Inside this cozy Newbury Street art gallery, one will find an exhibition that its producers and attendees alike consider a bridge between the city of Boston and the art world’s future.
“NEW HORIZONS,” the first Non-Fungible Token (NFT) art exhibition to grace the Boston area, features the digital artwork of 10 artists from around the globe. Many of these artist, like Alex Ness (NessGraphics) and Billy Chitkin (Gernge) have already made names for themselves in other pockets of the art world, working on concert sets for top musicians or winning Emmys for designing the opening credit scenes to TV shows such as Netflix’s “The Crown.”
Plastered on monitors mounted against the walls, the artwork hardly takes center stage at the exhibition, and fails to command attention the same way that a roomful of traditional paintings would. But for those with the patience and desire to engage with the art nonetheless — as opposed to munching on the selection of cured meats in the back or schmoozing with the mysterious art collectors traipsing about — there is plenty on offer.
The pieces provide an immersive look into the immense variety one will find in the NFT art world. Some of the featured artwork loops short videos. One in particular transitions from night to day over and over. Some of these works, too, are accompanied by sound clips accessible through headphones next to the monitors, providing a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the noisy gallery and outside world. For many of these GIF-like pieces, the accompanying sound is a highlight, elevating one’s experience with the art and, finally, giving the art an opportunity to demand full attention.
These works contrast smoothly with the stills on display, most of which have no accompanying sound. These static pieces range from lifeless dystopian cityscapes to dreamlike, colorful psychedelic depictions of dogs in nature.
In their stylistic diversity, each piece is genuinely creative and excellent. It is apparent these artists take their work and medium seriously, and are not jumping on the same NFT hype train as former First Lady Melania Trump and her watercolor eyes. The digital format, too, provides a unique layer of intrigue. Perhaps it’s the inaccessibility, but there is a feeling that no matter how hard one tries they will never quite be able to “process” or know the work in the same way as art created in more tangible mediums.
Further adding to this intrigue is the fact that, if it weren’t for the two television monitors at the gallery’s entrance with artist biographies and frequently asked questions about NFTs, one would have no idea that they did not simply stumble upon a particularly well-curated and forward-looking digital art exhibition. While one will certainly leave both with an understanding of the basics of NFTs and the knowledge that this is excellent digital art, they will be left in the dark concerning what the true implications of these works being NFTs are.
Regardless, the focus on the exhibition’s broader mission — to bring the existing world of NFT art, specifically, to Boston — grounds the entire experience in something bigger, asserting the viewer’s position in a greater purpose and cultural movement.
Whether or not NFTs will continue their ascent into the mainstream cultural consciousness and reshape how the public thinks about art, currency, and everything in between remains to be seen. But what this exhibition makes evident is that artists can and do create thought-provoking, beautiful, diverse works of art that they are then able to monetize through the NFT ecosystem, sustaining their particular lifestyle and its unrelenting commitment to autonomy and self-expression.