Artistic Experiments in the Age of Hyper-Technological Reproduction What will NFTs change about art?

Damien Hirst,
Rafaël Rozendaal and others
What will NFTs change about art?

NFT movement is taking over the world

In March 2021, a single image on the internet was sold for 7.5 billion yen at an art auction hosted by Christie’s auction house in New York. It was the highest price ever paid in the history of digital art, and the third highest price in the history of contemporary art. Twenty-two million people witnessed the event online, and the NFT boom swept across the world. What is an NFT? Although all the possibilities are as yet unknown—even by those involved—NFTs have given a jolt to the many people who have believed in traditional art as a touchstone for the future.
  • TeamLab Matter is Void 2022 courtesy of the artist
  • Damien Hirst The Currency 2021 courtesy of the artist
  • Rafaël Rozendaal Center 2022 courtesy of the artist
  • Mariko Mori NFT/Eternal Mass 2022 courtesy of the artist

What is an NFT?

NFT is the acronym for "non-fungible token," which circulates digital data as a completely independent online asset with unique value. It is a verification system for digital "originals" that uses blockchain technology.Today, this immutable cryptographic technology has come to be used and recognized as something that grants ownership and turns any non-physical information online into an asset, but its origins go back to May 2014 when New York artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy created the work Quantum. That means NFTs were born not for speculation, but to create an indelible provenance for a code-driven abstract work of art representing birth, death and rebirth. Beyond the experimental intention of what these artists called "monetized graphics," their digital reproduction was artificially granted the privilege of "uniqueness"—until then the domain of the physical space—in one fell swoop transforming the public goods for the masses created in web 2.0 into a global capitalist market. This exhibition attempts to return to the original experimental roots of NFTs.

The impact of NFTs on art

Reflecting on past eras before the modern age of mechanical reproduction, Walter Benjamin, one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century, posited that the "aura" of an irreproducible work of art derives from its unique existence at the place where it happens to be, its singularity, and its cult value. According to him, film and photographs lack the "singularity" of art, and that art itself is becoming secularized. However, the advent of NFTs has given rise to a situation in which technological reproduction possesses "singularity," engendering a fundamental reassessment of the question of "aura" that Benjamin presented in his treatise on twentieth-century art.
  • Lu Yang DOKU Heaven 2022 courtesy of the artist
  • Lu Yang DOKU Hell 2022 courtesy of the artist

