MORROW Collective: Inside the UAE’s first NFT-curated exhibition
Could this be the future of art dealership?
With NFTs being all the rage in the art world, these digital tokens have revolutionised the way art has traditionally been bought and sold. But where does this leave the traditional stakeholders that have fostered the curation and showcasing of noteworthy artists over time? While the process of creation continues to evolve with the sociotechnical advancements, the mediators that have worked hand-in-hand with the creators, too, need to upgrade their offerings, to match the needs of an ever-changing, and perhaps, differently-equipped audience.
MORROW collective, like the name suggests, serves as a response to the rapidly changing landscape of art and creativity. The one-of-a-kind exhibition seeks to bridge the gap between the two worlds: one of non-fungible tokens, which stand as markers of a digital file’s authenticity, verified by the artists themselves, and that of traditional art galleries, which have long been a medium of curating and showcasing established pieces of art. Comprising a diverse team of artists, gallery partners, crypto art and tech professionals, the inaugural exhibition, GENESIS will be running till June 20 at the Origin Art Museum in Cryptovoxel — a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. The exhibition marks the launch of the first official NFT partners for traditional art galleries in the region, making it a unique prospect for art collectors, curators and artists alike.
According to a report on NonFungible.com, NFT sales have skyrocketed to $2 billion in the first quarter of 2021, more than 20 times the previous quarter, with twice as many buyers as sellers. At a time when the business of cryptocurrency has been reaching new heights, this new-age exhibition acts as a meeting ground for the old and the new, providing galleries and their represented artists an opportunity to benefit from the booming popularity of crypto art.
MORROW collective is a joint venture, founded by artist Jennifer Stelco, curator and art writer Anna Seaman and communications director Claire Harris, who seek to provide a holistic approach to art and technology through their virtual platform. Having been in the business of art curation for over a decade, Anna admits that albeit a steep learning curve to bring the two realms together, with the vast influx of NFT artworks, it is the need of the hour to have a space and platform that vets through the creative pieces in ways that traditional galleries have historically done.
“Since it’s all so new, there is very little quality control. The market is flooded with art that hasn’t been through the eyes of a curator. And we wanted to change that. We’ve worked with existing galleries that were looking to explore the NFT horizon,” says Anna. “Galleries work very hard to select the best artists from across the globe and work with their art, further developing their talent. So, we tapped into their existing sphere and said, ‘Hey, you already know a lot about art but we can help you with the technical aspects of branching it out to the online space’.”
When asked if this may act as a deterrent to the disruption that NFTs seek to cause by decentralising the mediating authorities of the art world — in hopes of giving some of the power back to the individual creators — the curator responded, “You can’t take away from the role that art galleries have played in shaping the narrative of art through decades, bringing forward exclusively curated collections for a discerning audience. The galleries are already working with established artists, so we thought it might be a good starting point for launching our NFT art curation space.”
Moving forward, she says, they’ll be looking to work with artists that are just starting out and choose NFTs as their preferred marketplace. “We have an incubator programme coming up for budding artists who want to grow in the crypto art space and like the physical galleries, we’ll help them develop their digital artworks,” adds Anna.
Their inaugural exhibition GENESIS, presenting a number UAE-based galleries as well as international showcases, is set to auction the first NFTs minted by participating artists, bringing together artistic perspectives from across the globe, with a steadfast focus on shaping the narrative and future of art. The physical counterparts for some of the artworks sold will also be available at the exhibition, for people who wish to own the rights over both digital and physical versions.