- USURPA Gallery in Riviera, Johannesburg, is breaking new ground by being the first physical gallery dedicated exclusively to exhibiting fine-art non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
- The opening of the gallery allows for a more personal and tangible connection with dynamic digital artworks, an opportunity that's not always easy to come by.
- We caught up with the gallery's CEO to talk about the inspiration behind the gallery and what they believe their role is in the evolving digital art market.
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USURPA Gallery in Riviera, Johannesburg, is breaking new ground by being the first physical gallery dedicated exclusively to exhibiting fine-art non-fungible tokens (NFTs), propelling the country's art landscape into the future.
The concept of digital art has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years, thanks to the advent of NFTs. These are unique digital assets that leverage blockchain technology to establish ownership and origin for digital creations. Over the years, they've enabled artists to sell and showcase their work in a decentralised, secure and transparent manner.
The opening of USURPA Gallery - which recognises the importance of providing a platform for local artists to showcase their digital creations in a physical space - allows for a more personal and tangible connection with dynamic digital artworks, an opportunity that's not always easy to come by.
The gallery is somewhat of a revolutionary leap forward for the art scene in South Africa. As the first of its kind in the country, it's essentially expanding the horizons of artistic expression and positioning our country as a forward-thinking hub for digital art creation, curation and appreciation.
Also, the gallery's emphasis on African narratives and Afro-optimism - which we'll get to just now - means it gives a platform to African artists to tell their stories in future-led ways.
News24 recently caught up with USURPA Gallery's CEO, Steve Tanchel, to talk about the inspiration behind the gallery, what they believe their role is in the evolving digital art market and what they plan to contribute to the future of Africa's art scene.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind creating a physical fine-art NFT gallery and how it differs from traditional art galleries?
We always believed that it was essential to have a physical gallery to complement our digital platform. We are curating Digital Fine Art and the work needs to live in a physical realm.
We wanted to create a hub for the artists, where we could meet, brainstorm and enjoy the works as you would in a gallery.
How do you see USURPA's role in the evolving digital art market, and what unique advantages does it offer artists and collectors?
Our philosophy is deeply rooted in the African narrative, with a large lean towards African future thought. We believe in Afro-optimism in all its forms.
We are pushing the envelope with dynamic digital art. This art requires a different creative output from the artist. In order to create art that lives in a digital realm, the work needs to be created in conjunction with a coding technician. Some of the works require extensive visual effects.
We are creating access to this tech - but, in saying so, we still require big businesses to get involved and help emerging artists push through the glass ceiling.
How do you approach curating pieces for USURPA?
Fostered on the ethos of African-optimism and future-led thought, the soul of USURPA's curatorial direction imbues a need for narrative change. The roster of digital artists under its banner are canonised to address the macro global political machinery, as much as the micro personal politick - concerned with prevalent themes, such as mental wellness and social change, through their practice.
Representative of their generation, the practice of USURPA artists recognises the trauma of the continent's past, while also recognising the strength its people have shown in moving into the future.
Given this context, USURPA's curatorial currency is in its capacity to broadcast a clear intention to subvert longstanding tropes about Africa.
This also pays attention to the unique circumstances African artists face in developing new communities enveloped by a collective voice of self-determination to navigate and thrive in the world.
How does USURPA educate potential buyers on the technology and concepts behind NFTs, and what steps are taken to ensure that buyers feel confident in their purchases?
At the moment, USURPA is using Nifty Gateway as a delivery mechanism for clients to purchase and display their digital art. This platform is well-known and has safety mechanisms in place in order for buyers to know that their digital artwork is safe, either in their own wallet or within Nifty Gateway's managed wallet.
As USURPA begins to move onto its own platforms, the physical space becomes even more prominent as it is known that people have trust issues within the purely digital space because there are many scams.
We aim to get the public into the space to engage, interact and consult by running educational workshops and onboarding clients onto the relevant platforms.
In terms of the future of NFTs, how do you see USURPA evolving alongside this market and continuing to offer unique experiences for art lovers locally?
The beauty of the NFT market is the ability for the artist to receive royalties in perpetuity.
USURPA views the NFT as a certificate of ownership that is publicly available.
The gallery will be producing works that have the Pan-African spirit of optimism and meeting this with innovation that is timeless.
We are pushing the boundaries of digital art and how it can become more than just an image or looping video on a screen, such as art that can be experienced and interacted with in real time.
USURPA is not just another NFT project, it is focused on all forms of digital art and is working to bring innovative ideas to the space, such as projection mapping holograms, virtual reality, augmented reality and much more…
What has the response been like from artists and collectors since the opening of USURPA, and what plans do you have for the future?
Conservative art collectors will never immerse in new mediums - this is an age old curatorial battle, but the reception from artists and forward-thinking collectors alike has been phenomenal.
Artists have been seeking a platform they can trust and a medium to engage and collaborate with their communities.
At our first group exhibition, major partners from the RMB Latitudes art fair attended and were absolutely adamant that even at such short notice it is essential for USURPA to showcase this new medium at the fair.
Africa has a major problem of resources and accessibility to high quality technology and even basic art materials.
We plan to create tech labs across Africa, with access to high quality technology, allowing artists to collaborate, innovate, educate and have residencies that will allow international opportunities in many regards.