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Interview: Blockchain Ireland meets Galleries With[out] Walls @ Gallery of Photography Ireland




UPDATE: What a swell evening at Gallery of Photography on Thursday 16th Dec.

BCIRL #Startups ecosystem was delighted to participate at the aftershow talk for the Galleries With[out] Walls exhibition (live stream video here). Fiona Delaney, our local expert was greatly impressed with the innovative and practical aspects of the international collaboration.

The process involved pairing composers with lens-based artists; some stressful-but-helpful ‘Design Sprint’ workshops to onboard participants into the world of NFTs. It was clear in the after-show panel discussion that the artists came to understand NFTs as a novel means to assert authorship, to set market-values and to reach new, global audiences for their digital work and practice. It was interesting to hear how perspectives shifted over the course of the engagement; the consensus seems to be that NFTs facilitate provenance transparency for sale and showing online, NFTs offer a means of encapsulating, exhibiting, performing and creating encounters and new user experiences for their work online.

Valuable guidance and access to the public Ethereum mainnet were Foundation.app. Find the Gallery With[out] Walls NTFs listed on the Gallery of Photography’s Curation page here.

The programme enjoyed support from Nerve Centre, Derry~Londonderry; Arts Council; Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media; Co-operation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme; Donegal County Council; and Foundation for Art & Blockchain.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

With curfews and closure of performance spaces, shuttering of arts, culture and entertainment spaces – sometimes for good, we can still celebrate the emergence of new hybrid art and performance works, with real-world and digital-realm presence, where the public can engage, enjoy and get enraged by new and emerging collaborative practices.

I’m delighted to introduce Paul Geraghty, Chair of the Board at the Gallery of Photography Ireland to the Blockchain Ireland innovation ecosystem. 

Galleries without Walls - NFT and performance exhibition Dec 2021

Paul, can you tell me what’s happening on the 16 December?

At the Gallery of Photography , outside in Meeting House Square we are showing 5 new pieces of art. The result of collaborations between five lens-based artists and five audio composers – Michael Boran & Keith Mannion, Ciaran Dunbar & Steve McCollum, Mark Duffy & Orri McBrearty, Nina Maalej & Jeremy Fitz Howard, and Ruth Gonsalves Moore & Úna Keane – who we helped to explore the world of NFTs, reimagine their work, and collaboratively develop new digital art that’s been minted as Non fungible tokens on the the Ethereum blockchain. The work will also be on display in the Metaverse at MOCA in Somnium Space

What got an ‘IRL’ Gallery interested in Metaverse exhibitions and NFT’s? 

‘Back in March 2020, due to COVID restrictions, we had to close the Gallery of Photography to visitors. Welcoming people into our physical space to use our workspaces, attend exhibitions and talks was how we delivered on our mission to build that capacity of photographers to create great art. We had to fundamentally rethink our way of working. One thing the Gallery takes very seriously is professional development of the artists we work with.‘

Would I know any of the photographers you helped?

‘I hope so! We’ve helped the careers of Ireland’s top contemporary photographic artists. Enda Bowe, Eamon Doyle, Sean Lynch, Kate Nolan, Richard Moss, and Mandy O’Neil have all benefited from working with the Gallery. Collaborating with national cultural institutions is an important way-point in an artists’ career progression.  Working with experienced curatorial teams improves the artist’s practice. Recognition by cultural institutions drives the financial value of the artist’s work. The engagement is an important way-point in an artists’ career progression.  We’ve learned from conversations with artists the value the Gallery provides: how the exhibition space, money, curation, production, and promotion we provide specifically benefits the artist. Guess what. Due to COVID we couldn’t provide these supports the way we had.’

So the GalleriesWith[Out] Walls programme was part of this rethink?

‘Yes. Exactly. We realized that COVID could be with us some time so we needed to learn how to run an exhibition that could live physically in a gallery space, outside in the city, and in online distributed channels – we hadn’t considered the metaverse. We also wanted to replicate for the artist the rich experience of developing a physical show in a virtual context. We started looking at new modes of collaboration and new ways of presenting, and distributing work. We’d looked at NFT’s. I would love to say that I was early to the NFT’s party. I had heard that Christies had included an NFT in an auction in October 2020. I fell off my chair when I heard about the Beeple’s First 5,000 days achieving $69 million in March 2021. Our partner in the programme the RCC Letterkenny was also asking the same questions’

So how did the collaboration with MOCA come about?

I have found the Crypto Art community to be extremely helpful. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Colborn Bell, founder of the Museum of Crypto Art. I explained what we wanted to do and he came on board. Colburn was first to the NFT party. Colburn was an early adopter of NFT’s – both art and virtual land. You should check out the MOCA Genesis collection in Somnium Space. Colborn agreed to show the artist’s work in Somnium Space.

Foundation for Art & Blockchain are supporting the project?

Yes. We are super excited  about that. It’s actually quite expensive right now for artists to mint an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain.  Galleries With[out] Walls is funded by public money from the Arts Council, the Department, and others. It’s quite complicated for a charity like the Gallery of Photograph to support a project like this. Foundation for Art & Blockchain helped us navigate the technical challenges and provided funds for the artists to mint their NFTs. One thing that often arises when valuing art is providence – is the work you are buying the artist’s work. Blockchain assures providence. You can trace an NFT’s back to the artist’s wallet that minted it in the first place. 

Are NFTs the next frontier for artists?

In my opinion NFTs are here to stay. The benefits for artists and collectors are too numerous to ignore. Contemporary art practice has defied thingification – NFT’s provide a way for artists to create artifacts that represent their work which they can sell and earn value from. Collectors can collect, assured of the providence of the work. Smart contracts can split proceeds of sales between collaborators – artists can even enjoy the proceeds of secondary sales. The work is owned by just one person but is available for all to view. What’s not to love?


Paul, thanks for sharing details of this immersive, multi-dimensional exhibition and event, opening on Dec 16th at the Gallery of Photography, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. 

Links:

Artists NFTs on Foundation:https://foundation.app/@GalleryOfPhotography

Event at the Gallery of Photography: https://www.galleryofphotography.ie/galleries-without-walls


Exhibition MOCA Somnium Space: https://somniumspace.com/parcel/618

Exhibition RCC Letterkenny: https://regionalculturalcentre.com/event/gww/



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