The metaverse is a noble and vague concept. It is also the violet storefront on Franklin Street in New York.
At least that’s the thinking behind Olive Allen’s new exhibition at the Postmasters Gallery, which aims to recreate the Web3 world inside a white cube. The title doubles as an ominous invitation:Welcome to the Metaverse. “
A new series of NFTs contains most of the show’s offerings, from collaged digital paintings to animations of lush virtual landscapes to several artist-designed avatars. The latter set of scans are sent for Bored Apes, CryptoPunks, and other collectible characters. One is Phoebe in streetwear, the other is a bull-bear hybrid with market chart arrows on his belly. They look stupid and that’s the point.
With its cheap ice-skating rink lighting and glitchy soundtrack, Allen’s exhibit doesn’t actually capture the essence of virtual worlds — at least not the utopian visions touted by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech evangelists. But it does affect some of the influences we associate with the term 2022: ’90s nostalgia, corporate collaborations, video game aesthetics, vicious Healer vibes.
The exhibition marks Allen’s first solo outing, and the young NFT pioneer seems poised to do what few of her contemporaries in crypto art have done: gain a foothold in the traditional art world. A pixel-thin line runs between her two records of work: a sincere belief in the promise of blockchain, and a satirical critique of the culture that has emerged around it. Whether they found it via IRL or a URL, viewers took notice.
“Olive didn’t enter the NFT space with wide-eyed and naive infatuation. Her work is important,” Postmasters co-founder Magda Sawon said of the newest addition to her roster, which has featured digital art since the late 1980s, including Eva and Franco Mattes as well as Kevin and Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, among others Trailblazers. “We have a solid understanding of what’s behind it all, the pitfalls and dangers we see in Web 2.0, and the full-blown corporate acquisition of this space. “
Allen was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States about a dozen years ago when he turned 18. First, she came to Los Angeles, where she said she learned English by partying and earning money by modeling part-time. Then came New York, and with it an even bigger din. Rent is usually paid through online “flip Supreme merch,” she explained. To do so, she mastered fashion’s strategy of creating hype — gimmicks she later exploited in her artistic practice.
It was also around this time that Allen began producing digital artwork on tablets, slowly integrating into the nascent community that was forming around crypto art at the time. She founded her own NFT marketplace and social platform called Decadent and moved to San Francisco to get the startup off the ground.
Decadent didn’t thrive, but its failure brought other lasting contributions to NFT culture. For Halloween 2019, Allen posted “13 Scary and Disappointing Items,” a collection of collectible NFT characters that look like they should be for sale on Hot Topic: a neon green alien, a voodoo doll, a “despicable” beanie baby. Decadent’s website goes live on the token It fell apart, but in this project, the artist brings the concept of the “drop” — a promotional tool borrowed from fashion that launches a limited number of products in a short period of time — into the world of NFTs.
“I’ve always been fascinated by these technologies that streetwear brands use,” Allen said in an interview super rare“I understand the mechanics of it. You buy it, and you flip it. It’s an adrenaline rush. Achievements unlock.”
She said ears were raised in the crypto community, especially Nifty Gateway founders Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster, who consulted with Allen as their own NFT platform — now a mainstay in the space — took shape. Ellen was included in the site’s second drop of 2020, for which she contributed several “unbearable,” a collection of teddy bears that grapple with obvious modern problems: one is covered in crude oil, the other is considered non-essential by Amazon.
Like sports cards, her NFTs are available in “sealed” packages; buyers don’t know which”unbearable” they will get it. Gamified publishing is both a marketing strategy and a means to disrupt the market around her work. The collection sold out immediately.
Allen’s work has been up for auction since then Christie’s at SuperRare; she took part in the exhibition at the König Galerie”artist online,“Her piece became The first NFT to be sold at an art fair, at Art Basel 2021. Earlier this year, Allen made headlines for burning Russian passports to protest his country’s invasion of Ukraine. She made a video as an NFT act, auctioned it for 3.66 ETH (~$7,500), and donated the proceeds to war-affected Ukrainian children.
“If any artist from the crypto/NFT space deserves a big gig right now, it’s her,” Sawon said. “The vision is there.”
“Olive Allen: Welcome to the Metaverse” will be on view May 28 at the Postmasters Gallery, 54 Franklin Street, New York, NY 10013.