When visitors first arrive at the Denver Pavilions’ new pop-up exhibit, they may at first be disappointed to see what appears to be an empty room. Once they put on the Microsoft HoloLens 2 headset (a pair of smart glasses that, when put on, allow the user to explore a 3D virtual world), the space will transform into an art gallery digital, with pieces consisting of everything from a blooming lotus to a series of floating jellyfish.
The experience is part VERSE: The art of the future, a show run by California-based tech startup Enklu that officially opens to the public on April 20 (an end date is yet to be determined). It includes artwork from some of the biggest creators in the NFT space, including Bored Ape Yacht Club and BlockBar, as well as local artists like Chris Dyer, Hyperstasis and Michelle Kohler. Denver will be the second city to host the augmented reality experience. Enklu held a similar exhibition in San Francisco last February, where Lyon-based artist Android Jones managed to sell his work, “Electro Forest”, for 11 Ethereum (like Bitcoin, Ethereum is a cryptocurrency – a Etherum is worth around $3,000 US dollars).
Although all artwork shown is digital, most pieces are NFTs or non-fungible tokens. For those who aren’t cryptocurrency savvy, trying to figure out what an NFT actually is can feel like taking a graduate course in rocket science. But Ray Kallmeyer, CEO of Enklu, thinks it’s simple. “What really intrigues people when they think of NFTs is that they dive right into the ones and zeros and the heavy tech aspect,” says Kallmeyer. “But at its core, an NFT is just a digital collectible.”
Although NFTs can take any form, from audio files to real estate, most often they are digital art that can be purchased using cryptocurrency. And just like physical art, there’s value in owning the original NFT, instead of, say, taking a screenshot of it, which would be like buying a copy of an original. As technical writer Mitchell Clark with The edge explains, if you trade one bitcoin for another bitcoin, you still have one bitcoin. However, trade one one-of-a-kind trading card for another and you get a completely different trading card. Collectors have even shown their willingness to pay big bucks for NFTs; coins from the famous NFT Bored Ape Yacht Club collection are selling per minute for 140 Ethereum, or about $430,000. “For the first time, digital artists can now earn an income from their work, just as traditional artists once could, and make a living from those works,” says Kallmeyer.
The art world is trying to cash in on the interest in NFTs, while helping artists get paid, promoting digital artwork, and hosting events. In October, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver hosted a four-part series on how NFTs are changing art space. Local art gallery IRL Art even launched its own NFT exhibition in December.
As NFTs continue to grow in the art scene, Kallmeyer hopes to lead the way. While VERSE won’t be the first NFT exhibit in Denver, it will be the first to fully incorporate augmented reality. After a successful start with the tech in San Francisco, Kallmeyer and his team began considering Denver as the next place to try out the virtual space. “From Meow Wolf Convergence Station to First Friday Art Walks in Santa Fe, I’ve never seen such a vibrant arts and culture space like Denver,” says Kallmeyer. “While New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco have a lot going for them, there’s just something special about Denver that we knew we had to play a part in.”
A basic $20 ticket will allow visitors to view the art using a smartphone or tablet, but we recommend opting for the slightly more expensive admission price of $39 per ticket , which gives visitors the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience with Microsoft. helmet. Premium admission ($85) even comes with a collectible NFT, a kind of digital gift.
Most of the NFT artwork on display is for sale, with prices set by the artist, all in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency where one Ethereum is worth around $3,000. The nearly 50 pieces available include a stunning realistic portrait of Michelle Kohler ($900) and an adorable pixie in a jar by artist Pixie Jars ($60).
As for Kallmeyer and his team, they hope to open other exhibitions across the country after Denver, even dreaming of hosting international experiences. “In my opinion, this is the future of art galleries,” says Kallmeyer. “I know the people of Denver will love it.”
If you are going to: VERSE: The art of the future is located at 500 16th Street Mall, Denver. Tickets range from $20 to $85.