L.A. Art Show kicked off at the Convention Center Thursday night, and there’s something different on display this year. Alongside the many traditional galleries showing everything from photography to sculpture is Vellum L.A., which will be the city’s first brick-and-mortar gallery dealing in NFT (non-fungible token) art when it opens on Melrose Avenue this fall.
It’s the first NFT art display in the fair’s history; in fact, it’s the first live NFT showcase at any fair. In partnership with with the NFT marketplace SuperRare and L.A.-based media and design firm StandardVision, Vellum is showing a series of digital works by woman and non-binary artists on digital “canvases” developed specifically to display NFT art. Want to pick up a piece you see at the show? You better be packing ETH cryptocurrency.
In case it’s all still a little confusing and you don’t yet know your Bitcoin from your blockchain, Vellum L.A. curator Sinziana Velicescu walked us through the next big thing in the art world.
Talk to me like I’m stupid: What is NFT art and how does it differ from other types of art? And how is it the same?
NFTs are digital tokens that can be used to represent ownership of unique items, certified by the blockchain. An NFT is, in essence, a collectible digital asset, which holds value as a form of cryptocurrency and as a form of art or culture.
In the context of art, NFTs provide a unique proof of ownership of the artwork by the artist as the original owner of the work. One of the benefits of selling NFTs, as opposed to more “traditional” art market transactions, is the automated resale royalties trickling back to the artist. Any art can essentially be made into an NFT as long as it’s authenticated by the blockchain.
So far there’s been a lot of talk about NFT artworks being bought and sold (often for huge sums), but there’s been less coverage of exhibitions for people who aren’t necessarily investors but just like looking at art. How can galleries get the average art appreciator interested?
The important thing to understand here is that the culture around NFTs revolves primarily around the idea that the woks can live solely online in the metaverse. Many believe that there is no need for a physical IRL representation within the NFT space. We think these realities can coexist as the lines between digital and real become more blurred every day.
In terms of getting the art appreciator interested, there is an educational opportunity here in helping art collectors and galleries understand how NFTs work and how they can be of benefit to both artists and collectors—that’s essentially what we’re doing with Vellum L.A.’s presence at the L.A. Art Show.
“Imagine having art in your home that can change over the course of hours, days, months, or even years.”
How is NFT art exhibited? Did you have to do a certain amount of innovating?
There is currently no standard on how NFT art should be exhibited within the physical world. We’re focusing on digital art and we’ve partnered with StandardVision who has designed a museum grade LED Canvas called Luma Canvas that is significantly more vibrant than your average TV screen and that can support various aspect ratios outside of the traditional HD format. There is also a software component that can display programmable art. This is something we’re really interested in as it really makes a case for having work viewable within a physical space. Imagine having art in your home that can change over the course of hours, days, months, or even years.
OK, say I’m a person interested in investing in NFT art—what do I look for? How do I determine value?
I would look for artists whose work has something to say, whose work is innovative within the space, and whose work serves as a reflection of the current state of our existence. We believe that now that the initial hype has somewhat subsided and the prices have more or less leveled out, the artists that continue to produce compelling work within the space will continue to shine.
How did your career lead you to NFT curation?
My background is in curating site-specific art on large-scale media facade installations within public/private spaces; for the last ten years, I’ve been championing digital artists across various movements, from generative and code-based art to interactive, AI, crypto art, and more. I have always recognized these artists as doing important and interesting work, and I’m excited that many of them are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
How has it been setting up L.A.’s first NFT gallery? What are the challenges? What are the benefits?
It’s been an interesting journey. The biggest challenge has been around the limitations existing within online marketplaces to mint works that fall outside the spectrum of a traditional video file or photo jpg as well as the limitations on size of artwork imposed by the online NFT space.
Showing artwork on digital displays requires a lot of insight into what compressions and resolutions work best for which size screens, as well as considerations in animation speed, viewing distance, etc. It’s been a learning experience for some of the artists as well who have been used to seeing their work on computer screens. Once the work is displayed on a large high-resolution canvas, every detail of the work is scrutinized. We think there’s importance in the creation of work that will stand the test of time within the context of rapidly evolving technology.
We want Vellum L.A. to lend itself to a truly unique immersive viewing experience, with the possibility of inviting collaborations, exhibitions, and drops across multiple mediums (music, film, dance, art, and more)—finding creative ways to bring all of these worlds together under one roof while pushing the boundaries of art as we know it.
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