An unprecedented exhibition

This exhibition focuses on artistic experiments using NFTs (dawn of blockchain technology) in three chapters: "Sharing," "Aura of Simulacra," and "Supranational Power." Each theme corresponds to what can be seen as the prerequisites for the works: "ownership/contract," "creation," and "exhibition." The NFT art created in the roughly ten years since 2014 is seen as a continuation of twentieth century art history (especially as a logical consequence of conceptual art). The unprecedented bubble in NFT art at the beginning of the 2020s happened along with the rise of virtual currencies, and then collapsed in an instant. But are NFTs really nothing more than works of art transformed into speculative financial instruments? Or, could NFTs destroy the existing rules of society and art, bring about the liberation of expression, and paint new history? This online and offline exhibition and the accompanying publication raise questions about the new meanings and value systems brought forth by NFTs, examine and redefine the role played by contemporary artists in a new information environment, and explore the impact of virtual space on the reality of our lives and on the minds and culture that are shaped by it.
Curator: Yohsuke Takahashi
Supervising curator: Takayo Iida
(Director, Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts)
Shunsuke Takawo Generativemasks 2021 courtesy of the artist
Damien Hirst
Artist Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol, UK, and lives in Devon and London. With the support of the world-renowned collector Charles Saatchi, in 1988, while studying at Goldsmiths College, he took the British contemporary art world by storm and became a central figure in the YBA phenomenon that made its presence felt worldwide. In 1995 Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize. In 2017, timed to coincide with the Venice Biennale, he invested the equivalent of 7 billion yen of his own money to mount a solo exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault. Generating the equivalent of more than 33 billion yen in sales, the show became a hot topic. Recent solo exhibitions include Cherry Blossoms (Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in Paris, 2021 and The National Art Center, Tokyo, 2022); and Damien Hirst (Tate Modern (London), 2012).
Damien Hirst with works from
"The Currency." Courtesy of the artist.
Rafaël Rozendaal
Rozendaal, a leading artist in the world of internet art, was born 1980 in the Netherlands and lives in New York. He releases videos and instructions for playful programs—full of simple forms and movements as well as symbolic colors—over the web, and using these he has developed installations, paintings, and tapestry works for actual exhibition spaces. Recent major exhibitions have been mounted at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Dordrechts Museum (Dordrecht), the Kunsthal (Rotterdam), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), and the Armand Hammer Museum of Art (Los Angeles). Rozendaal has a strong relationship with Japan, beginning with his participation in the AIT Residency Program in 2009. He has held five solo exhibitions at Takuro Someya Contemporary Art, beginning in 2010. He has also shown his work at Kenpoku Art (Ibaraki Prefecture, 2016), and in 2018 he mounted his first museum solo exhibition, GENEROSITY at the Towada Art Center (Aomori Prefecture). In April 2023 he will present a solo exhibition at Museum Folkwang (Essen), a top German museum. His books include Home Alone (Three Star Books) and Everything, Always, Everywhere (Valiz).
Rafaël Rozendaal Photo: Mayumi Hosokura
Lu Yang
Yang is an artist who was born in Shanghai and works in Shanghai and Tokyo. She works across disciplines, fusing religion, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and modern technology to create images that are fantastical, but often painful and shocking. Her artistic practice spans a wide range of fields, including game engines, 3D animation, video game installations, holograms, and motion capture performances. She has had solo exhibitions at Kunstpalais Erlangen (Erlangen, Germany, 2022), Spiral Garden (Tokyo, 2018), and M Woods (Beijing, 2017-2018). Recent large thematic exhibitions include the Asia Society Triennial (New York, 2021) and the 59th Venice Biennale (2022). She was also selected for the BMW Art Journey (2019) and as Deutsche Bank's Artist of the Year 2022.
Robert Alice
Alice is a London-based artist, known worldwide for his works exploring unique artistic expression in web3 and artificial intelligence. He is internationally active, working in London, Hong Kong, and Vancouver. He co-curated the Natively Digital auction specializing in NFT art with international art auction house Sotheby’s. At that auction, Portraits of a Mind, a work on the topic of the blockchain that Alice took three years to produce, creating a stir when it sold for the equivalent of about 14 million yen.
Rhea Myers
Myers is an artist and hacker born in the UK in 1973. Until recently, she was senior smart contract developer at Dapper Labs, one of the leading global companies in the blockchain field. She is currently based in Vancouver, Canada. After graduating from Canterbury College of Art, she studied generative art and 3D printing at Middlesex University’s Centre for Electronic Art. After moving to Vancouver in 2013, she began creating works based on the theme of the culture, theory, and technology of the blockchain. She is known as one of the first artists to adopt blockchain technology as a tool for art, releasing This Contract is Art, which uses an Ethereum smart contract as a medium, in 2014. In 2021, her Secret Artwork (2018), an invisible work protected by cryptographic code, was sold at auction by Sotheby's for the equivalent of about 10 million yen, generating much buzz.
Rhea Myers, 2021 Portrait by Kristy Powers
Shunsuke Takawo (Generativemasks)
