Organizers took into account the fact that the NFT art trade represents an uncomfortably high number of white male practitioners producing works that are usually purchased by white male buyers. Perhaps in response, curators Damiani and Velicescu kept their choices on the diverse side. Twelve new media artists are featured, including Nicole Ruggiero, whose digital sculpture Elegant is a talismanic morphing head. Claudia Hart’s The Green Window is a meditative view of a red patterned tablecloth with matching wallpaper, and an abstract Japanese floral painting.
The first major post-pandemic art show to hit Los Angeles after Frieze LA went virtual, the LA Art Show presents an exhibition anchored by NFT-backed digital art, breaking with previous iterations of traditional programming after twenty-five years, and demonstrating the impact of the pandemic for better and for worse.
Under the direction of actor Kassandra Voyagis, tech is the theme of the new show, which opened last night at the L.A. Convention Center with guest host pop star Rita Ora and will continue through August 1. For the first time at a major art fair, NFTs, a phenomenon spurred on during the pandemic, take center stage, which means art lovers who’ve spent the past year and a half looking at art on their screens, can now look at it on a screen in public!
That’s not strictly true, but Vellum LA, the city’s first physical gallery for NFTs opening in September, is front and center with an exhibit entitled, Sea Change, curated by Nxt Museum’s Jesse Damiani and Vellum LA’s Sinziana Velicescu.
Blake Kathryn, Auriea Harvey, Luna Ikuta, Itzel Yard (Ix Shells), Sam Clover (PLANTTDADDII), Sabrina Ratté, Anne Vieux, Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst all have works on display. But the standouts include Marjan Moghaddam, whose #GlitchGoddess of Art Basel Miami in Red Number Two features her ever-morphing, ever-strutting Chronometric Sculpture revived from her viral 2018 work. In it, she explodes the notion of the ideal female form.
Krista Kim’s Supercube 400XR, gets right to a core esthetic of NFT art—a ruminative lava-lamp effect that lulls viewers into a spell. Kim is the founder of a movement she calls Techism, promoting digital humanism through art and technology.
Continuing the tech theme is a section called DIVERSEartLA, curated by Marisa Caichiolo, focusing on sight and sound installations by women artists from Spain and Latin America. _DATA | ergo sum RELOADED is artist Ana Marcos’ installation on viewing machines using AI to extract data by observing visitors.
LA-based artists Carmen Argote and Zeynep Abes’ Immersive Distancing features art produced by Argote as she took long walks during the pandemic. Abes similarly cogitates on her hometown of Istanbul.
Filling out the rest of the convention hall are not galleries representing the usual four corners of the globe but, due to COVID restrictions, a handful of countries are represented, with L.A. galleries like Track-16 and Coagula Curatorial filling out the rest. Pan American Art Group Inc. from Miami has works by Jim Morphesis, Robert Rauschenbeg, and Lita Albuquerque for sale. The Pinto Gallery is selling pieces from Takashi Murakami’s Superflat and Bubblewrap series. And at his first fair ever, 14-year-old wunderkind Tex Hammond exhibits his Basquiat-derived goods at Acosta Arts.
With the NFT invasion disrupting market norms and esthetics, it is hard to say whether the 2021 iteration of the L.A. Art Show is a “sea change” or harbinger of a tech takeover, or just a clever effort by organizers to work around COVID’s impact on gallerists’ and buyers’ desire to travel and ship art. For some, the show will be a breath of fresh air, finally giving a broad platform to a powerful new trend. For others, it will be the logical result of a market driven by dollars and not esthetics.