Rethinking the Role of Art Galleries in the Web3 Space
Note: This blog post provides background information regarding CGHBlockchain’s Metaverse exhibition Equality, Inspiration, Support.
In my 37th year in the art world – which has included visiting countless gallery and museum exhibitions, art fairs, and private collections – one of the things I’m struck by with regard to the explosion of NFTs is how, coupled with Metaverse(s), they’ve changed both my definition of what art is, and the way I think about curating and exhibiting art. The vast majority of my colleagues (and many collectors) look at me oddly when confronted with our new “CGHBlockchain Crypto Corner” during visits to Caldwell Gallery Hudson, our brick and mortar space in Hudson, NY. It’s as if I’ve grown a virtual second head.
How can a 19th & 20th century oil and canvas and watercolor and bronze kind of art guy be interested in what the mainstream press seems to delight in referring to as “digital beanie babies” fueling an “NFTulip craze”? Questioning both the definition and deployment of art as represented in NFTs is valid and necessary as the wheat gets separated from the chaff. Dismissing the clear evidence that the art of tomorrow is being enabled by new tools for creators represented by blockchain and Metaverse technology is – in this writer’s opinion – similar to the dismissal the Impressionists, the Cubists, the Surrealists, and countless other art movements we now consider mainstream and museum worthy faced when they first appeared to disrupt the dogmatic, gate-kept, and slow to change art world.
Yes, there is a LOT of chaff, and beanie babies, and tulips, and rug pulls, and mediocre (and worse) art, artists, and projects crowding into the NFT gold rush space. The majority of both the art and the projects will not stand the test of time. Exactly like the art world of the past 500 years. But these facts bring us to the logical question we all should be asking: What artists and projects are worthy of consideration? In other words, which ones are wheat – packed with artistic innovation, project roadmap innovation, and philanthropic/social impact innovation? Which artists and projects are going to lead the way into the future and help change lives on the way to making our planet a better, more inclusive, and more equitable place? This exhibition showcases artists and projects I believe tick all the boxes above, and are worthy of my belief and support. They inspire me!
As I began to formulate this exhibition in my mind I realized many timeless art world exhibition principles would remain unchanged, such as endeavoring to clearly present what the art and artists being shown are trying to express. If done correctly, viewers will feel a sense of connection to the art, and decide how the viewing experience makes them think, feel, and relate to the world around them.
At the same time I was taking inventory of commonalities, entirely novel thought processes regarding exhibiting were being roused in my mind’s eye due to the unique nature of NFTs. As art, as technology, and as tangible expressions of entirely new types of financial, social, and aesthetic tools being deployed by creators and project leaders, NFTs present both opportunities and challenges. An intriguing underpinning of NFTs as a nascent way to express and create is how NFTs can be utilized by teams and projects as Web3 idea incubators and de facto crowdsourcing tools to achieve social, financial, and environmental upheaval and good – independent of traditional government and business constructs and constraints. Communities are being built. Humans are helping humans. Artists are finding success. Collectors are buying in new ways. And the collective feeling all of this is just getting started abounds. Heady times, indeed!
Equality, Inspiration, Support exhibition is the result of my above stated inspirations, and available for viewing (via computer, ipad, smartphone or virtual reality headsets) in the OnCyber Metaverse.
The process of curating the exhibition broke into 4 distinct parts for me. The first was about what I wouldn’t be doing. Unlike traditional art world exhibition modalities, I wouldn’t be creating a catalogue, writing wall labels, making a press release, printing postcards, crating/shipping works, physically hanging the show, tweaking the lighting, having an opening reception, and so on. Instead, I’d be hanging NFTs in a prefabricated Metaverse space which I connected to our firm’s crypto wallet. I then decided what NFT went where, sized them, and orchestrated positions. The wall labels are actually triggered by exhibition visitors as they interact with the space. Move in front of an NFT and a box appears which, if you press “E”, it brings up an information panel. If you wish to explore further, you can click a button which will take you to the NFT residing on the Opensea marketplace. In some exhibitions you can then buy that NFT immediately should you decide to do so. For this exhibition, none of the works exhibited are currently being offered for sale.
