As the Market for Digital Art Heats Up, König Galerie Is Hosting a Show on the Virtual Blockchain World Decentraland

The Berlin gallery is selling NFTs of the digital works.

A scene inside König Galerie's virtual show on Decentraland.

What does painting and sculpture look like in a digitally-defined world? That’s the big question looming behind a new show at Berlin’s König Galerie, which brings together 50 young artists who recalibrate “traditional” artistic forms to today’s technomediated attention economy, where personalities are brands and “likes” are the yardstick of success.

The 70 artworks included in the show, titled “THE ARTIST IS ONLINE,” look less like the stuff of the Met and Louvre than the makeup of an Instagram feed or camera roll.

And what about art that exists in a world that is digital? To address that question, the gallery is hosting a second, complementary exhibition in Decentraland, a virtual world on the blockchain, where computer-savvy users can explore—via avatar—a ones and zeros version of König. There, more than 30 digital works can be purchased as NFTs. The “land” on which the gallery sits in the blockchain platform was loaned by a collector named Shahin Tabassi.

Chloe Wise, <i>Rachel, Floridian boy-scout, after bibimbap</i> (2020). Courtesy of KÖNIG GALERIE.

Chloe Wise, Rachel, Floridian boy-scout, after bibimbap (2020). Courtesy of KÖNIG GALERIE.

The show is not only König’s first foray into the world of NFTs but, according to Anika Meier, the German curator who co-organized the effort with gallerist Johann König, the first example of any gallery setting up shop on the popular blockchain platform.

“For us it’s important to show that digital art is a thing that has the same qualities of painting and sculpture,” Meier told Artnet News, referring to considerations like light and color and composition. 

Ry David Bradley, <i>Company Clouds</i> (2021). Courtesy of KÖNIG GALERIE.

Ry David Bradley, Company Clouds (2021). Courtesy of König Galerie.

Among those featured on the gallery’s real-life walls are artists Rachel de Joode, Sarah Slappey, and Chloe Wise. Several others, such as Ry David Bradley and Thomas Webb, have worked in NFTs before, and are contributing to both iterations of the show.

“We’re working with people who have been doing this for [years],” Meier said. For example, for the artist duo Banz and Bowinkel, who are included in both versions of the new show, “it’s like it’s raining in the desert. Everyone is suddenly interested in what they are doing, but right now the focus is a bit off because people are concerned about prices,” she said. “We hope we can shift the focus a bit.”

A view inside König Galerie’s Decentraland show.

THE ARTIST IS ONLINE” is on view at König Galerie now through April 18, 2021.

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