Digital contrasts: Palazzo Strozzi & NFTs

Refik Anadol

Let’s take the elevator. Destination? Strozzina: the underground exhibition venue in Palazzo Strozzi. The NFT world has been unveiled and displayed with all its novelties through the critical eyes of Arturo Galansino, Director of Palazzo Strozzi and curator of the exhibition, together with Serena Tabacchi, Director of MoCDA (Museum of Contemporary Digital Art).

Refik Anadol


By Giulia Piceni. Cover image: Refik Anadol, Machine Hallucinations – Renaissance Dreams (2022), site-specific installation, Palazzo Strozzi courtyard. AI Data Sculpture, Video loop, LED wall. Courtesy of RAS – Refik Anadol Studio. Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO studio

Even if the Palazzo Strozzi architecture is far in time from our contemporary world, the Florentine cultural institution has the freedom to experiment and play with the present between its walls.
Entering its signature courtyard, we are faced with the Refik Anadol installation: a digitised colour- and shape-changing mass of digital particles that move continuously, agitated by a mysterious force. It evolves without end, just like the art world itself. This is the starting point of a new, challenging way of discovering the digital world and expanding its boundaries. 


Descending the underground halls of Strozzina, we meet one of the main characters of the current cryptoart: Beeple. Through his NFTs, he shows all the inconsistencies of the digital art world. With ironic creations, the digital artist himself brings up the following questions: are NFTs real art or not? Are they worth the hype they generate or is it just another way to submit to a system that encourages people to shift their attention to immateriality and create a new profitable situation?
A second room hosts a series of definitions to educate the audience about the new non-physical art: blockchain, digital wallet, smart contact, minting, cryptocurrency and metaverse. In the same spot, visitors to the show can also get a POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol), a free digital badge (in this case, even personalised) that testifies the presence in a specific venue. The POAP was created by Eva Dao, an emerging collective network that aims to connect the digital and physical worlds to expand and make visitors’ experiences even more immersive. 


Lights and shadows, newness, and instability about the future: such contrasts are imbued in the video installation by Anyma, a multidisciplinary project of the Italian duo of Matteo Milleri and Alessio de Vecchi. Five video screens materialise in Anyma’s dark image of a raw natural world hybridised with the most sophisticated technology. The installation is also meant to be experienced with a futuristic track that completely immerses the viewer. 

Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), ALIVE #2/3, 2021. Video files (NFT). Collection Jehan Chu. Courtesy of the artist

All the NFTs in this exhibition are not just digital art but the expression of a global, varied phenomenon that influences how art is sold. Paradoxically, it also questions the main features that set art and average digital creations apart (if there are any). NFTs may be a trend that will last just another year, and after that, nothing will be there except for their memories, or maybe they will continue to shake the art market and win the skeptical critics.


In all this confusion, one this is for sure: the art world has finally found a new question to unfold, giving the young generation of artists a new world to define and new objectives to seek.

Giulia Piceni is an undergraduate student in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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