Bitcoin has been part of the public consciousness for a few years now, but the intersection of blockchain technology and traditional art practices has been a little harder to grasp for people who only pay attention to the constant boom and bust. of certain cryptocurrencies. How exactly does art made with artificially intelligent systems exist in the same category as an oil painting? Should these two mediums intersect, or is the first art object something else altogether?
These are questions regularly asked by Elena Zavelev, founder and CEO of the New Art Academy, an organization dedicated to promoting and distributing technologically advanced art in the global market. From May 3-5, New Art Academy is hosting an art fair titled “CADAF: The Contemporary and Digital Art Fair” at Lightbox in New York City.
Observer spoke to Zavelev about blockchain, digital art, and fairs that still fail.
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Observer: How do you think art fairs are already merging with the digital world, and how is CADAF pushing this phenomenon further?
Zavelev: It seems that art fairs are starting to take interest in digital arts, but in a very limited way. Right now I’m actually at one of the biggest art fairs, called Tefaf, and today is the opening of the contemporary edition of the fair, but there is no digital art there at all. So what we’re trying to do with CADAF is provide an opportunity for digital artists to show their work and sell their work. We can attract a lot of international artists who sometimes don’t have the chance to come to New York, but who are able to exhibit and reach a very large audience. And then the other goal is to show the wide variety of digital art practices – from traditional media to virtual reality pieces to augmented reality pieces to artificial intelligence to blockchain pieces and so on.
Is there such a thing as blockchain art?
Well, that’s interesting. Blockchain has become something of a thing in the art world over the past couple of years. The best use of blockchain I’ve seen so far is simply to provide provenance for artwork. There are also marketplaces where people can buy the works using cryptocurrency. So now if we go to blockchain art, it depends. There are groups that help more traditional artists or even media artists reach new audiences or break into more digital spaces using blockchain. One of them is called SNARK.art, and they work with established artists, like, for example, Eve Sussman, who is a fairly established media artist whose work is in MoMA’s collections. They’re creating experiments on the blockchain using her work with her, so I think that’s pretty interesting.
What is your vision of how digital artists should be accepted into the art world?
I think today, in our time, you can’t even separate digital art from traditional art. Digital art has a right to be as much an important component of the art market as more traditional conceptual art. If you look at sales at major auction houses, for example at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, you see more and more digital art there. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold pieces of AI this year, and Phillips has just ordered a digital work to sell at its upcoming auction. So I think that’s definitely a sign that the market is becoming more ready for digital art. People in general are moving more towards the acceptance of technology and the acceptance of technology-based art.
Which artists working with digital media or technologies are you personally passionate about?
One of my favorites at our fair at this point is Mario Klingmann. He is an artist who works with artificial intelligence and creates these crazy pieces in transition with animals, birds and nature. He is one of the pioneers of using artificial intelligence as an artistic tool, and his work was also sold at Sotheby’s a few months ago. It’s very visually stunning, endless and super interesting.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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