I went to an NFT art exhibition, and it was weird

Love them, loathe them or just don’t understand them (you’re not alone), it looks like NFTs are here to stay. The craze for non-fungible tokens is only growing, and pieces continue to sell for astronomical amounts of money. But can NFTs ever hold a candle to more traditional art? If this NFT art exhibition is anything to go by, yes and no.

Launched as part of OFFF Barcelona 2022, Ouche is a new NFT platform (or “digital playground”) created by the OFFF community. I went along to the launch exhibition, featuring 10 NFTs from the platform’s first collection, Roads Not Taken – and came away feeling more confused than ever about where I stand on NFTs. (What is an NFT, I hear you cry? Click the link.)

Three of the NFTs available for auction in the Roads Not Taken exhibition (Image credit: Ouche)

Currently live on the top floor of the Museu del Disseny (Design Museum of Barcelona), the Ouche exhibition offers “an exciting glimpse into the alternate selves of the creative luminaries who continue to pave the way forward,” with artists including Joshua Davis, Brendan Dawes, Six N. Five, Boldtron, Joëlle Snaith, Baugasm, Jana Styblova, Pawel Nolbert and more. And with titles straight from a book of Elon Musk baby names (‘Nº 03 TRINITY_Roads not taken by woman’, ‘INSPO SIMULATOR I * S4’), there’s no mistaking the fact that these pieces are NFTs.

Roads Not Taken exhibition at OFFF Barcelona

Roads Not Taken exhibition at OFFF Barcelona (Image credit: Future)

On one hand, there was certainly something impressive about seeing these pieces in full HD glory, presented together as artworks. An NFT isn’t going to look great on anything less than the best 4K monitors, and these pieces really popped.

The experience goes some way to bridge the perceived gap between NFTs and ‘traditional art’, (I saw as much staring and chin-stroking here as one might expect to see at the Louvre). And with most pieces incorporating motion, standing in the midst of all ten pieces was both mesmeric and disorientating. Particularly striking are the pieces that incorporate vaguely human or natural forms, such as Baugasm’s The Sinners.

NFTS at OFFF Barcelona

NFTs! In the ‘flesh’! (Image credit: Future)

But the exhibition also highlighted the limitations of NFTs. Looking at 10 identical monitors didn’t help to allay the impression of looking at a series of files rather than the artworks themselves, and muted the visceral sense of surprise that comes with looking at physical artworks of various mediums. And then there’s the NFT community’s tendency towards a ‘digital grunge’ aesthetic. When it started to feel like I was browsing a collection of Windows Media Player visualizations, I was relieved to see Six N. Five’s Family – a refreshingly peaceful 3D depiction of a well-furnished living room.

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