Dubai Culture ventures into NFT art with latest exhibition

Via a collaboration with curatorial platform Morrow, the authority is hosting an exhibition starting January 15

Alia Al Gaoud's NFT work 'Flight' is part of the 50/50 exhibit. Photo: Dubai Culture

Dubai Culture is hosting its first NFT art exhibition featuring 50 works made by artists in the UAE.

The authority has collaborated with Morrow Collective, an NFT curatorial platform, to present the physical showcase of the artworks at Al Safa Art and Design Library starting January 15.

Titled 50/50 (to mark the UAE’s 50th anniversary), the exhibition includes the creations of artists Khalid Al Banna, Alia Al Gaoud, Dalal Ahmed, Marwan Shakarchi and Gigi Gorlova. The artists were chosen via an open call and the NFTs featured range from digital drawings and paintings to 3D works, animation, collages and photography.

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, burst onto the art scene in a big way in early 2021 when artist Beeple sold his first NFT artwork at Christie’s auction for $69.4 million. An NFT refers to a digital asset tied to the blockchain that functions as certification of ownership. NFTs can take on many forms, and art is only one of them, though all types of digital files can be "minted" as NFTs.

Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, chief executive of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, explained the authority’s decision to tie up with Morrow Collective as “embracing the use of innovative new solutions within the arts and culture space to support and retain local and UAE-based talent”, as well as drive accessibility to art for “everyone, everywhere”.

Anna Seaman, a curator at Morrow, explained how NFTs can enable global access to the 50 artworks included in the show. "NFTs are a digital medium that is not restricted by boundaries – whether physical or geographical – and, therefore, in their own way, are a celebration of everyone,” she said.

The works in 50/50 are on sale on OpenSea, an NFT marketplace, with prices varying from 0.2 ETH (Ethereum) to 6 ETH. The NFTs of Shakarchi and Gorlova have already sold.

A report by UK's The Guardian newspaper states that $22 billion was spent by collectors and traders on NFTs in 2021. But the buzz around NFTs hasn’t always been positive. Buyers and collectors have reported NFTs going missing from OpenSea, one of the big NFT platforms. In September last year, at least 42 NFTs worth at least $100,000 were wiped off the site due to a bug.

There’s also been criticism of the environmental impact of NFTs and blockchain technology in general. A study from University of Cambridge, for example, suggested that global Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity each year than the entire country of Argentina. A number of NFT initiatives try to offset their carbon footprints as a way to address this, and tech companies are attempting to find ways to reduce environmental impact when mining the digital files.

The physical iteration of 50/50 will run from January 15 to February 15 at Al Safa Art and Design Library, Dubai. More information on morrow-collective.com

Updated: January 4th 2022, 11:43 AM