Almine Rech is charting new territories, steering her namesake gallery into the world of NFTs. Almine established the gallery in 1997. To this day, it continues to act as a beacon of support for an impressive roster of contemporary artists across disciplines. One such artist is César Piette, who follows the lineage of Almine Rech artist Brian Calvin, releasing 1/1 NFTs on Foundation.
César’s series of NFTs are an extension of his first solo exhibition, Homework, currently on view at Almine Rech London through September 25. Using traditional techniques, César’s work is connected to the history of figurative painting, but expressed in “hyperplastic” formalism. In this series, César emphasizes an artificial, plastic quality, but the playful, toy-like nature of each rendered object is combined with art historical references.
Ahead of listing Cat on cushion for auction on Saturday, September 18, we interviewed both César and Almine about their ongoing collaboration and foray into Split NFTs.
I am a fine artist who works with 3D renderings, so in a way, I guess NFTs are like a natural extension to my work. The relationship to the digital pictures I produce have always been at the center of my practice. This drop is different from the previous one I did a few months back. For the first one, we created limited editions. For the new release, we are minting 5 images, but as 1/1 original works.
To me, the works we minted are fully integrated in my artistic practice, and I would say that the blockchain helped me catalyze ideas regarding digital pictures I work with. I consider myself a traditional painter and my work highlights the concerns of the practice of painting, as well as this subtle relationship between the analog and the digital.
The works are a selection of files I used for my paintings in the current show at Almine Rech London. They can be thought of as advanced digital sketches. I have always been interested in how I should consider the CG renderings on which my paintings are based—I try to get my paintings as close as possible to the renderings and even try to blur the lines between both, by eliminating brush strokes, for instance. There is a whole tradition of sketches in the practice of painting that are used to produce final works. Usually the sketches are considered inferior to the final painting (because they are smaller, or less detailed), but if you mint these digital sketches and authenticate them as editions of 1/1, they become originals. They act exactly like the final paintings, but the two exist on different planes: the physical world, and the digital.
Before the blockchain, those who used digital files for painting looked at this as a dominant/dominated relationship: the painting is shown and revered, and the files wind up inside a hard drive. A few years back, it was impossible to authenticate a jpg or a png file as an original, or as a limited edition. Now, the minted files have come to challenge the final paintings. The preparatory files and the paintings live their own lives, independently, in their respective mediums, but on the same level of importance. It becomes very difficult to say which has more value than the other. Because the physical paintings are based on the files, you could even claim that the final paintings are less original, or authentic, than the digital files and that the hierarchy is inverted.
I’m aware of these environments, and to be completely honest, I don’t know what to think about them yet regarding my practice, or I haven’t found a relevant way to approach them. A few decades ago, Clement Greenberg tried to define painting, and what we can say is that his definition didn’t stand the test of time. A lot of fields (social, sculpture, architecture etc…) that were excluded from it came to merge with painting, and painting lost its purity. It’s still difficult to set a definition that could perfectly suit painting, but physicality is one of its characteristics that could hardly be ignored. I think you can define painting, first because this is a physical object. Even in my case, where most of the brushstrokes have been removed, or erased, my works are still physical. All this to say that, for the moment, working or showing in a completely virtual world could be a bit weird, even antagonistic. But maybe I need more time to go on thinking about it.
Almine Rech has been interested in the rise of NFTs for quite some time. As an artist-driven gallery, we encourage and challenge our artists to experiment and constantly explore new artistic perspectives. The NFT format is very appealing for many of our artists, and we can't help but support them in navigating through this new realm of digital art.
It’s definitely a new way of conceiving artworks. The NFT ecosystem is dynamic and ever-changing, so I believe it will evolve.
Both traditional art lovers and digital-oriented collectors have responded very positively to our collaborations with Foundation. After the success of Brian Calvin, we are excited to launch NFTs by César Piette through the platform. Since we started our journey in the NFT world, we are in conversation with some of our other artists whose practices can also artistically speak within a digital vernacular.