A review by Valentina Buzzi and Elisabetta Roncati
That even the atemporal city par excellence would have had its own NFT momentum we were quite sure, but what the Decentral Art Pavilion has brought to Venice carries within itself the perspective that this whole new decentralised evolution of the art world may stand tall in its place.
The name is not misleading: located in the beautiful venue of Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, the exhibition “Singularity”, curated by Florencia S.M. Bruck, Javier Krasuk, Diego Lijtmaer and Simone Furian presents an ensemble of over 200 NFT works of art, created by 80+ leading international artists and aims to “decode NFTs and the future of art”. It also features a special selection curated by Robert Alice which looks at the origins of the NFT movement, tracing the early history and presenting early artworks that contributed to rise of this system-shacking practice.
Now, before our visit, we were allowing ourselves to be skeptical: the whole NFT discourse is one that we like to approach carefully as it carries within itself a series of dichotomies, different visions, speculations, doubts, promises of democratic futures and utopias of new worlds, that are often not easy to process for who doesn’t navigate web3 on a daily basis. Thus, as all things new, rather than riding the waves, as writers we like to look at them from a distance.
We were wondering, in first instance, if the promise of decentralisation could bring new values to Venice. Of course, it would have needed a deeply thought, careful, and accessible curatorial line. At the Decentral Art Pavilion all boxes were checked, and it was interesting to approach it in continuity with the hybrid and fluid lens of reading presented by the curatorial cut of the Venice Biennale, which by itself was asking about imagining possible futures.
“Singularity” – in the words of the curators – “is a deep-dive into decentralized art, aiming to educate, engage, and enthrall the aficionado, the collector, and the public at large”. In the spaces of a beautiful Venetian Palazzo, the exhibition is not only an occasion to showcase the latest phenomenological declination of the art world, but rather to become a conversation opener able to shed light to such obscure momentum and help the profanes to connect with this new practice.
Fundamentally, the exhibition responds to a strong willingness to break out of the ‘tech community niche’, bringing NFTs onto one of the main stages of the art world to suggest, promote – but also sell – the promise of a crypto and decentralised future. Behind what some might call speculative rhetoric, there is a thoughtful structure that has convinced us.
What is intrinsic to the promise of NFTs, and that we breathe as well in the carefully curated exhibition in Venice, is the sense of community and belonging. Born in a decentralized way, grown within the walls of web3, the NFTs art community carries within itself a subversive mechanism if compared to the dynamics of the physical art world. The paradigm-shift that it could allow, envisions not only artists sharing a strong sense of community (usual for frequent internet users who actively contribute to an internet space), but even a more democratised approach to everything that is collecting.
All these factors are present at the Decentral Art Pavilion: the curator guides us through the exhibition explaining that it has been curated by the artists themselves (thus no hierarchies of power), and that new works by artists that are interested in participating are constantly added to the constant stream flowing through the screens set up in the beautiful baroque rooms. Moreover, anyone can buy artworks on the spot by scanning the QR-code directly linked to the artists’ wallets: all the complex mechanisms of buying art are simplified by a transaction on blockchain. Perhaps in the future we could go to exhibitions and buy art this way, regardless of the connections and ties we have with the system. Is this the new meaning of market accessibility intrinsic to the idea of decentralisation? We don’t know, but it is nonetheless an interesting speculative thought.
Finally, the willingness to foster the connection with the public, whether they might be skeptics, profanes, and everyone curious to enter this “new world”, is taken further by a program of 8 weekends of thematic NFT activities, which will touch topics such as Generative Art, Photography and NFTs, Women and NFTs as well as series of live discussions and entitled Alternative Spaces. All of them, of course, also accessible via metaverse: as we now know, NFTs and metaverse go hand in hand, it the whole promise of a paradigm shift which operates through new spaces, languages, instruments, technologies.
The premises are all there: the venue, the curatorial line, the talks, the willingness to open up and create conversations and – of course – more than 200 artworks to explore, among them being names such as Beeple or Cryptopunks which are well known by us inhabiting the more mainstream world. Whereas or not the promise of decentralization will have its foundation in Venice it will be assessed in later times, in the meantime we highly suggest visiting the pavilion and have a look to what the future of art might be like.