Oct 08 2021

Roundup from Digital Art Fair Asia 2021

by HG Masters

Digital Art Fair Asia 2021 is being held in the former Topshop location on Queens Road in Central, with a bevy of corporate sponsors from the world of crypto, NFTs, and virtual and augmented reality. The butterfly wings are created by Victor Wong. All photos by HG Masters for ­ArtAsiaPacific.

We’re at a moment when the hype around new technologies is attempting to transform into a pose of inevitability—namely that so-called “digital art” will supplant analogue art, paid for with cryptocurrencies in place of the already equally intangible and digital forms of fiat money, with much of this innovation backed by blockchain technology. 

In all aspects of our lives, the future will certainly be even more digital. What that means, exactly, is still being worked out, as one can experience at the first edition of Digital Art Fair Asia 2021 in Hong Kong. With a focus on “immersive art, new media art and NFT Crypto Art,” the Digital Art Fair is capitalizing on several recent trends in cryptocurrencies and the emerging field of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which can be used to authenticate artworks or imagery that exists in digital formats like jpegs or gifs.

As cryptocurrencies rise in value and become increasingly common as assets, it makes sense that people might want to spend their digital money on art. To that end most of what was on view at the Digital Art Fair could be purchased from a QR code on the artwork’s screen or a nearby label. Some prices were listed in ETH; others in HKD. Some works were limited-edition digital prints, others printed on canvas, still others purely animations. Instead of art dealers, you interface with purchasing app platforms including ZHEN., a new-generation “artwork authentication platform powered by blockchain”; Refinable, the fair’s official NFT partner; or Sotheby’s, which is selling animations and an immersive mirrored floor and ceiling installation by the Los Angeles-based studio of Refik Anadol. 

Large lightbox prints with collages based on Hong Kong street photographs by Derry Ainsworth, who is also curatorial director of the Digital Art Fair.
Large lightbox prints with collages based on Hong Kong street photographs by Derry Ainsworth, who is also curatorial director of the Digital Art Fair.

The styles of works on view span popular genres from street art to anime, by the likes of urban artist SZABOTAGE; digital designer Krista Kim; and Hong Kong Instagram favorites such as surrealhk, derryainsworthrambler15, and the provocatively humorous animator Claudia Chanhoi. Designer Henry Chu even created Blockchain Piano, which allows you to link your crypto wallet to a piano whose keys correspond to the real-time data of crypto prices in order to create a 32-second NFT mpeg.4 file of yourself buying cryptocurrency. Buyers of one of ten editions of the work also receive an actual 160-kilogram piano embedded with a 55-inch commercial-grade flatscreen monitor, with expenses for shipping and travel for the artist’s team not included in the ETH 25 (USD 85,000) price tag. It’s a whole new world of digital art and selfie backdrops—let’s see how far the disruption really goes.

Digital Art Fair Asia 2021 is on view at Asia Standard Tower until October 17, 2021.

HG Masters is ArtAsiaPacific’s deputy publisher and deputy editor.

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ACAW Silverlens Massimo de Carlo Artspace 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art E-flux CHRISTIE"S SOTHEBY'S SAM David Zwirner