Curating Digital Art in URL

By Eleonora Brizi, Chiara Braidotti and Serena Tabacchi (curators at MoCDA)

Curation in digital art has lately been experiencing a big switch. If we consider crypto art, specifically, we would notice that things have been changing rapidly over the past two years. In the beginning, curation wasn’t necessarily seen as a good tool by the crypto art community, since the peer-to-peer kind of relationship that the space aims to create – between the artists and the other actors of the art world – doesn’t include the option of having intermediaries, a category the role of curation belongs to. 

This sometimes happens at the expense of the artists who, surely, are free to trade their art outside of the rusty structures of the art market, but also find themselves busy in dealing with responsibilities that take energy from what their real focus would and should be: to stay creative and make art. 

But, what does a curator do?

To produce a curatorial insight means to create a narrative and a context for art to be enjoyed and understood by the audience, which is paramount for meaningful engagement with the arts and culture. To curate, therefore, is to bridge a gap between the crypto art and artists and the general public, while providing greater accessibility to the subject of art and technology as an enjoyable and memorable experience. Curation is “translation.” 

As the crypto art market keeps growing, some of the top crypto art galleries have been challenged by the overwhelming amount of artists trying to submit their art to these platforms. 

Free access and unrestrained production might still work within a very small community, where the limited number of actors involved assures a certain degree of control against forgery and some manageability to the space. However, pure decentralization is a utopia. The very existence of online galleries, providing the means to showcase and trade artworks to those unable to program their own smart contracts, is already a restriction, an instance of centralization, if you wish. Actually, all main galleries are themselves curated platforms on a decentralized network. Now the rise in the number of artists, collectors, and tokenized works in the crypto scene made the unrestricted model clearly unsustainable. Galleries had to develop guidelines against the overproduction of tokenized works while issuing spotlight articles on certain art pieces, creators or collections. 

Over the years there has been an increasing interest to integrate a more traditional art world flavor into the crypto and digital art space. An example of this approach can be found on the digital art platform KnownOrigin. Launched in April 2020, the platform has been presenting a curated selection of 6 artworks, selected each month by a guest curator. The platform SuperRare, one of the most active in the crypto space, is also launching an editorial space for curation and discussion. 

The need to integrate a more accessible way to read the art for the general public has probably been the reason why digital artists and platforms are now on the hunt for curators and art experts to support building a narrative around the work of art. 

As we enter into a curatorial field that stands at the intersection of art and technology, there currently are limited resources we can access. Curators that can relate and guide the audience into a technical yet artistically compelling choice are rare to be found, as the art they present. 

Interestingly enough, we could witness a swift increase of the initial market price and artist quotation which, in some cases, occurred on the back of a curatorial insight. In short, when a curator, art expert, or collector invests in an art genre, artist or collection of works, the asset/s tend to increase in price. As a result, the curated art and artists start to get noticed and wanted as seen valuable as a form of investment. 

Although curatorial views might seem at odds with the crypto community spirit to some, it is the interest of artists and art itself that is at the heart of any curator’s efforts. Some artists might be talented communicators and successful self-promoters, but some of them are not, and the truth is that anyone’s new creation would be soon obliterated by the following one if there was no way to slow down the frenetic pace digital art production can reach. Not to mention the destructive consequences on an inflated art market. 

Curation is a way to give each art piece the proper space for it to breathe and engage with the viewers, a chance to prove its relevance and value. 

In a physical gallery space or museum, one might as well be overwhelmed by the array and variety of artworks on display. Still, among other factors, a human dimension would be added to the experience, the viewers would be able to have a chat, share ideas at the cafeteria, or at least take the time to sit in front of a piece to contemplate it while resting. In a strictly virtual context, our eyes constantly engaging with screens, there might be less of a chance to properly look at artworks, scrolling through them or moving about restlessly looking for more instead. 

As curators at MoCDA, hence currently dealing with digital art but also coming from a more traditional art environment, we actually don’t experience relevant differences between the approaches of curating physical or digital pieces. A real challenge is what we could call digital curation 2.0, in other words, the showing of digital art in a digital space, as the virtual galleries. 

Lately, many scheduled art shows – either physical or digital – got postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, and it was necessary to organize exhibitions that could happen in a virtual space and could be able to gather people from their homes all over the world. Having curated some art shows in one of the prominent virtual realms in the crypto community – Cryptovoxels – we must say that the way we have treated the artists, the art pieces, and the shows themselves was pretty much the same of the approach that we would have used when happening in a “real” museum. 

Exhibition designs and venues did not necessarily mimic real-world situations, given the new possibilities the metaverse provided in terms of artworks arrangement, scale customization, and freedom to build structures and navigate the space – and there is a great need for more research in this sense. What is sure, and all parties involved confirm, is that art benefits from the building of a narrative around it that makes it more accessible to a broader audience, within and beyond the crypto community. 

Is the orchestra more necessary than the maestro, or the opposite? We all know the answer: one doesn’t exist without the other. 


Crypto art exhibition “Not Another Brick in the Wall” curated by Chiara Braidotti and guided tour, Cryptovoxels Music District[email protected],40S 

Crypto art exhibition “CR(Y)PTALY” curated by Eleonora Brizi and guided tour, Cryptovoxel[email protected],57S 

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MoCDA provides digital art education and technology to artists, collectors and art enthusiasts. We focus our efforts on creating and distributing ground-breaking research and materials.

1 Comment

  1. I feel there is an imbalance between creators and the audience in cryptoart, as it stands there’s a plentiful supply of creators but few people to appreciate their art. Curators are vital for the success of cryptoart, they bridge the gap between the art they are presenting and the audience they are presenting it to. We need talented curators within the space to attract, engage and inform a wider audience.

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