How NFTs could change in-person art exhibitions
Author: Mandee McFerren
Daria Sannikova. CC0.
Once thought to be a passing fad, NFTs continue to take up space in daily discourse, adding evidence that people’s interest is not shrinking or going away any time soon. This especially applies within the art world, where NFTs have grossed multi-million dollar sales and continue to be adopted by long standing auction houses, galleries, and museums.
But what does this mean for our actual interaction with art, not as buyers or sellers necessarily, but as viewers? How will NFTs change the way we interact with art spaces?
Museums have already began toying with bringing NFTs into exhibition spaces, experimenting with multiple methods of display including the printing of NFTs like traditional work, the display of NFTs next to the physical objects they accompany, and the use of screens to display NFT video or gif work in their entirety.
As art spaces have long acted as a space of cultural education, and as our culture becomes more embedded with technology, it makes sense that art and technology would intersect. These technologies give us a new way to interact with art beyond just seeing a static physical work, creating dynamic playgrounds for art lovers – or in the mind of some traditionalists, tainting the purity of art spaces.
The inclusion of NFTs in the physical space could be as minor to the actual experience as being used at authentication for the physical art on view – or further as a truly interactive element. This would mean that the exhibition design field itself would have to diversify its skillset, with traditional curators needing to expand their own NFT knowledge, as well as the expansion of those included when thinking of creating exhibitions. Combining new skills with an expansion of technology means an increase in ways we can experience physical spaces, creating the possibility for more immersive experiences and the possibility of more ways to appreciate and interact with art.
Whatever your personal opinion, technology within the art world is prevalent and here to stay, with NFTs seeming to be the next foray into further saturating the art world with technology. Alongside their touted value of continuously producing income for artists throughout an art-piece's life cycle (as opposed to the traditional selling of a physical work), as well as their verified capacity to authenticate ownership, NFTs also offer the possibility of changing the scope of art spaces – not only by changing the content but by changing those who are interested in entering these spaces. While before one might have only entered a museum if they had a particular interest in a certain artist, people may now enter because of their interest in NFTs, thus exposing themselves to new artists and interests. The same could be true of an art lover unfamiliar with NFTs entering a NFT exhibition and leaving with more knowledge on the technology. Combined with the right physical space, exhibitions could be created that not only show art in a multitude of ways, but attract and educate a wider audience.
It must be noted that while NFT exposure may expand the audience of art spaces in certain sectors, both the art and tech industries are predominately white and male, and art spaces are traditionally places that welcome the privileged. More effort must be put into truly diversifying audiences in these spaces beyond just changing the medium of which art is shown. But there is clearly a widespread thirst for a different way of doing things within the art world that NFTs cater to, whether that be how to experience, buy, or sell art, and as the attraction to NFTs continues it will be interesting to see how this alters the art world and this generation of contemporary art.