La Monnaie de Paris, a historic monetary institution famous for its centuries-old tradition of minting tangible coins, has embraced blockchain art. Venturing into uncharted territory, the ‘Babel’ NFT exhibit forges a bridge between the heritage of money and the art of tomorrow.
Bringing together contrasting masterminds, including the British crypto-art icon Robert Alice, renowned NFT platform La Collection and the conservators and curators of La Monnaie de Paris, the world’s oldest operational coin mint is now promoting artists that blend traditional and modern relics until October 22.
— robertalice (@robertalice_21) June 29, 2023
The Inventive Prowess of Robert Alice
Alice is best known for having a revolutionary artistic approach combining physical and digital elements. Notably, he was the world’s first artist to sell an NFT at Christie’s in October 2020, laying the groundwork for the NFT boom, which was further boosted by Beeple’s iconic sale of ‘EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS ‘ for a whopping $69 million in 2021.
For the Babel NFT exhibition, Alice was given free rein to be creative and draw inspiration from the history of La Monnaie de Paris. The artist’s primary goal was to overlook blueprints of the historic building, which he reshaped using a coding lens, birthing two separate collections: ‘Blueprints’ and ‘Ornament and Crisis’.
To construct the Blueprints series, Alice utilized machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to depict ancient plans and draw parallels to the blockchain technology framework. He took inspiration from the Jorge Luis Borges novel, ‘The Library of Babel’, which fantasizes about a world whereby all books are crafted through variations of symbols: 22 letters, the period, comma and space. The artworks emerge as digital screens at first glance but retain physical textures and volumes as one takes an extended gaze, showcasing machines, medals and coins to represent the iconic institution.
Numerous artworks throughout the exhibition are thought-provoking, delving into themes like the financial crisis, such as the clash between timeless techniques and innovative digital technology that threatens its existence. Interestingly, a piece that references Congo’s Virunga National Park highlights the effect of French colonialism and the economic control that links to CFA currency.
The Babel NFT exhibit innovates beyond norms, preserving a piece of crypto and blockchain history that maintains historical artifacts and present-day concerns — which La Monnaie de Paris intriguingly embraces.
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