“Every fair is doing NFTs now,” quipped Fernanda Feitosa, the director of São Paulo’s SP-Arte. “It’s good to have, for educational purposes.”
At that fair, there were three booths focusing on NFTs, by the gallery Kogan Amaro Digital Art and the initiatives Aura.NFT and Tropix. All three booths featured Latin American artists from a range of backgrounds, from longtime net artists to newcomer crypto artists to artists with traditional art careers.
The works on view vary widely. Some, like photographs by Diris Malka and Joao Branco on view at Kogan Amaro, look like commercial stock images.
Of the three booths, Kogan Amaro is the only established gallery with a roster of physical artists, though Tropix does have a number of established artists on their roster. Beyond Kogan Amaro, none of the other exhibitors at SP-Arte seemed interested exploring NFTs, at least not in a fair setting.
Tropix had a fascinating lineup of artists who are, for the most part, represented by established Brazilian galleries. For example, NFTs by Guiherme Callegari, represented by Verve Gallery, were offered, his already graphic and dynamic style lending itself easily to his digital experimentations. Aura.NFT offered complex 3D-rendered works that are popular in the NFT space, like those of Oblinof or Frenetic Void. These were balanced with offerings by net artists from the ’90s.
What was perhaps most interesting about these booths was how the galleries decided to present their digital works. All three of them used screens that rotated works on an automatic carousel, making it so that the works got cycled through. While chatting in the booth with a dealer, you might find yourself discussing a certain work or artist, only for that piece to disappear in the next moment.
It’s only by looking at the PDFs of the works and artists included in the show that one can really understand what they’ve seen.
It’s not as if this kind of presentation is common. At NFT.NYC, for example, a large gallery of works displayed on sizable TV monitors slowly panned from work to work. While that might be expected from a conference that is heavily focused on tech, to see this kind of display in a solid art context was a bit disconcerting.
The focus was not so much on any particular artist. Rather, the goal seemed to be to have as many NFTs on offer as possible.
This kind of overwhelming selection is similar to what’s experienced online, where a person must sift through an endless stream of visual information. Paired with the at times glitchy, frantic animations on the screen, especially at Tropix, the NFTs seemed to strobe. (There was no warning, however, about the strobing imagery.)
To say the least, the effect was disconcerting and altogether not entirely successful, especially in a setting where it is already somewhat difficult to focus on individual works. But this was the one of the first times that these galleries had exhibited in a physical space, so perhaps their methods will change going forward.
That being said, there were some interesting innovations. At Aura.NFT, recycled screens found on the street were mounted to steel pipes. The whole structure was a fun, cyberpunk-like moment whose physicality meshed well with the works on display.
At Aura.NFT, there was also a focus on contextualizing contemporary artists within the larger history of digital art. The gallery’s director, who goes by Sandro, said, “We started Aura because it was clear no one was really curating crypto art.” This attention to detail was clear. Animations by Eduardo Pio, a little-known Argentine net artist who was active in the ’80s and ’90s, were proudly on display. “It’s funny, I guess, that he was working in digital art for so long and then he died before he could ever really sell it,” said Sandro.