Art collectors and cryptocurrency investors have gone wild over the past year buying up art that only exists in the digital world. Now Desiree Casoni, a collector in Key Biscayne, Florida, is trying to figure out how to hang all her new purchases on the wall.
Ms. Casoni owns more than 500 digital artworks with her investor husband, Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile. Bored of browsing through their collection on a cellphone or laptop, the couple initially retrofitted a few TVs throughout the house, but that meant downloading files to USB sticks and plugging them in. Ms Casoni said they then tried digital photo frames designed to run looping slideshows of family photos, but said some of these models did not allow them to resize or crop the images.
“I don’t want to look like I live at Best Buy,
with big black screens everywhere,” Ms. Casoni said.
The couple even experimented with placing a projector on a pedestal in the corner of their living room and pointing it at a blank canvas hanging on an opposite wall. When they turn off the projector, digital works such as “Elephant Dreams II”, a surreal pink landscape by Andrés Reisinger and RAC, disappear. When it does, the white canvas alone “seems minimalist,” she said.
Collectors spent $21 billion trading digital art and collectibles last year, up from $67 million in 2020, according to digital analytics firm DappRadar. Most of these digital artworks were attached to NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which act as credentials on the blockchain for virtual goods, such as digital art.
It turns out those who are adventurous enough to buy the most cutting-edge digital media are always looking for some kind of real way to show it off at home.
Collectors say they want their physical frames and displays to match the “wow” factor of their digital art. Stephen Zautke, an investor building a house in Puerto Rico, said he plans to cover a wall at the entrance to his new home with a six-square-foot micro-LED screen. It is specially designed to show highly detailed images – in its case, Refik Anadol’s vibrantly colored 3D digital tank, “Quantum Memories Probability”.
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Artistic advisor Yvonne Force Villareal recently championed the same wall screen idea on her Instagram account, posting a video touting the expansive screen in the studio of her artist husband Leo Villareal, who has just released a series of NFTs.
Steven Sacks, who runs New York’s bitforms gallery, said he’s been inundated with calls from collectors looking to frame digital works. Mr Sacks said he told them it was possible to get an 8ft wide TV screen for around $14,000, although custom jobs by digital signage companies can be over $150,000 $. He said he doesn’t recommend converting regular TVs that might cost a few hundred dollars into art displays because it diminishes how the artwork is perceived.
“You shouldn’t want to turn on the football game after clicking on your $100,000 artwork,” he said. “It does the art a disservice.”
The same goes for locking your NFT collection to your cell phone, says Aaron Cunningham, a Berlin-based developer who sells framed spots in his digital museum, Musee Dezentral, where people can display their digital art. “It’s one thing to watch it on your phone, but great art has to be elevated beyond the swipe and like,” Mr Cunningham said.
A startup, Framed, is selling NFTs that mimic ornate picture frames. They are formatted to be attached to other digital artworks so the pair can be published together. Tokenframe, on the other hand, allows collectors to upload their NFTs directly to its physical frames. “At this point the world is so inundated with NFTs – how can you differentiate yours to signal its value?” said Sven Palys, the founder of Frame.
Major collectors and artists say the answer, perhaps ironically, is to go for an even more analog look. In another area of Ms. Casoni’s living room in Florida is a blue device by Swedish designer Love Hulten that evokes a vintage arcade game, only the screen displays a video sound piece titled “I Miss You” by artists Vini Naso and Yambo. The image shows a couple floating in an embrace, and people can turn the buttons on the device to zoom in or out.
Mr. Hulten and artist Lirona collaborated on “synth#boi,” a limestone piece whose round screen is attached to a synthesizer keyboard. Press the keys and parts of a happy robot face light up the screen. Mr Hulten said he designed his exhibition “in symbiosis with his work of art”. The edition of 10 quickly sold for around $65,000 each.
Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name Beeple, is another artist known for teaming up with a partner to create displays for his symbolized art. In the past, he has commissioned New York-based Infinite Objects to permanently encase his work in sheets of clear acrylic, objects the company calls video prints. Infinite Objects said it has shipped over 50,000 units by it and other artists since its launch two years ago.
Recently, when Mr. Winkelmann wanted to expand to create his first sculpture, “HUMAN ONE”, the artist used mahogany to construct a box-like structure around a quartet of LG television screens, qu it’s positioned vertically. The rotating result ended up looking like a phone booth, but with screens showing video of a man in a spacesuit walking on a loop. (Infinite Objects said it recently launched its own line of larger screens.)
Ryan Zurrer, a digital art collector based in Zug, Switzerland, paid $28.9 million for “HUMAN ONE,” but he hasn’t had it shipped home yet. He already has 80 other NFT artworks but only displays a handful at home. He cites environmental reasons for not using screens all the time.
Mr. Zurrer keeps eight pieces of Mad Dog Jones, Mr. Anadol and Beeple lined up on a shelf behind his desk in his home office. To be able to turn them all on at the flick of a switch, he had to synchronize them using a hidden “bucket of wires”.
The rest of his house? It stays without NFTs, he says, “until my wife finds one she likes enough to live with.”
Write to Kelly Crow at [email protected]
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