The second part was choosing/presenting NFTs which tied together the following themes: 1) Women led projects 2) Missions supporting women/LGBTQ artists 3) Roadmaps which focused on empowerment, education, support, and awareness of challenging issues which face us all in 2022.
The projects I support and am inspired by which I’ve included in the exhibition are, in no particular order, Women Rise, Women Tribe, Boss Beauties, Meta Women, Eyes of Fashion, Woman and Weapons, Girlies, MYBFF, Flower Girls, Alpha Girl Club, Remarkable Women, Wow Pixies, Meta Angels, Crypto Chicks, Rebel Society, and Last Supper History. Each of these projects also supports and promotes the art of women, which in my previous blog Girl Power Powers Up the NFT Space I discuss in relation our firm’s commitment to the art of historical and living women artists since 1973.
The third part was, in addition to the 10 artist’s work featured in the projects listed above, to showcase our collection of notable non-binary persons and women artists practicing in the NFT space. For the exhibition I chose, in no particular order, examples by Alejandra Glez, Cassils, Tatiana Brodach, Luisa Turuani, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Simone Garcia, Jose Angel Nazabal, Iyvone Khoo, Nikolina Kovalenko, Mieke Marple, and Sarah Meyohas.
At present I was unable to display the work of Nancy Baker Cahill, who’s NFT series “Contract Killers” we have in our collection, as the environmentally friendly Tezos blockchain they are minted on is not currently compatible with OnCyber. Soon, we hope! And in the meantime they have been displayed at the Hermitage in Russia and the Francisco Carolinum Linz in Austria.
Each of these artists we’ve collected is working to bring awareness to the challenges and need for change in fields such as social issues, environmental issues, and human rights. The collective inspiration they provide is one of the things which is most exciting to me regarding art in general, and NFT art as the new kid on the block in the art world.
The fourth part of the exhibition is something that has nothing to do with art NFTs, but everything to do with the novel ways NFTs are being deployed. I learned of a project called NextEarth.io which has created a blockchain based Metaverse which mirrors our actual earth. In doing so, the project is funding environmental initiatives to help save the planet.
After first hearing about the project last Fall, I kept my eye on the developments. I also looked at where and what was being bought in the initial land grab sales, and began to think about the types of virtual places which might interest and resonate with me. As our NFT collection grew, the goals of the projects/artists behind them inspired me to begin to mint NextEarth properties. I purchased (via selecting and minting an NFT) places representing something or someone I felt we should all know about, be aware of, and never forget. I have no idea what the future ahead will hold for virtual Metaverse land – but I do know I’m excited to find out how they can be deployed for the collective good.
Some of the properties in the exhibition include the National Women’s History Museum, Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, Women’s Rights National Historic Museum & Park, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Childhood Home, Museum of Women Pilots, Stonewall National Museum & World AIDS Museum, Sacagawea Memorial, Sojourner Truth Museum, Alice Paul Institute, Rachel Carson House National Historic Landmark, Harriet Tubman Childhood Home, Alice Paul Institute, Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Site, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, Rosie the Riveter Historic Park, Brandon Teena Hate Crime Site, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, August Wilson House, and Gwendolyn Brooks Memorial Park. Each of these NFTs resonated with me as representing the vision, cost and sacrifice paid by a few which have sparked myriad real changes which are now being enjoyed by many.
It was an intriguing, inspiring and challenging endeavor to curate and present this exhibition. Thinking fresh thoughts and finding new ways to accomplish what the art world has been doing for a very long time was liberating. Showcasing the efforts of creators who help us look at ourselves and the world around us in new ways was inspiring. And supporting projects who are helping lead the way in making Web3 a place of inclusion, opportunity, equity and support just…felt good.
I’m already busy envisioning my next exhibition, so stay tuned. And please let me know if you have any feedback, ideas or inspirations you’d like to share. Let’s collaborate!
Hope to see you soon in the Metaverse, or IRL!