Ruba Salameh's artworks, Ants Work and Stripcle BRO, come alive as NFTs in Sharjah's new exhibition at House of Wisdom, as small ant figures “crawling” on canvases. The effect is akin to an artwork gaining breath, creating a multilayered experience of the original static artwork.
Sharjah's first NFT exhibition, titled Gateway to the Metaverse, is organised by Global Art Education (Gae) and the Morrow collective. Featuring works by local and international artists, the show connects art with the metaverse — or the digital world — by bringing together traditional fine art with digital and crypto art.
Some works of fine art are displayed alongside their NFT versions, while other NFTs stand alone. All are given QR codes on their labels to direct viewers, and specifically collectors, to make a possible purchase.
Both Gae and the Morrow collective’s aims intersect within the show. The latter is a local NFT curatorial collective, with previous exhibits showcased at Alserkal Avenue’s Firetti Contemporary gallery. Meanwhile, Gae is an international multidisciplinary project that brings diverse and inclusive artistic talent and perspectives together.
With Gateway to the Metaverse, the two champion contemporary art and artists amid the rise of NFTs and blockchain technology within the art world. This is also reflected in the international nature of the show’s artist line-up, with participants hailing from the UAE, Malaysia, Palestine and Uzbekistan.
Standout works include prominent Palestinian artist Hazem Harb’s Survey for a Colonial Map #1, #2 and #3. In the NFT, the circular “map” fragments into jagged, angular pieces and breaks apart. Where the original artwork is in stasis, the NFT adds another layer of critical texture to the idea behind the artwork, evoking the disruption, violence, displacement and pain of drawing and enforcing colonial borders. Cartography becomes art that morphs into deeper political commentary.
The digital field serves both as the medium and inspiration in some cases. Several NFT works, displayed on rectangular portrait screens — rather like oversized iPhones — are reminiscent of watching TikTok videos, not only through form, but also in content. American-Indonesian artist, foodmasku, whose real name is Antonius Wiriadjaja, shows works such as Candy Cane Mask and Cheese Board Mask, where the artist records himself making meals into face masks and then proceeds to eat them afterwards.
His work looks like — and effectively is — shareable video content, but foodmasku succeeds in expressing a collective sense of relatability in terms of pandemic anxiety, food instability and our more desperate need to connect with each other face-to-face online. Foodmasku got the idea for this series while playing around with filters on a Zoom call.
Gateway to the Metaverse succeeds in bridging the online world with life on the ground. The mere existence of NFTs shows how art imitates life, and so much of ours are now lived online.
Gateway to the Metaverse is on until April 15, Al Khawarizimi Exhibition area, House of Wisdom, Sharjah; houseofwisdom.ae