Earlier this month, the Shanghai Himalayas Museum, an art gallery owned by the property giant Shanghai Zendai Group, launched its inaugural month-long exhibition, “Encrypted Shanghai: Himalayas Web3 Digital Art,” focusing on four sectors: digital collectibles, independent artists, profile pictures (PFP), and NFTs. (Which included IPs such as Phanta Bears, Theirsverse, and Azuki.)
This marked the first time that NFTs were exhibited in Shanghai, a notable development because the central government in Beijing prohibits their sale and resale on the Chinese mainland. To commemorate the exhibition, ACG (Anime, Comics, and Games) powerhouse Bilibili unveiled a collection of 2,022 AI-created digital collectibles.
The exhibition reflects Shanghai’s ambition to become mainland China’s leading metaverse hub, which includes “establishing an NFT trading market.” This could explain why authorities permitted the exhibition in the first place. After all, many Chinese netizens are familiar with IPs such as Phanta Bears thanks to their high-profile purchases by Mandopop idols like Jay Zhou.
The exhibition also indicates a tightening embrace of Web3 by Chinese galleries. Shen Qibin, the director of the Himalayas Museum, stated in an interview that the exhibition transcends the boundaries of space and time, a necessary transformation for galleries in the digital age.
Several other Web3 art exhibitions are being held globally as well. The U.S.-based Buffalo AKG Art Museum is hosting an online art show entitled “Peer to Peer,” which includes works from 13 contemporary artists, such as Mitchell Chan and Casey Reas, paired with the museum’s collections. Once the exhibition wraps, the displayed artworks will be available for purchase on Feral File, a digital art platform that collaborates with museums worldwide on NFT projects.
Merging the digital and physical, much like Shanghai Himalayas, Art Basel’s upcoming fair in Miami, unlike its prior exhibitions, will feature digital collectibles and metaverse artworks “front-and-center.” This adds additional momentum to Art Basel’s initiative to extend the “Art Basel experience” beyond the convention center.
The increasing frequency of Web3 art exhibitions in China and globally suggests that the digital art market remains resilient in the wake of the sudden collapse of FTX. Although NFT prices could be affected in the short term, the long-term vision of digital art, which is to integrate artistic creation with blockchain technology, remains attractive to both traditional art and crypto fans.