Digital and NFT art spotlighted at Art Dubai

    20 Mar 2022

    Art Dubai, held on March 11-13, was the most extensive fair yet, bringing together over 100 galleries from 44 nations, including more than 30 first-time participants. The fair’s 15th edition included the Art Dubai Digital pavilion with several NFT projects and digital presentations.

    The global art scene had to adapt after two years of the pandemic and lockdowns, leading to new trends that were spotlighted at this year’s Art Dubai.

    The 15th edition of Art Dubai is an international showcase of contemporary and modern art, gathering galleries and artists from around the world, with a particular focus on Middle Eastern and Asian art.

    This year’s show featured the debut of the Art Dubai Digital pavilion, which gathered 18 galleries at Madinat Jumeirah, some of which were only founded in the last few years. The new section was created in response to a serious shift in the global art scene, which has seen increasing interest in digital mediums and the rise of 3D and NFT art.

    Dubai is rapidly becoming a new hub for crypto investors and influencers. In the past year, several new cryptocurrency centers have opened, including the state-run Dubai Multi Commodities Center, which said at the Future Blockchain Summit in October 2021 that it expects to have over 1,000 crypto businesses registered this year alone.

    That’s why Art Dubai organizers felt it was important to give proper consideration to this emergent artistic field.

    “We wanted to put together a 360-degrees project that will have two very clear areas,” Pablo del Val, Art Dubai’s creative director, told Al-Monitor. “We are inviting galleries from the physical world that are starting to do things in digital — or galleries that have a division that is devoted to working with NFT artists — and galleries that exist solely in the metaverse.”

    “At first we were wondering if it made sense to do something physical of something that is virtual, but I think it came alive in a very nice, logical way,” he explained. “It’s getting the physical world to understand — and try to learn, through the educational program that we have put together — and, at the same time, all these people coming from the metaverse are validated by an institution.”

    Although digital art is nothing new, dating back as far as the 1980s with pioneers like Harold Cohen, digital artists have historically often gone overlooked or are dismissed as hobbyists by the mainstream art community. Many have been sharing their artwork online for years, but the lack of regulation and structure behind their works was discouraging to potential buyers more used to dealing with physical art objects.

    With the advent of technologies like blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), artists can sell the accreditation that they own their works, backed by online ledgers, making it easier for them to sell their digital art. Consequently, NFTs have become a popular speculative asset for crypto investors, bringing new buyers into the art market and creating new opportunities for artists to find their audience.

    “Because the NFT scene is so new and the original collectors came from Crypto-Twitter, you have all these people who are not from the traditional art scene, but they get to decide what the culture is,” said digital artist Shavonne Wong, part of NFT Asia. “Everything is so different and it is very exciting because all these new people and new artists are going to show you something that you wouldn’t see in a museum.”

    “Digital art has been going on for decades,” Jenn Ellis, co-creator of digital art space AORA, explained. “As millennials, we are more digitally articulate than our parents. With that comes certain skills, and if you think about art as an empathetic, critical medium by which you communicate about topics, then why would digital means not be one of the other pens that you have in your pencil case? It’s just another tool.”

    The digital section not only introduced these NFT artists and galleries to the established institutions but also demystified the technology and terminology – such as cryptocurrency, minting, and blockchain – to potential collectors and artists interested in broadening their horizons.

    A series of talks by Bybit was also part of the program. Campus Art Dubai – a long-running non-profit arm of the fair that runs education programs for art students – this year partnered with NFT art marketplace Materia for an eight-week workshop for UAE-based artists. The resulting NFT artworks were exhibited at the fair.

    (Source: )

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