTs really mean for digital and physical art.

Ellen Sheidlin’s Moment in Life Courtesy of Galerie Superchief

Yet, according to Saskia Draxler, co-owner of Galerie Nagel Draxel, “it should already be clear that when you look at the history of art, after Warhol, Polke, Richter, the next to come is not Beeple. And NFTs won’t replace physical art any more than NFTs in a Nike sneaker will replace real sneakers.

It may seem like a very 2021 phenomenon, but industry experts such as Martha Buskirk, author of Creative company: contemporary art between museum and market, argue that the notion of real-life digital art exhibits is not new: “There is a long history of exhibiting digital art in galleries or museums, even when its primary existence is online. . The willingness to show NFTs in physical sites is therefore not surprising, even if it seems deeply contradictory.

Justin Aversano, an NFT supporter and photographer, agrees: “Nothing has changed in the art forms that are on display; like on screens or projections. The only change that’s happening is in the financial infrastructure on blockchain payment processing to buy NFTs, ”he says.

In fact, Annie Phillips, the artistic director of IRL Art, and her team have been creating physical gallery spaces in the blockchain community since 2019 in partnership with ETHDenver, even selling Beeple’s first two NFTs in a physical exhibition in February 2020.

However, Edward Zipco, director of the Superchief Gallery, believes that “one aspect of the [NFT] market that was sorely lacking was the physical presentation. He thinks it’s crucial to show the artwork at “full resolution, as the artist intended, and to provide an experience beyond the artwork alive on a cell phone.” While showing potential collectors what it’s like to actually live with digital art. .

The gallery, which accepts cryptocurrency payments, reportedly sold $ 150,000 of art in its first week. Sales numbers aside, perhaps the most interesting efforts to hybridize NFTs are those focused on promoting inclusion in what can be a very white sphere.

DFTs remain problematic, however, plagued by problems such as fraud and their negative ecological impact. And the Superchief Gallery has also been accused of exploiting workers in the past, which has been brought up in recent conversations on the audio-only social media platform Clubhouse. An article in Jezebel in 2019, who interviewed a dozen former and current Superchief employees, claimed that “the gallery’s wild reputation was only made possible by work practices they claim to be illegal, unethical and dangerous “.

In response to the article, Zipco says The arts journal: “When the Superchief Gallery opened in 2012, it was an artist-run DIY gallery that worked with our community on art exhibitions, mostly out of love… It was a strange thing to grow up in audience, in a community gallery with friends who worked together at a national arts organization where it was no longer acceptable to let artist friends volunteer on projects, but we took this moment very seriously in 2019 and brought fundamental changes to systematically correct this and this growth has continued to upgrade us.

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