[Image: TeamLab Matter is Void 2022 courtesy of the artist]
[Image: Damien Hirst The Currency 2021 courtesy of the artist]
[Image: Rafaël Rozendaal Center 2022 courtesy of the artist]
[Image: Lu Yang DOKU Heaven 2022 courtesy of the artist]
[Image: Shunsuke Takawo Generativemasks 2021 courtesy of the artist]

Artistic Experiments in the Age of Hyper-Technological Reproductionー What Will NFTs Change About Art?

Gyre Gallery


Damien Hirst, Rafaël Rozendaal, Lu Yang, Robert Alice, Rhea Myers, Shunsuke Takawo (Generativemasks), TeamLab, Sol LeWitt, Seth Siegelaub, Mariko Mori, Masaki Fujihata, Taihei Shii, Tetsutaro Kamatani
In March 2021, a single image on the internet was sold for 7.5 billion yen at an art auction hosted by Christie’s auction house in New York. It was the highest price ever paid in the history of digital art, and the third highest price in the history of contemporary art. Twenty-two million people witnessed the event online, and the NFT boom swept across the world. What is an NFT? Although all the possibilities are as yet unknown—even by those involved—NFTs have given a jolt to the many people who have believed in traditional art as a touchstone for the future.

NFT is the acronym for "non-fungible token," which circulates digital data as a completely independent online asset with unique value. It is a verification system for digital "originals" that uses blockchain technology. Today, this immutable cryptographic technology has come to be used and recognized as something that grants ownership and turns any non-physical information online into an asset, but its origins go back to May 2014 when New York artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy created the work Quantum. That means NFTs were born not for speculation, but to create an indelible provenance for a code-driven abstract work of art representing birth, death, and rebirth. Beyond the experimental intention of what these artists called "monetized graphics," their digital reproduction was artificially granted the privilege of "uniqueness"—until then the domain of the physical space—in one fell swoop transforming the public goods for the masses created in web 2.0 into a global capitalist market. This exhibition attempts to return to the original experimental roots of NFTs.

Reflecting on past eras before the modern age of mechanical reproduction, Walter Benjamin, one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century, posited that the "aura" of an irreproducible work of art derives from its unique existence at the place where it happens to be, its singularity, and its cult value. According to him, film and photographs lack the "singularity" of art, and that art itself is becoming secularized. However, the advent of NFTs has given rise to a situation in which technological reproduction possesses "singularity," engendering a fundamental reassessment of the question of "aura" that Benjamin presented in his treatise on twentieth-century art.

This exhibition focuses on artistic experiments using NFTs (dawn of blockchain technology) in three chapters: "Sharing," "Aura of Simulacra," and "Supranational Power." Each theme corresponds to what can be seen as the prerequisites for the works: "ownership/contract," "creation," and "exhibition." The NFT art created in the roughly ten years since 2014 is seen as a continuation of twentieth-century art history (especially as a logical consequence of conceptual art). The unprecedented bubble in NFT art at the beginning of the 2020s happened along with the rise of virtual currencies and then collapsed in an instant. But are NFTs really nothing more than works of art transformed into speculative financial instruments? Or, could NFTs destroy the existing rules of society and art, bring about the liberation of expression, and paint new history? This online and offline exhibition and the accompanying publication raise questions about the new meanings and value systems brought forth by NFTs, examine and redefine the role played by contemporary artists in a new information environment, and explore the impact of virtual space on the reality of our lives and on the minds and culture that are shaped by it.


Mar 24 (Fri) 2023-May 21 (Sun) 2023 

Opening Hours Information

VenueGyre Gallery
Location3F Gyre, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Access4 minute walk from exit 5 at Meiji-jingumae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin lines. 5 minute walk from exit A1 at Omotesando Station on the Hanzomon, Chiyoda and Ginza lines, 6 minute walk from the Omotesando exit of JR Harajuku Station.