Urs Fischer has never felt beholden to genre. Whether it’s by defacing the iconic Louis Vuitton logo in the name of brand collaboration or building a life-size Swiss chalet from loaves of bread, Fischer has made his name flouting convention, often to remarkable monetary ends: individual tickets have fetched upwards of $6 million at auction. This kind of cross-disciplinary market engagement makes the Swiss artist’s foray into the NFT arena a natural fit. Hot on the heels of Beeple’s $69 million blockchain coup at Christie’s in March, art world mainstays are reimagining their offerings to better accommodate this seismic shift — and Pace Gallery, which represents Fischer, is no exception.
Fair Warning, a members-only auction app created by former Christie’s specialist Loic Gouzer, is joining forces with Pace Gallery and the platform MakersPlace to sell a series of 501 NFT artworks by Fischer, collectively titled CHAOS. Each NFT consists of two unique, familiar objects that have been 3D-scanned and set on colliding courses in orbit, a literal mash-up of uncanny matter in virtual space that Fischer terms “digital sculptures.”
Designed to work on any imaginable platform, the CHAOS series is helping to usher in a new kind of digital future for both Fischer and Pace. And so far, the results are promising: after its launch on April 5 on Fair Warning, “CHAOS #1” fetched a respectable sale price of $98,000, almost 100 times its estimate. His following NFTs, #2 to #6, landed on MakersPlace yesterday. Gouzer says, “I truly believe that decentralization concurrent with hyper-curation, such as the one provided by Fair Warning, will play a key role in the assertion of this new medium.”
NFTs with eco on the mind
Fischer isn’t the only Pace artist to undergo an NFT debut. Irish new media innovator John Gerrard released his first-ever NFT on March 24 through the Foundation app, a platform touted as “a creative playground for artists, curators and collectors to experience the new creative economy.” The project, a unique sequence derived from Gerrard’s 2017 solar simulation entitled “Western Flap (Spindletop, Texas),” draws on the success of his iconic climate change protest image, uniquely suited for the “radical transparency” of an NFT sale.
Advertised as the first “superneutral” NFT in the marketplace, 50 percent of the Ethereum proceeds from the “Western Flag” sale will be transferred to an emergency crypto fund founded by Gerrard called regenerate.farm, which aids soil restoration and post-petroleum agricultural practices in Ireland. The auction’s energy usage and carbon footprint will also be tracked by the website Carbon.FYI to better help regenerate.farm offset the sale’s environmental toll — a novel move in the context of public criticism towards NFTs’ use of energy.
Fischer’s Fair Warning collaboration shares an eco-minded approach: proceeds from “CHAOS #1” will go to Oceana, a nonprofit organization designed to preserve the world’s oceans. Not only will this donation help offset the minting of each NFT, but a percentage will also be staked on Ethereum 2.0 for the purpose of sustainable NFT research and programming.
Toward a digital future
Fischer and Gerrard’s entree into the world of NFTs represents not just a crypto pivot, but forward-thinking acceptance of a brave new world. “We are proud to be the first gallery offering a support system for artists who want to enter the NFT space,” notes Marc Glimcher, President and CEO of Pace. “As Urs Fischer’s groundbreaking CHAOS series exemplifies, there are no limits to artistic experimentation and expression with NFTs.”
Glimcher heralds these partnerships as an opportunity for galleries to think outside the box. “The rise of the NFT marketplace has created a new model with the potential to complement and enhance the traditional art market,” he says. “Pace works with several artists engaging with technology as a medium, and the NFT format is another tool for their arsenal.”