Takawo is a media artist who was born in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1981. He graduated from the University of Tsukuba’s College of Comparative Culture with a degree in contemporary culture in 2004, and he completed a graduate program at the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences in 2008. In 2021, Takawo launched Generativemasks, the first NFT collection of generative art in Japan, and it was recognized as one of the top NFT projects in Japan on its launch when it generated about 945 ETH (about 300 million yen) of trading value on the secondary market. He has mounted major solo exhibitions including Tiny Sketches (NEORT++, Tokyo, 2022). Recent major group exhibitions include Magical Realism: Part I (Verse, London, 2022); Digital Antiques Exhibition -Thinking About Value and Ownership in the Future (Be at Studio Harajuku, Tokyo, 2022); Crypto Art Week Asia Tokyo (Roppongi DMM Azabu Satellite, Tokyo, 2022); Kasō Yojōhan [virtual 4 1/2 mats] (Wa Matcha Kyoto Gion, Kyoto, 2022); and ART IN METAVERSE (Under Stand Avenue, Seoul, 2022). Major awards include a Special Jury Prize in the Pen Creator Awards 2022 (Juror Daito Manabe).
TeamLab has been active since 2001 as an international interdisciplinary art collective that explores the confluence of art, science, technology and the natural world through collective creation. The group includes specialists in a variety of fields, including artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects. TeamLab aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world, and new forms of perception. In order to understand the world, people separate it into independent entities with boundaries between them. The teamLab collective seeks to transcend these boundaries of perception, the boundaries between the self and the world, and the boundaries in the perception of the continuity of time. Everything exists in an immemorial, and fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity. TeamLab’s works are in collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles); Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney); Art Gallery of South Australia, (Adelaide); Asian Art Museum (San Francisco); Asia Society Museum (New York); Borusan Contemporary (Istanbul); National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne); and Amos Rex (Helsinki).
Sol LeWitt
LeWitt was an artist who was born in Connecticut (US) in 1928 and who died in 2007. After graduating from Syracuse University he studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Beginning in 1966, he created the Serial Project series, which systematically visualizes the basic structure of a cube. In 1967 he published his Paragraphs on Conceptual Art essay in Art Forum magazine, and in 1969 he published Sentences on Conceptual Art in Art & Language magazine. He declared that the concept is the most important aspect of a work, and that the planning, methods, and execution involved in production is a perfunctory affair. Beginning in around 1968, LeWitt created the Wall Drawings series, in which he entrusted the production of the work to other people based on his instructions for drawing lines of pre-determined lengths in a radial pattern, without him being personally involved. As a pioneer of conceptual art and minimalism, his works have been collected by museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Tate, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
Courtesy of Montenmedio Contemporary Foundation
Seth Siegelaub
Siegelaub was a curator who was born in New York in 1941 and died in Basel in 2013. Along with Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Barry, and Douglas Huebler, he actively promoted the conceptual art movement, especially from 1968 to 1970. Starting with the Xerox Book, an exhibition held completely on paper, Siegelaub organized ground-breaking projects, symposia, and exhibitions. Afterward, he moved to Paris, where he was involved in establishing the International Mass Media Research Centre (IMMRC). In 2011, he donated a large collection of materials, including early important works of conceptual art that he owned, to Museum of Modern Art (New York). In 2015, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam mounted Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art, an exhibition that looked back on Siegelaub's achievements.
Mariko Mori
Mori is an artist who was born in Tokyo in 1967. Major awards that she has received include the Menzione d'Onore at the Venice Biennale (1997); the 8th Annual Award as a Promising Artist and Scholar in the Field of Contemporary Japanese Art, given by the Japan Cultural Arts Foundation (2001); and Honorary Fellow, University of the Arts, London (2014). Major solo exhibitions include Pure Land (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2002) and Oneness (Groninger Museum, Holland; ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark; Pinchuk Art Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine). She has also shown her work at the Royal Academy of Arts (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Fondazione Prada (Milan), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Brooklyn Museum (New York). Oneness attracted 500,000 visitors, making it the most popular exhibition in the world that year. Her works are in collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum, Centre Pompidou, and the Fukutake Foundation.
Courtesy of Time Out
Masaki Fujihata
Fujihata is a media artist who was born in Tokyo in 1956. He is a professor at the Graduate School of Film and New Media at Tokyo University of the Arts and a visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Known for their extremely idiosyncratic philosophy and overflowing with humor, his works and projects have won international acclaim. His awards include the Ars Electronica Golden Nica Award (grand prize) for Global Interior Project #2 (1996); the Ministry of Education Art Encouragement Prize for Simultaneous Echoes (2009); the Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Voices of Aliveness (2013); and the Japanese Medal of Honor with purple ribbon (2016).
