In July, Beijing’s X Museum airdropped its first digital collectibles, tokens featuring a depiction of a Bacchanalia-bound vessel, created in partnership with artist Tong Kunniao (童昆鸟). It marked the Chinese institution’s debut in the NFT arena, though, it seems, X Museum’s interrogations into Web3 have run deeper and for longer. Earlier this week, the museum unveiled X Virtual, an initiative emerged from two years’ worth of research into virtual and online environments — explorations that have borne fruit in X Virtual’s first metaversal exhibition.
On August 16, X Virtual’s inaugural project, X Virtual Incubator, arrived online. Developed in partnership with Silicon Valet, the outing presents four metaversal worlds where viewers can gather for a first-person perspective of new cyber-realities and multimedia disciplines.
Four digital artists — namely Gabriel Massan, Kim Laughton, CheeseTalk, and ayrtbh — working across China, the UK, and Brazil, have been commissioned to create these immersive virtual environments, which range from a futuristic biotech agency to an ancient temple with an unknown past. The works variously deploy media not limited to generative audio, MMO elements, and AI chatbots, and can be experienced on desktop or in VR.
Co-curated by Poppy Dongxue Wu and Pete Jiadong Qiang, the digital showcase will also have an offline counterpart at X Museum in September, when two immersive installations will go on view.
Why it matters
Of course, the X Virtual Incubator befits a museum that’s long prided itself on embracing innovation and a diversity of cultures across mediums. But more so, it promises that X Museum’s adventures on the blockchain are proceeding creator-first — a marked difference from Web3 offerings by other Chinese institutions, which have mostly centered on digital collectibles. The approach bodes well for the Beijing venue’s Web3 prospects, particularly against a backdrop of swelling investment and interest in the virtual realm.
The X Virtual Incubator is currently also accepting applications from digital artists, with the program intending to cultivate and platform emerging creators. In this, it echoes other ventures such as the LG Guggenheim Art and Technology Initiative and LACMA’s digital art acquisition fund — efforts by museums to advance and enrich the digital art space, while ensuring said-institutions are situated at the vanguard of Web3. It remains to be seen if this (very much-needed) institutional support will be sustained beyond the NFT bubble, but for now, it’s a thing worth watching.
What they said
“X Virtual Incubator is the inaugural project of X Virtual — an assemblage of virtual worlds that provides 3D meetups for art enthusiasts and creative intellectuals… The project delves into spatiality and its multiple connotations in the virtual environment by commissioning artists to work primarily on X Virtual’s online community.” — X Museum