Crypto Art Is in the Spotlight at Galeria Paloma's '1/1' Exhibition

IMAGE GALERIA PALOMA

One may argue that we can trace the spirit of an era through its art. Crypto art is no different.

As Crypto Art Week Asia nears, Galeria Paloma's second installment of its crypto art exhibition promises to represent the times. 1/1 (read as "one of one") puts together some of the best regional artists in the Philippines and Singapore. Crypto art, on a macro-scale, has come out of the shadows of the contemporary art scene, arguably becoming its shiniest new attraction.

Gallery Director Kimi Rocha-Delgado seems to agree with this, too, considering she and her family personally selected the pieces, which are digital artworks minted on the blockchain. She calls the artists "trailblazers" in the crypto art movement. Rocha-Delgado also sees this as an opportunity to bridge the gap between digital art forms and traditional art practices (the works will be displayed in Samsung The Frame TV screens).

Collectors have responded well to this undertaking, too, as the director points out. This is evidenced by the gallery's record sale of crypto art pioneer Luis Buenaventura's "Merge" last Sunday, September 25. It sold for a record price of 10 Ethereum (approximately P770,000). Suffice to say, the market is hot.

"Galeria Paloma is focused on bringing digital art to the forefront and presenting the work as viable art assets due to its inherent artistic merit," Rocha-Delgado says. "And with the blockchain infrastructure, there is now a solution to issues that arise in digital art ownership such as authenticity, proof of ownership, and artist royalties.”

Emphasis on the power of collaboration, artist rights, and inclusive technology, of course. The gallery chose a wide range of artists for the exhibit, encompassing various knowledge systems, practices, and art styles; from 10-year-old crypto art prodigy Sevi Agregado and animator Isaiah Cacnio to award-winning photographer brothers Cris and Win Magsino and Singapore-based artist, Wyn-Lyn Tan.

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Portraits of Holy Blood, Luis Buenaventura, Raymond Lauchengco, and Sevi Agregado.

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

Buenaventura, who happens to be the highest-selling artist out of the group, welcomes the range and depth of 1/1. He's been at this for a while. The artist is one of the first whose work has been included in the first NFT art collection ever minted on the Ethereum blockchain. Curio Cards sold with Christies in Ether for a cool $1.2 million (about P70 million) back in 2017. That was quite the snapshot in the timeline of the Filipino crypto art trade.

Crypto is also a commentary on history, Buenaventura says. "You can look at certain periods of history and look at the artworks that were produced during that time. You get a sense of what things were back then.

"I guess this is one of the reasons why the art I produce right now is very specific and niche, commenting on crypto itself. At the same time, it's powered by crypto," he explains. "I want to be able to look back at this 20 years from now and I'll be able to say that 'hey, this was what it was like.' These are the things that are constantly bugging me." It's these self-reflexive questions that intrigue him.

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"Ang Huling Hapunan" by AJ Dimarucot.

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

"A Perfect Trio" by Sheila Ledesma

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

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The movement has become bigger now, not just because of the collectors and crypto people around the scene, but also because of post-apocalyptic AI dread.

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He notes: "It's relevant right now because there's a lot of chatter, saying 'hey, why do we need artists? AI can just make stuff.' What I want to say is: AI is not conscious yet. We're not Skynet or Terminator. The thing is, what AI is generating right now, it's pixels on a screen. It's not meaningful. So you need a human will to produce art."

Tan echoes Buenaventura's sentiments, as well. "For me, as an artist recently exploring crypto art and technology, my goal is to still have a very emotive element to my digital work," she expresses. "Although it is a collaboration with the machine, I still would like to have the ability to convey."

"Rainbow Moose" by Sevi Agregado.

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

Humanity is in the heart of it all, crypto artists want us to know, as with the rest of the other artists in the showcase will tell us. Rounding out the group are CryptoArtPH co-founder Jopet Arias, traditional and crypto artist Carlos, graphic designer AJ Dimarucot, young visual artist Holy Blood, sculptor and photographer Raymond Lauchengco, and collage artist Sheila Ledesma. Each adds a layer to the ever-developing underbelly of Filipino crypto art.

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On the gallery's side of things, it will also be commemorating the installment with a limited-edition collaborative NFT called "The Twelve."

Call it a play on the parlor game "exquisite corpse," if you will. The said game was a brainchild of the Surrealist movement in the early 20th century. Players would take turns writing a string of words, by using the previous writer's contribution, leading to a collaborative narrative or text. It's a careful dialogue, in a sense. The gallery gave each artists 24 hours to respond to the other. It's an exercise of ideas, partnership, and imagination.

A closer look at the detail on "The Twelve."

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

These artists apply these same principles to "The Twelve." Here, we get a digital collage, layered freely, with no premeditated sequence, and infused with the various so-called realities each artist toys around with. It evolved from a painting by Carlos into something much more beautifully chaotic.

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Does the end justify the means or is it all just means? Maybe a little bit of both. Either way, the profoundness and gravitational pull of these things, we may argue, is in the process, not the outcome.

After Carlos, Lauchengco added his flora then Ledesma with her "lip/eye" collages. Buenaventura's signature humanoids are there, too (it was said to be a play on that Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Murders in Rue Morgue). Buenaventura notes: "It’s hard to make jokes like that because you’re never quite sure what kind of audience you’re presenting to. The murderer was an ape…so it was also a reference to Bored Apes and the like."

Clearing by the Village Bridge by Carlos.

Photo by GALERIA PALOMA.

Holy Blood gives us the Holy Ghost while the Magsinos add a "Magical Guilin" boatman and a man that frames the landscape. Tan throws in her discs and Dimarucot has his colorful trunk blending in the whole shebang. Cacnio and Arias adds flowers and overlays of augmented reality, respectively. Agregado's vibrant animals are there, too, to offset the rough urban undertones of the imagery. Think of it as a "Where's Waldo?" sort of thing.

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"The art had taken on a larger life than what we intended, which is what we know artists do," says Rocha-Lauchengco. "This will be a tradition we will hold on to in Galeria Paloma. The practice truly epitomizes the sense of collaboration and community—and individuality—unique to the space."

Galeria Paloma, in partnership with Samsung The Frame, mounts 1/1 from September 30 to October 4, 2022 at Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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