‘We’ve Seen a Huge Convergence’: NADA New York Dealers Are Catering to Collectors Who Want Both NFTs and Traditional Media

Gallerists say there's more than enough space for everything.

Installation view of Jeremy Couillard's Fuzz Dungeon (2021). Courtesy of Denny Dimin.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s only been just over a year since Beeple’s explosive sale at Sotheby’s changed the genetic makeup of the art market as knew it.

Over the course of that year, a split has emerged between those in the art world that embrace web3 with aplomb, and those that have been forced to make peace with its presence. 

That tension was on full display at this year’s New Art Dealers Alliance fair in New York, its first in the city since 2018. Inside, digital art blended seamlessly with traditional art—which is quite a feat.

New York’s Now Here gallery, which focuses on work by Japanese artists, was a prime example. Its presentation, titled Metaverse Petshop, included dog kennels stacked in the fair’s booth, some with dog toys or water bowls. Each crate had a screen presenting an AI-generated dog created by artist collective Exonemo. The dogs were for sale for just $10, with a catch: after ten minutes, they’d disappear, in homage to the animals kept in kill shelters. 

A few hours into the day, over 20 of the dogs had sold, and that kind of high volume was part of the collective’s goal in getting more buyers comfortable with digital art. I bought a polka-dotted pug that wagged its tail when my credit card cleared. Then it dissolved into a dark purple doberman, glumly waiting for the next buyer to come around.  

Exonemo, <I>Metaverse Petshop</i>, 2022. Courtesy of NowHere.

Exonemo, Metaverse Petshop, 2022. Courtesy of NowHere.

Just around the corner, Bitforms gallery had two generative AI pieces by Auriea Harvey: an animated digital sculpture presented on a monolithic screen that loops an animation, and an NFT displayed on an iPad.

The works both employ facial scans of the artist alongside imagery of a skull, flowers, and a braid. “Its kind of memento mori iconography,” Valerie Amend, the gallery’s director said.

The screen sculpture was selling for $24,000, and the NFT for $15,000. Harvey also presented a traditional sculpture in the booth with no digital component. The work, mother/child (2022), is a series of 3D-printed busts of her family members sleeping, draped in a piece of silk. 

“There are [collectors] who are interested in both [traditional and digital art], but we’ve seen such a huge convergence of people caring more about digital work with the rise of NFTs,” Amend said.

Stefan Rinck, <I>Cryptohoarder</I>, 2022. Courtesy of Nino Mier.

Stefan Rinck, Cryptohoarder, 2022. Courtesy of Nino Mier.

Not everyone was quite as willing to cross the lines.

At first glance, Denny Dimin’s booth with works by Jeremy Couillard and Stephen Thorpe looks like it may have some kind of NFT component, due to its abundance of screens. But you know what happens when you assume.

“We thought of it as a counter to the NFT world,” Robert Dimin said of the gallery’s presentation, which included a video game by Couillar with paintings of old-school video game consoles by Thorpe.

“We like the interactiveness, where people get to actually physically touch and engage with the art world,” Dimin added.

If you buy Couillard’s piece, called Fuzz Dungeon, for $14,000, it comes with the physical computer that the artist built and specifically programmed. “It’s really designed as an object in the way that sculptors and painters think about objecthood,” Dimin said.

As of day one, the games had not yet sold, but two of Thorpe’s paintings had for $20,000 each. 

On the total opposite end of the spectrum, Nino Mier’s booth had all but sold out, with one piece by Stefan Rinck saying it all. The work, Cryptohoarder, is a small stone sculpture with beady eyes clutching a money bag. It sold for $20,000.

Asked whether he would ever incorporate an NFT into his programming, Mier said, sarcastically, “I still don’t even know what an NFT is.”

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