In 1910, the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo hosted America’s first photographic show. Curated by Alfred Stieglitz, the father of photography, it presented images from 65 photographers with the express purpose of demonstrating that the camera was not only a scientific instrument, but also a tool for artistic expression.
For more than a century, the gallery’s direct descendant, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, has hosted NFTs, today’s most controversial creative medium. What’s more, the museum is doing this behind closed doors as it undergoes a $200 million redevelopment and expansion.
In “Peer to Peer,” an online show that the Western New York Institute called the first survey of blockchain art by a US museum, AKG engaged 13 contemporary artists in conversation with works from their collection. The works will be on sale between November 29 and December 2, following an official launch party during Miami Art Week.
“The COVID pandemic and resulting quarantine has reignited how museums can use the internet to showcase artwork,” exhibition curator Tina Rivers Ryan told Artnet News. “This is an experiment for us as we continue to figure out how to better reach digital audiences where they are.”
The results are thought provoking, varied and often funny. Simon Denny continues to challenge the perceived division between the physical and digital worlds with a Monopoly-inspired map that tracks real estate speculation taking place on Decentraland, a metaverse. It is a land grab that reflects the apparent destinies he captured in Albert Bierstadt’s paintings.
Avatar artist LaTurbo Avedon plays to the largely immersive qualities of Rothko paintings, and so often receives commissions for specific physical locations. here they build club rothkoA cool video that haunts a tight space before settling down on a giant rectangle of orange and yellow.
Mitchell F. Chan turns up as Winslow Homer the croquet players (1865) in a computer game with strong social criticism. On a pristine lawn bordering a chain gang, the players pick up a hammer and challenge some chauvinists; “Oh! Susanna” soundtracks from the game.
Ryan said it “resulted in months of discussions with the artists about the people who inspired them and the ideas they found.”
The exhibition was created with Feral File, a digital art platform launched by artist Casey Reiss and blockchain startup Bitmark, which specializes in collaborating with curators from renowned museums. Last year it collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art on a generative art project by Turkish artist Refik Anadol, and has been collaborating with Jason Bailey and Regina Harsani on NFT projects ever since.
Following the lead of the British Museum, the Uffizi Gallery and the State Hermitage Museum, the works in the exhibition are minted on Ethereum, making AKG the latest museum to attempt to monetize through NFTs. However, some have approached NFTs with equal playfulness and deliberation.
“We plan to include digital art as part of our regular acquisitions, exhibitions and public programming,” said Ryan. “It will be fully integrated into the work we do to share the future of contemporary art.”
The museum will reopen in May 2023.
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