Beijing, China – Hashtags: NOUS xLab, Blockchain, Decentralization, Art Museum, Virtual Reality
A decentralized Art Museum system inspired by wikihouse.
“We all know that buildings and artifacts live far longer than human beings,” says Dahuang Lu, NOUS xLab’s curator. “That’s why we build museums to represent history, identity and beauty. But now, all these objects themselves are transformed into semantics and symbols. Data and Media are the new images we build for humanistic renaissance beyond temples and museums.”
The current hub of the art world
In 2018, the Venice Biennale welcomed a whopping 270,000 visitors to its contemporary art pavilions displayed against the backdrop of old Venetian plaster. As one of the most prestigious art shows in the world, it continues to be a hallmark for emerging artists and students wishing to build their careers. However, a closer look at the numbers shows that the amount of visitors was only a fraction of how many unique viewers saw their official website: 1,226,384.
This reveals an underlying problem in the art market. Art is treated as a hallmark of past and present civilizations. You don’t need to look further than scarves printed with The Starry Night or The Great Wave of Kanagawa in a film to see that art history pervades our culture. Yet, like the 950,000 people we imagine could only see The Venice Biennale on their screens, most people do not have the chance to fly into New York City, walk down Sixth Avenue, and make it to the MOMA for a face to face experience with Jackson Pollock’s work.
In a 2016 article, Fact-Checking the Growing Murmurs of an Impending Burst of the Art Market Bubble, Artsy editors identified 3 key-words used to describe the art market right now: stagnation, slowdown, and stabilization. Some sources suggest that the art market is decentralized enough to reach a diverse range of customers. Yet, the height of the fine art world continues to revolve itself around major shows in large cities that known art critics, international curators, and prestigious historians reconvene in. In a piece for Apollo Magazine, art reviewer Rachel Weltzer noted that after visiting a new Biennale in a small country, she realized not one of the visitors she met were locals. The infrastructure and institutions are there to educate and share art. However, the access is not. Intentionally or not, the art world is elitist.
Changing the scene with technology
Blockchain, an emerging technology, offers art curators a tool to pull the art market out of stagnation. According to Art Basel writer Anneli Botz, blockchain can make the art world more secure by verifying authenticity, provenance, and safe transactions. However, only a few institutions see blockchain as a window of opportunity to democratize the art scene.
NOUS xLab is one such company. Based in Beijing, China, NOUS xLab offers 20/40 ISO-container sized blocks that come with hardware to turn exhibitions into data-media. The portable nature of the blocks would mean that exhibitions can travel from city to city. Once that physical curation is turned into data media, this would allow NOUS xLab exhibitions to reach even more people because it essentially allows the curation to be replicated.
Data-media blocks open many doors when combined with other cutting edge technology. NOUS xLab is aiming for the ambitious feat of developing these blocks to have the capability of being transformed into 3D Prints, webcam broadcasts, or virtual reality experience that would make these shows accessible to the average art enthusiast before they even have to learn about blockchain. If art directors and curators decided to display their art in settings like NOUS xLab’s containers, it could decentralize the art world.
Tobias Zaft: Flexipolis@NOUS xLab (video, 3d printings, and CNC mechanism), Beijing, 2015
What will a decentralized art museum look like?
For those of you that are art buyers or enthusiasts, you might start seeing NOUS xLab containers in your local pier or street corner. This doesn’t sound different from a local art gallery at first thought, but traveling shows often attract more attention as limited-edition experiences.
Moreover, galleries are often locked into central city regions like New York’s Manhattan, or Paris’ 1st Arrondissements. Systems like NOUS xLab could help expand these galleries’ realms of influence by presenting their artists work in the outer neighborhoods of these major cities.
For the art director and curator, experimenting with opensource hardware and applications can create more dynamic curation. User-friendly technology that allows curators to digitally assemble the space with an interactive screen could facilitate the exhibition process so that there’s a clear vision in place before the art is physically attached.
At the end of the day, the Metropolitan Museum and the MOMA will still have their massive period-based collections that run from Ancient Mesopotamia to Roy Lichtenstein. But contemporary art can afford new media solutions to revitalize the art industry.
A decentralized art world opens the chance to reach an untapped market. Technologies like virtual reality and blockchain offered by NOUS xLab could be used to break borders and impact new minds.