Adaptation is gradual.
You can’t thrust change upon people, no matter how practical or necessary, without meeting resistance. The world might be growing more digitized, but we’ll never stop being human. As beautiful and transformative as Web3 promises to be, and likely will be, our present reality isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, nor is our inherent connection to it. It’s important for those of us working at the intersection of more “traditional” art and NFTs, those of us eager to usher in the future, to acknowledge that. Humans change, but slowly, and with persuasion.
For NFT art to become the widely appreciated space that it can be, we have to build an enticing conduit for human interest to flow. And with it, the ability to adapt. We have to build a bridge between art and technology that both elevates unique digital creations and keeps us grounded in the reality we can’t ignore. Showcases, exhibits, events and other IRL venues can provide that hybrid experience through which viewers can adapt their tastes to this burgeoning art form.
Magnitude, Scale, Medium, Impact
If you’ve paid any attention to the film industry, you’d know that many committed filmmakers are highly sensitive to the milieu in which their stories are experienced. To some, this might seem petty, but it’s understandable considering the countless hours, and even years, that artists dedicate to their work. And that work deserves the dignity of proper presentation. Scorsese and Tarantino don’t want their films viewed on a laptop or iPhone because it minimizes the emotional impact of the cinematography, as well as the story and characters it supports. The depth and texture of the human face, the scale of sweeping landscapes and intricate set pieces, are infinitely more captivating when prominently projected in a dark theater. On a lesser stage, those details pale in comparison, as images are far less potent and provocative to the emotions.
Likewise, NFT art cannot be fully appreciated when condensed to a phone screen or a nanoscopic profile picture. And while certain companies like Lago have developed innovative LCD displays to maintain pixel density and graphical fidelity, most average collectors are unlikely to spend $9,000 on an NFT frame. That’s why IRL galleries play an important role in elevating the emotional experience. Think of them as the movie theaters of NFT art. They project the art at scale, effectively insulate viewers from exterior stimuli by narrowing focus, and consequently immerse them in a digital world.
Our own It Remains NFT art exhibition, for which I served as curator, strived to achieve such an immersive experience at Dubai’s Infinity des Lumieres last May. To animate and do justice to Vasil Tuchcov’s and Ed Mattinian’s graphic novel, upon which it is based, we meticulously dressed the walls and ceilings with massive LCD panels displaying Mattinian’s art. We even shrouded the space in darkness, aside from the panel light of course, and installed a reflective floor to enclose viewers within the dystopian world. The result was not only the magnification of the art, but an innovative form of thought-provoking storytelling.
Community, Sharing, Connection, Collaboration
Art is like life. It’s better when shared. Listening to music alone has its merit, but it certainly can’t replace the elation of singing along to a chorus of fans at a concert. As an art director in the film industry, I still prefer the collective laughs, gasps, and tears in a movie theater to my lonesome living room.
In one respect, digital art galleries and showcases provide the same communal value as traditional art. If you’ve ever found yourself at the Met or the Louvre, you’ve probably peeked over at someone gawking at a Rembrandt and thought, “I wonder what they see. I wonder what they feel.” Or maybe you even listened in on their conversation with their companions as they explain why they connect with this piece especially. Community makes these experiences better because art often holds a mirror to society, as well as individuals, and how we’re connected to the same reality; how we are alike, and how we are different, all while we’re together in the same physical space.
But for NFT art, community and shared experiences go beyond consolidated viewing rooms, concert halls, or Discord channels. One of my favorite examples occurred at the Coachella music festival this year. NFT artists installed a collaborative mural and encouraged event goers to add their own art to it with a paintbrush. The result was a beautifully chaotic piece that was later converted to a POAP and sent to the attendees. The mural was just one of several initiatives NFT projects took to bring people together IRL and familiarize them with the new art form. The Clay Friends collection brought stockpiles of clay and invited attendees to create and mint their own NFTs, while the artist behind Dented Feels created, minted, and raffled off a custom NFT live at the event, with about 70 attendees buying tickets for $7,500 each.
Giving NFT Artists the Recognition They Deserve
You can’t wonder about a creation without wondering about its creator. You can’t watch Solaris without thinking of Tarkovsky, you can’t listen to Imagine without thinking of Lennon. NFT artists are creators just the same. They are deserving of acknowledgement yet, without a platform for them and their work, are drowned out by the cacophony of industry criticism.
Similar to film festivals like Sundance and SXSW, where audiences interview directors and actors after their films premiere, unlocking greater depth in the work, events like VeeCon and NFT|LA promote the genius behind the genius. They expose us to new visionaries, inspiring mentalities, and grant a glimpse into the process and mechanics beneath the surface, not only inducing further appreciation but also helping us understand an esoteric genre of creative expression.
This doesn’t strip the art of its magic or spoil the escapism. Rather, it opens our perspective. You can’t truly understand a piece of art without exploring its origins, because therein lies its purpose and intention. After all, artists and creators are perhaps the chief beneficiaries of the NFT movement, as tokenized artwork has a certification of provenance, a claim of authenticity and ownership. With more creative and individual empowerment, artists can avoid the politics, intermediaries, and technicalities that toxify their work.
Blockchain, NFTs, and Web3 are the future. But there’s a broad chasm between the future and now. We’ll get there. It’ll just take time, attention, and persuasion, which is why IRL events are vital to closing that gap. Their essence of magnitude, community, and creator recognition will slowly but surely expose the value of NFT art and facilitate change. So, be patient and build more bridges.