Are NFTs dead? Not at Art Dubai

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) may have floundered worldwide after an initial boom—the volume of NFT sales dropped 83% in 2022, according to the NFT sector tracker NonFungible—but in Dubai the market is flourishing. Most of the 24 exhibitors participating in Art Dubai Digital this year, the only section of its kind at a major art fair, will present NFTs and other “cutting-edge trends in digital art”, from artificial intelligence to extended reality, via immersive installations and robotic art, say the section’s curators, Auronda Scalera and Alfredo Cramerotti.

“Art Dubai Digital is the only enduring fair-based platform for digital art,” says Anna Seaman, curator at Morrow Collective, which describes itself as a Dubai-based “blockchain fine art curatorship”. “It was founded in 2022 at the height of the so-called NFT boom but it has dedicated itself to supporting digital art, both on and off [the block]chain, and has become a global yardstick for the establishment of digital art as an important sector of the art space.”

The company is participating at Art Dubai Digital for the third time, showing works by artists who were engaging with the blockchain as far back as 2013. Featured artists include Jonathan Monaghan, whose work Mothership was the first piece minted on the beta version of Ascribe, a now defunct protocol that was built on the Bitcoin chain.

“We also have a metaverse museum that will take viewers through the history of the [past] decade and display new work by artists who were instrumental over that time,” Seaman says. “All works will be available to collect but price points are still under discussion due to the volatility of the crypto markets.” Most of the works will be sold as NFTs, she adds. “NFTs are a medium, a technology that allows digital art to be traded transparently and on chain. There is most certainly a market for digital art to be bought and sold in this way.”

Unsurprisingly, Seaman is keeping the faith with NFTs after they tumbled from grace after a boom in 2021 and “everyone was saying NFTs were dead”. “What really happened was that people started to differentiate the content of the NFTs,” she says. “An NFT is just a code that gives a digital file authenticity and logs it on the digital ledger of a blockchain. It is the content that holds value, not the technology.”

Other fair participants include TAEX, a London-based digital art platform that is showing a new series of interactive websites by the internet artist Angelo Plessas. “We are showing 12 interactive websites as NFTs: three original websites and nine variations,” says Stefanie De Regel, head of development at TAEX. “Each website is a unique window into the world of Angelo, filled with sacred symbolism and characters, which animate and play music with each click.”

De Regel explains that “blockchain is global, which means that the market for NFTs is anywhere [local law permitting]. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum [the ruler of Dubai], the UAE government and the people understood the potential of blockchain very quickly and very early on, and have been promoting the growth of web3, including NFTs in the Middle East”.

Curators Scalera and Cramerotti say that “there’s a notable collector base for digital art in the region, demonstrating a keen appreciation for this dynamic form … [there is] an established tech hub made of thousands of start-ups, tech programmes and services and also an ‘organic pipeline’ of talent and professionals in digital art who moved to the region in order to produce and sell and to establish their career”.

37xDubai, a first-time participant at the fair, is riding the tech wave in the city. The gallery, which opened last October, is part of Morningstar Ventures, an investment firm specialising in digital assets. “37xDubai was created to become Morningstar’s creative and digital art arm,” says Clémence Cazeau, director of 37xDubai, who adds that “Dubai is a place that embraces innovation, with a young and tech-savvy population”. 37xDubai is showing both digital and physical works by Ivona Tau and Marcel Schwittlick (prices available on request). “The digital artworks are directly linked to the blockchain and therefore considered NFTs,” Cazeau adds.

Art Dubai will be an opportunity to take the temperature of the volatile NFT market. “It has become a territory of quality not quantity experiments. Many platforms are taking advantage of the crypto winter [a downturn in the value of crypto currencies] to build a meaningful digital market and fully explore the possibilities, whether it’s with blockchain, AI or immersive technologies,” says TAEX’s De Regel.

This post was originally published on this site