When visitors first enter the Denver Pavilions’ new pop-up exhibit, they may be initially disappointed to see what appears to be an empty space. However, once they put on the Microsoft HoloLens 2 headset (smart glasses that allow the user to explore a 3D virtual world), the space transforms into a digital art gallery, with pieces made up of everything from a blooming lotus to a Series of floating jellyfish.
The experience is part of it VERS: The art of the future, a show by California tech startup Enklu, which officially opens to the public on April 20 (an end date is yet to be determined). It includes art 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 (Ethereum is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin – one Etherum is about 3,000 US worth dollars). Dollar).
While all artwork shown is digital, most pieces are NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. For those who are not cryptocurrency savvy, trying to understand what an NFT actually is can feel like a postgraduate degree in rocket science. But Enklu CEO Ray Kallmeyer thinks it’s easy. “What really boggles people’s minds when they think of NFTs is that they dive straight into the ones and zeros and the heavy technical aspect,” says Kallmeyer. “But at its core, an NFT is just a digital collectible.”
While NFTs can take any form from audio files to real estate, they are most commonly digital art that can be purchased with cryptocurrency. And just like physical art, there is value in owning the original NFT rather than, for example, taking a screenshot of it, which would be tantamount to buying a print of an original. As tech writer Mitchell Clark with The edge explains if you exchange one bitcoin for another bitcoin you still have one bitcoin. However, trade in one unique trading card for another, and you have a completely different trading card. Collectors have even shown willingness to pay large cryptocurrencies for NFTs; Pieces from the renowned NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club are selling for 140 Ethereum per minute, around $430,000. “For the first time, digital artists can now earn an income with their work like traditional artists once did and live from these pieces,” says Kallmeyer.
The art world is trying to capitalize on the interest in NFTs—while helping artists get paid—by promoting digital artworks and hosting events. In October, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver hosted a four-part series on how NFTs are transforming the art space. Local art gallery IRL Art even launched its own NFT exhibition in December.
As NFTs continue to grow in the arts scene, Kallmeyer hopes to lead the way. During VERSE will not be the first NFT exhibit in Denver, it will be the first to fully integrate augmented reality. After a successful debut with the technology in San Francisco, Kallmeyer and his team began eyeing Denver as the next place to try virtual space. “From Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station to Santa Fe’s First Friday Art Walks, I’ve never seen an arts and culture space as vibrant as Denver’s,” says Kallmeyer. “While there’s a lot going on in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco, there’s just something special about Denver that we knew we had to be a part of.”
A basic $20 ticket allows visitors to see the art with their own smartphone or tablet, but we recommend the slightly more expensive admission price of $39 per ticket, which gives visitors the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience using a Microsoft headset . A premium entry ($85) even comes with a collector’s NFT, a kind of digital party favor.
Most of the NFT artworks on display are for sale, prices set by the artist, all in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency where an Ethereum is worth around $3,000. The nearly 50 pieces available include a stunning, realistic portrait by Michelle Kohler ($900) and an adorable Pixie in a Jar by artist Pixie Jars ($60).
Kallmeyer and his team hope to open more exhibitions across the country after Denver and have dreams of even hosting international experiences. “In my opinion, this is the future of galleries,” says Kallmeyer. “I know Denver residents are going to love it.”
When you go: VERS: The art of the future is located at the 500 16th Street Mall, Denver. Tickets range from $20 to $85.