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Metaverse: A New Virtual Reality Art World on the Move


The recent development, in a digital world where virtual and physical reality collide, is pushing the boundaries of art, gaming, and even commerce. As we see new platforms emerge, the doors are opening to countless new experiences using augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies.

It’s no surprise, then, that digital art creators and art businesses have joined in and are exploring new ways to exhibit their work. What is even more exciting is that art collectors are adhering to the trend and finding how to experience artistic expression in a truly immersive manner. Digital 3D worlds offer so many advantages and opportunities that the Metaverse is redefining even what it means to be an artist and what an artwork is made of.

In this article, we will initiate you into a dynamic and variegated Art Metaverse world on the move. We will do so by introducing you to some key terms, by sharing the general lines of some case studies, and by exploring what kind of shifts the Metaverse revolution is bringing to the art world and beyond.

Let’s Begin from the Beginning: Web 3.0.0, Blockchain & NFTs

The role of art has always been to push the frontier of modernity into new and exciting domains. From Renaissance Masters to the Impressionists and the early 20th Century Avant-Garde, artists have created new ways of seeing the world. They have also embraced new mediums and new technologies to bring their vision to life.

Pablo Picasso once said that “in art there is room for all possibilities.” That same spirit of creativity and exploration can be seen in the ways in which the art world is merging with tech in the era of the digital revolution. The blockchain and Web 3.0 have made of the art world a more global and less exclusive domain. In fact, as blockchains are revolutionizing everything and the creation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is largely dependent on artists, art dealers and galleries are somehow losing their power and the art system is required to embrace less exclusivist and dated ways of proposing and selling artworks.

As a result, NFTs are the future, and a way for artists to gain global exposure without massive budgets, prominent patrons, or a CV packed with a long list of exhibitions at prominent galleries and sought-after museums. At the individual level as well, the internet allows artists to find their audience anywhere in the world. Moreover, the use of blockchain can provide the authentication and irrefutable tracing of NFTs, which will essentially nullify the possibility of forging digital works of art.

We have not even spoken of the Metaverse yet, and you have read a few words you may not have heard of or of which you have little knowledge, such as: blockchain; Web 3.0; NFTs. Let’s discover more and understand these words.

In a nutshell, the blockchain is a digital and online system in which the artist and the art collector don’t need to depend on a third-party institution for it to work. Blockchain enables artists and collectors operating in the digital world to own their data and protect their sovereignty. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are digital works of art and may be seen as any other JPG file. However, as they operate inside blockchains, and as the blockchain circuit allows a permanent and transparent public record of all NFTs, non-fungible tokens are indeed art that can be transacted in a closed circuit by sellers to buyers over and over in a long chain of recorded transactions.

This technology empowers artists as makers, and safeguards collectors who buy digital art; moreover, it allows artists and collectors to do business without the middleman, that is, the gallery owner or the art dealer. Altogether, this is the Web 3.0, and it is one of the newest realities in the art world.

Nonfungible tokens will be the digital assets that help shape the Metaverse. This is a significant paradigm shift, and artists must take the lead. And what better way to lay the foundational groundwork for our future than to build a virtual house, or original art exhibitions and curate art spaces that could never exist in the physical gallery world?

This is why we want to share with you 2 case studies through which you can understand what foundational groundwork has been done so far in an art world embracing the digital revolution:

The ‘Mars House’ Case



Artist Krista Kim created the Mars House, a Metaverse property, during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020. It was built with the 3D-creation tool Unreal Engine, which allows stunning visuals and virtual reality immersion. The Mars House was the first Metaverse property sold as an NFT, and it helped introduce the public to Web 3.0 and the metaverse. Art on Internet bought the Mars House for 288 Ether, a cryptocurrency amount worth $512,000 when the house was sold in March 2021.

The Mars House shows the world how artists can use the Metaverse to create healing spaces. Its design showcases Kim’s meditative video art on LED ceilings and floors, creating a calming and relaxing environment akin to the Ryoanji Temple Garden in Kyoto.

Kim believes that love and human consciousness can be expressed through the Metaverse and therefore transcend physical space. The Mars House is a magically serene setting where, mysteriously, everything feels real.

Further, Kim with her boyfriend Peter Martin, an immersive experience Director, worked on a Metaverse production studio and platform in partnership with Spatial. The production focussed on establishing a human-centred, creative Metaverse committed to the highest level of artistic world-building. The creators believe that fine art, human consciousness and cultural capital are essential components for successful Metaverse ecosystems. Art, education, health and wellness, tourism, and relationships will thrive in our metaverse.

Kim and Martin are helping to create a Web 3.0 civilization, and they are highly inspirational for the ways in which they help us understand the significance of the responsibility of creating a healthy and safe Web3.0 for future generations. The Metaverse is changing how we live in the real world. It is creating new ways of interacting, and these interactions must remain in harmony with the environment, with the nature of the human species as well as with those of every living being.