Courtesy of Biz/Zine Photo: Tomohiro Wakuda
Taihei Shii
An artist and entrepreneur, in 2014 Shii founded Startbahn, Inc. while a graduate student at the University of Tokyo to provide infrastructure to assure the reliability and authenticity of works of art. The company's core business, Startrail, received a grant from the Ethereum Foundation in recognition of the public nature of its function. Shii currently serves as a director of the Eastern Culture Foundation and director of the Open Art Consortium. He has also been a guest lecturer at the Tokyo University of the Arts and a member of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Study Group on Art and the Economy and Society. As an artist, in addition to showing works at solo and group exhibitions, he has organized exhibitions such as Fujisanten (2017-2020), Sizeless Twin (2022), and Moon Art Night Shimokitazawa (2022). His major publications include A New Form of Art: What Does NFT Art Change? (Heibonsha Shinsho).
Tetsutaro Kamatani
Born in Osaka in 1979, Kamatani entered Keio University in 2007 and he is currently based in Tokyo. Kamatani’s works are currently on display in locations around the world, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and New York, and they have attracted attention at international art festivals and solo exhibitions. Through his work overseas, Kamatani developed a deep friendship with art historian and former chairman of Christie’s Europe Archduke Géza of Austria, who supports his activities in New York. Major solo exhibitions include Proliferation (Pellas Gallery, Boston, 2021), Human Paradise-Portrait (Gallery Cellar, Tokyo, 2016), and Human Paradise TOKOYO (Art Stage Singapore, 2011).
Takayo Iida (supervising curator)
Born in Tokyo in 1956, Iida has served as the director of the International Research Center for the Arts at Kyoto University of Art and Design and an instructor for Keio University’s Global Security seminars. After serving as the chief curator at the Aomori Museum of Art and as a board member at Mori Art Museum, he became head of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts. Iida curated a series of exhibitions on contemporary art (Mark Dion, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Mariko Mori) at the Koishikawa Annex, The University Museum, The University of Tokyo. He has also been the guest curator for exhibitions at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain (Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tadanori Yokoo). He curated the War and Art I-IV: Terror and Simulacrum of Beauty series at Kyoto University of Art and Design. At the request of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, Iida curated a series of shows (Yayoi Kusama, Tadanori Yokoo, David Lynch, Daido Moriyama, Tatsuo Miyajima, Takuma Nakahira) at the "Six" art space. He served as the artistic director of the second Dojima River Biennale, ECOSOPHIA. Iida’s major publications include War and Art IV: Terror and Simulacrum of Beauty (Rittorsha, 2016), and Archives of Civilization and Savagery (Shinyosha, 2020). He co-authored Art & Society (by Heizo Takenaka and Fumio Nanjo, Tokyo Shoseki, 2016), Edge of River's Edge - Searching for Kyoko Okazaki (Shinyosha, 2018), and Handbook of Public History in Japan (Yutaka Suga and Katsutaka Hojo, eds., Bensei, 2019).
Yohsuke Takahashi (ART in the Age... curator)
Takahashi is a curator born in Tokyo in 1985. After serving as a curator at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2014-2021) and then as a curator at the Kadokawa Musashino Museum (2021-2022), Takahashi became an independent curator. His latest exhibition Liminalism, is at the Pellas Gallery (Boston, February-April 2023). The gallery is owned by F Alfredo Pellas IV, a member of the Pellas family, which is based in the US and Nicaragua and operates businesses including resorts, banks, and medical facilities in more than ten countries. His major exhibitions at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa include de-sport: The Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Sports through Art (2020); DeathLAB: Democratizing Death (2018-2019, in collaboration with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation); Undying Life (2017-2018); and BCL Ghost in the Cell (2015-2016, toured to Ars Electronica (Austria)). His projects at other museums include Future and the Arts (Mori Art Museum, 2019, co-curator) and Sotaiseiriron at the National Museum of Nature and Science (National Museum of Nature and Science, 2018, art supervisor). Frankenstein in 2018: Bio-art throws light on art, science, and society today, an exhibition mounted in Omotesando in 2018 was selected by a survey of 2 million people as the best exhibition in Tokyo. (TOKYO ARTBEAT)

Artistic Experiments in the Age of Hyper-Technological Reproduction
What will NFTs change about art?

March 24 to May 21, 2023 (11:00 – 20:00)
GYRE GALLERY, GYRE 3F, 5-10–1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Navi Dial 0570-05-6990 (11:00 – 18:00)
GYRE / Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts / decontext
Supervising curator
Takayo Iida, Director, Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts
Yohsuke Takahashi (decontext)
Special cooperation
Startbahn, Inc. / TART K.K.
SCAI THE BATHHOUSE / Takuro Someya Contemporary Art / Sports of Heart Association / SPIRAL / Wacoal Art Center
Technical cooperation
DMM.make / 3RD GEAR
Atrium design
COVA (Taketo Kobayashi, Hikaru Takata, Haruka Ohta)
Venue design / Equipment collaboration
Artifact Inc.
Nanami Norita(graphic potato)
PR direction
HiRAO INC | #608 1-11-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03.5771.8808 | Fax. 03.5410.8858
Contacts: Seiichiro Mifune,
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