NFT and digital art: the harmonic evolution that serves the real world

The boom of Non Fungible Tokens has focused the spotlight on their great contribution to the world of culture, but now a synergistic vision is needed

NFT: A Venus de Milo within digital information blocks
A Venus de Milo inside digital information blocks (Photo: iStock blackdovfx)

It's been about two years since the auction house Christie's auctioned off a work by the digital artist for a record $69 million Mike Winkelman, in art Beeple's. The peculiarity of that work is that it was digital, in fact, and that it was purchased in cryptocurrency, Ether, revealing to the world the infinite potential of those that the world would come to know as NFT, the "Not Fungible Token".

Since then, NFTs have begun a seemingly unstoppable rise tied hand in glove with the art world. Digital Certificates of Authenticity have made it possible to create authentic, original and easily exchangeable all-digital works thanks to the criptovaluta, in the vast majority of cases visual. And they have opened the doors to a new market which, after strong growth, seems to have suffered a setback in recent times.

According to a recent study conducted by Variety and GetWizer, the perception and conception of NFTs in the first six months of 2022 has in fact changed: in July, 44 percent of respondents believed it was a risky investment, against 28 percent in January.

Mainly because after the initial boom, people started to look more distrustful towards NFTs, also thanks to some glaring episodes that contributed to growing a negative feeling among art lovers.

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NFT: Martin Mobarak, a well-known “art alchemist”, burned a drawing by Frida Kahlo, “Il Fantasmones siniestros”, to make it an NFT
Martin Mobarak, a well-known “art alchemist”, burned a drawing by Frida Kahlo, “Il Fantasmones siniestros”, to make it an NFT

The case of Martin Mobarak and the… burned drawing of Frida Kahlo

The most striking example is the one that involved Martin Mobarak, entrepreneur and “art alchemist” who has burned a drawing by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, "The Fantasmones siniestros", to turn it into a Not Fungible Token: a priceless work of art destroyed for the creation of 10 thousand NFTs worth 3 Ethereum each, about 4.000 euros.

A gesture that predictably caused an earthquake in the art world, igniting the debate on relationship between the digital world and the physical world and on the need to find a way to make them coexist and make them enhance each other, rather than destroy or cancel each other out. So as to prevent the bubble of Not Fungible Token bursts, bringing with it all the potential that we have become aware of over time.

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"The last Rhino" is an artwork by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
“The last Rhino” is an artwork by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
(Visualization: The Mill)

“The Lost Rhino”, the digital artwork about the Northern White Rhino

A virtuous example in this sense, to be contrasted with that of Mobarak, is what has been done by Natural History Museum of London, where visitors will soon be able to interact with an exciting and realistic digital reconstruction of a Northern white rhino, a species at very high risk of extinction of which only two females still exist in the world today. The last male, Sudan, died in 2018, making the northern white rhino one of the rarest animals on Earth.

It was therefore dedicated to this animal "The Lost Rhino”, a digital exhibition curated by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg that explores how the idea of ​​an animal can be more powerful than the animal itself. Through four different depictions of the rhinoceros, each only a partial representation of this species, Ginsberg explores the themes of extinction, technology and the importance of species conservation.

A digital artwork that contributes to create awareness and to arouse reflections, using a life-size projection of a white rhinoceros that slowly comes to life, transforming itself from a pixel into a high-resolution facsimile, before disappearing. 

The artwork prompts us to reflect on the urgency and human propensity to create new forms of life instead of conserving existing ones, and is accompanied by three other imperfect representations of the rhinoceros selected by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg that explore different ways in which the endangered animal lives in our imaginations.

This is a facsimile of a print of Albrecht Durer widely copied throughout history, but actually inaccurate, dating from the 2014th century, a film showing beating heart cells grown from cells of Angalifu, a male northern white rhinoceros that died in XNUMX, and a taxidermied southern white rhinoceros specimen from the Museum's extensive collection, a member of the rhinoceros subspecies most closely related to the northern white, and near threatened.

The inclusion of this specimen explores the idea of taxidermy in collections as animal representations, substitutes for the real thing.

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Daisy Ginsberg:Each copy is imperfect, created by humans for humans."

“'The Lost Rhino' brings together artifacts from the museum's collections and other elements in a single work in a sort of contemporary cabinet of curiosities”he mused Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

“Films of heart cells grown from beating cells of a dead rhinoceros, the legacy of the most copied image of the rhinoceros, and a taxidermied rhinoceros offer different representations of a rhinoceros. But all of these elements are, in the end, substitutes for the real thing, in this case a living animal. Each copy is imperfect and created by humans, for humans. They all live on in our imaginations, perhaps more powerfully than the living, breathing animal itself. What is a rhinoceros? Even if we can create a complete rhinoceros, is it 'real' if it is separated from its natural context?”.

In the case of "The Lost Rhino", the digital world and the real world not only coexist, but one is needed by the other to spark a reflection on the importance of caring for the natural world, exploring what it means when an animal is on the verge of extinction and begins to live only in the human imagination. And it is in this sense that NFTs can prove to be precious, keeping memory and attention alive.

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