Don’t be afraid to enter the Metaverse and explore a new immersive reality. You never know what relationships will be formed or what worlds you will discover.

The ‘Occupy the White Walls’ Case:



Occupy White Walls is home to an extravaganza of incredibly imaginative, surreal art spaces that could never exist in the real world. An unparalleled opportunity for the creative and enthusiastic, regardless of their economic or social status.

Built by crypto billionaire artist Allan Banford, Occupy White Walls is an art gallery-building MMO (massively multiplayer online) game, the Artiverse is a the latest Metaverse innovation, with a structure that can be readily replicated in other virtual platforms like Decentraland or The SandBox.

“The idea is for artists and creators to claim a virtual plot of land, build a gallery from a library of thousands of 3D architectural elements, materials and lighting effects, and then exhibit and trade art, offer services and host events – all within the virtual world of the Artiverse,” Banford says.

That sums up what artists and creators do in the Metaverse: build their own virtual art spaces, fill them with artworks of their choosing before opening their doors to the world. The first exhibition at the Artiverse, for instance, is Banford’s own digital art series “Zentai". The game also enables artists to sell their artworks both in-game and in real life through game currency and affiliate links to private websites and profiles.

For Banford, liberating art in the Metaverse makes a lot of sense in the Web 3.0 era – a defining factor that users are increasingly interconnected and creating content across a decentralised network. “Metaverse allows artists to bypass gallery owners, curators and institutions to showcase their work and build a clientele based more on their talent than connections or corporate middle art man,” he says.

Banford’s sentiment points to an art market that counts heavily on dealers, collectors, and auction houses who, channelling and deflecting the power of all other players, buy and sell art. And while the lofty art world in real life can be intimidating to some, virtual spaces rid of the museum facade and are shaking up the long-standing status quo. The Metaverse is envisioned as a place where artists and art buffs can feel at ease, a place to admire the ingenuity of other creators and interact with the larger art community anytime, anywhere they want.

This rationale chimes well with Alison Yang, founder of Hong Kong-based game studio Sometimes Monastery, whose art-centred VR game ‘Forgetter’ pushes the boundaries of how art can be discovered and experienced today. Players of the game enter the virtual minds of two fictional deceased artists: Wielding a vacuum cleaner and an axe, you smash up objects associated with past trauma, modelling them into pain-free renditions so they can be reused by the next generation.

“For great artists like Van Gogh, it’s the pain and the trauma that’s very important in his art. If we take away the trauma and the pain, can he still create superb art? That is the question we’re asking,” the game's co-designer Alan Kwan tells RTHK in a documentary. “We really want people to experience what artists are experiencing in the contemporary art world.”

At the heart of it is the emotional experience and a deeper level of storytelling rarely seen in mainstream video games. The idea came about when Yang met the Parisian art collectors Sylvain and Dominique Lévy at an art game show in Shenzhen. The couple, who founded the dslcollection in 2005 featuring major works by 200 contemporary Chinese artists, has been trailblazing digital art spaces to improve access to art for wider audiences as early as 2009. “Forgetter” is their latest venture incorporating the dslcollection catalogue.

Yang believes merging contemporary art and technology in the alternative world is a sign of the times. “People who quarantined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic could not really go to museums. I think in a way, video games offer a solution to museums to access to younger or unusual demographics they couldn’t access before,” she says in the same documentary. “Where people were making video games for museums, we’re making a video game as a museum.”

Meanwhile, auction houses also jump in on the bandwagon, experimenting not just with NFT but also with virtual spaces to exhibit and sell art. Last December, Christie’s conducted an on-chain auction taking place entirely on OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace. Tapping into the platform’s existing technical infrastructure, collectors browse and purchase Christie’s-curated NFTs minted on the Ethereum blockchain.

Noah Davis, Christie’s head of digital art and online sales, is bullish on the current NFT boom. “Before NFT and blockchain technology, it was impossible to assign value to works of purely digital means. Now we can trace provenance, exhibition history, and the authenticity of ownership in digital art and other assets in a secure and permanent manner,” he says.

Increasing ownership of digital art only adds to the appeal of virtual environments in which to view, share and trade them. Davis observes that “many of our collectors display their NFT collections on the virtual walls of their OnCyber galleries or on the premises of their Decentraland estates.”

“I can easily imagine a future where what we used to refer to as ‘online auction’ is being held in a Metaverse auction house, where the bidding more or less mirrors what happens in our saleroom in real life,” he adds.

That the art world is expanding and starting to spin faster in the convergence of physical and virtual universe brings with it an increasingly blurred meaning of the term “artist”.

“Metaverse has opened new doors for creativity, not just for those creating visuals,” Banford says, “The coders, content creators, 3D illustrators, flow planners, developers, computer engineers, and every single person involved in the complex process of making these virtual worlds a reality are artists in their own right.”

The new world of art is on the move…


 

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