Women-led NFT gallery Vellum LA is transforming how we experience art
LA Art Show, which typically takes place in January, pulled off a summer 2021 comeback as one of the first live events to take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center in the COVID-19 era. Art fans who expected the show to skip a year had yet another major surprise in store when they were greeted by an expansive NFT digital art gallery as soon as they entered the convention floor. The historic NFT exhibit, one of (if not) the first at a major art show, was a preview for Vellum LA, a new NFT-backed gallery that opened its doors on Melrose Avenue earlier this month.
"The experience of walking into Vellum LA will be similar to walking into a traditional gallery in the sense that we intend the Luma Canvas displays to feel like an invisible vehicle for the artwork rather than feeling as if you're looking at TV screens with art on them," says Sinziana Velicescu, an award-winning photographer and Vellum's curator. "With the possibility of incorporating AR, VR and time-based art experiences, we hope to showcase works that transcend what can either only be experienced in the physical world or only in the digital realm."
Vellum LA, whose founders remain anonymous, partnered with StandardVision to feature the digital works on museum-grade Luma Canvas LED displays. The space, located on a popular stretch of Melrose Avenue in the heart of Hollywood, debuted December 9 with the group show Color :: Field featuring new media and digital artists like Anne Vieux, Alida Sun, Andy Gilmore, IX Shells, LIA and Zach Lieberman. As an opening-night exclusive, the gallery also hosted Krista Kim's immersive pop-up CONTINUUM on a 600-sq-ft LED wall with original music by Smashing Pumpkins' guitarist Jeff Schroeder.
As the curator for one of the only brick-and-mortar NFT galleries in the world, Velicescu has an extensive list of digital artists that she can feature, but she exclusively chose female and non-binary content creators for the LA Art Show. Though the space will welcome all artists, Velicescu plans to highlight underrepresented groups within the digital space.
"We plan to continue to curate with inclusivity in mind," she explains. "We also hope to engage with guest curators to further expand this scope. We understand that NFTs are very much about community-driven spaces and dialogue, and we'd like to honor that by bringing in a diverse array of voices to participate in what Vellum LA can become, allowing for a more fluid space that can exist outside of the traditional confines of your typical fine art gallery."
The curation process is also different for a digital space than a traditional art gallery, but Velicescu specializes in digital mediums.
She continues, "My background is in curating digital art for non-traditional spaces — large-scale, high-resolution screens of various shapes and sizes in public and private, indoor and outdoor spaces around the world. I'm using this background to inform my approach on how digital art could successfully be displayed and curated within the physical world. Technical considerations regarding aspect ratio, resolution, viewing distance as well as more conceptual considerations around the work itself all come into play when curating for the space, not so different in many ways from a traditional gallery."
Vellum LA partnered with SuperRare for the LA Art Show, but Velicescu plans to collaborate with several existing platforms, and the featured artists can decide whether or not to sell their works as stand-alone NFTs or on digital displays like Luma Canvas. Likewise, the sale prices might be in cryptocurrency, fiat dollars or both, depending on the artist and the platform used.
As far as suggestions for digital artists who want to feature their art in galleries, Velicescu says they should think ahead to the differences between a computer screen and a larger digital display.
"It's important to understand that technology moves much faster these days than ever before," she explains. "Resolution and compression are not only important factors for displaying work physically but should also be considered for archival purposes in collecting and storing artwork. There's room for education with artists and collectors alike about the limitations in place within some of the NFT marketplaces today and around the importance of storing and collecting high-resolution, adequately uncompressed work that can stand the test of time."
As a photography-based artist herself, she's learned to capture a larger narrative in a single shot, and she has further suggestions on how this can be applied to digital art creation.
She continues, "My fine art photography work deals a lot with seeing my immediate surroundings in a new and different way, essentially creating my own imagined world as a means of escaping the reality of day-to-day life. It may not look anything like the digital art I curate, but there is definitely a similar theme that digital artists explore when employing the tools they have to create new and imagined realities through their practice and as a curator. I've always been interested in artists who explore those worlds and find new meaning within them."
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