French artist César Piette has a talent for texture. In his pastel-hued canvases, his subjects — animals, grinning flora, human figures — are meticulously limned with hyperplastic surfaces so glossy and smooth that they blur the bounds of materiality. Are these digital renderings or hand-painted works? Well, they’re a bit of both: Piette commences each work with a sketch, then models on 3D software, before putting airbrush to canvas. The resulting artificiality is intended to interrogate the relationship between the real and virtual, reflecting how digital immersion has transformed the way we create and consume.
How fitting, then, that four of Piette’s works have lately been minted and made available as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in a collaboration with Almine Rech Editions, the publishing arm of Almine Rech Gallery, which represents the artist. The project marks the international gallery’s debut on the crypto marketplace, though, according to founder and art dealer Almine Rech, it had been tracking “the rise of digital NFT art for quite some time now.” She adds over email, “The decision to activate such an offering was a simple one with contemporary artist César Piette’s involvement, as his works have always come from a digital-world aesthetic.”
On March 14, Piette’s NFTs were released on Nifty Gateway in editions of 25, 50, and 100, and priced between $250 and $799. They sold out swiftly. On the heels of Almine Rech Editions’ successful NFT launch, Rech shared more about how the partnership came about and what it might mean for the gallery’s crypto art future.
How was the collaboration between Almine Rech Editions, Piette, and Nifty Gateway launched?
The gallery proposed the idea to Piette as we thought it made sense with his art, then the decision to do it was entirely his. We were involved throughout the entire process, but César chose the works he wanted to be launched.
What was it about the NFT art space that appealed to the gallery?
NFTs, and their ability to confer individual uniqueness between editions, brings galleries a new way to showcase digital art editions. NFTs embrace digital art in its truest form, so it was an appealing new format to explore, especially with an artist already heavily involved in the digital-world aesthetic.
What were some key considerations when it came to picking an NFT platform to work with?
Nifty Gateway is the premier marketplace for NFT art. Artist acceptance on Nifty Gateway is on a case-by-case basis, so the marketplace is never over-saturated. Another draw was that Nifty Gateway is a centralized, USD-based marketplace and collectors do not need to make purchases using cryptocurrency, which inherently makes the platform more universal.
Were there any challenges during the process of launching these NFTs?
NFTs are such a groundbreaking concept and many are still learning the ins and outs of this new space. We had to ensure that the concept itself was effectively communicated to our audience in a digestible way.
Does Almine Rech Gallery plan to remain active in the NFT space?
We have received extremely positive feedback on our first foray into NFTs. But we don’t know how this is going to evolve — it will, of course — though we will have to watch this closely. We are in talks with a number of our artists about their interest in launching NFTs.
What would be your advice to other galleries hoping to enter the NFT market?
We believe it was simple with Piette as his works have always come, in some ways, digitally. Our advice would be to partner with an artist with existing experience in the realm of digital art who could create works specifically for this digital revolution. That said, there are very few limitations on how artists can engage with the technology, so it also opens up exciting possibilities for artists working in new and traditional media alike.
How do you foresee the NFT space developing in the next few years?
NFTs are one element of a larger digital revolution across the art market. 2020 brought about an immediate need to adjust and evolve the way in which we work and conduct so much of not only our personal lives, but business. We saw a huge shift in the way we consume art, moving from physical to digital spaces, and while we are still working towards a new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we envision that we will continue to see online viewing rooms and new digital tools to view and create art.