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Early this year, buoyed by the NFT boom, Christie’s collaborated with the Andy Warhol Foundation to auction the Pop master’s little-known digital works of art as NFTs. A rumbling ricocheted through the new media art community; these aren’t original NFTs, experts claimed.
The controversy surrounding Warhol’s digital-art-turned-NFTs raises questions reminiscent of Blade Runner. In a virtual landscape of infinite reproduction, what does it mean for a JPEG to be original or authentic?
According to Golan Levin, who helped recover the digital works from Warhol’s computer, Christie’s fundamentally forwent originality when they changed the image’s resolution. The original artefacts were 320 by 200 pixels (they’re “pixel-accurate”, says Levin) while the NFTs are 4,500 by 6,000 pixels. They are a proxy for the real thing, substantively altered in the resizing process.
In response, Christie’s likened the upscaling to conservation. When a Michaelanglo is conserved using 21st century technology, no one claims its originality is obliterated. And yet, Levin would counter that by changing every pixel “touched by the hand of Warhol”, all direct connection with the artist is displaced. All five NFTs sold, their results ordered by iconographical popularity – from a banana to the quintessential Campbell’s soup can.
In his work ‘after andy warhol marilyn monroe’, Philippe Le Miere paints a speculative sixth NFT: Warhol’s most beloved Monroe. Le Miere is interested in the strange happenings of a postmodern art market; a space where value is increasingly abstracted. What does it mean for digital art to be original, restored or conserved? Can a pixel be touched by human flesh? What does the algorithm have to say? In the age of digital reproduction, where’s the aura: in the art, the screen or the tumefying auction results?
For collectors of Pop and contemporary art, ‘after andy warhol marilyn monroe’ is as stylish as it is thought-provoking. Take a second look today. Philippe LE MIERE (1975 - )'after andy warhol marilyn monroe' 2021acrylic on canvasImage Size: 51 x 38 cm Dimensions: 51 x 38 cm Signed: Signed lower right Le Miere, inscribed verso Philippe Le Miere, title and dateComes with Letter of ProvenanceWork of art comes unframed to allow for safe and economical shipping. Contact us if you would like to arrange for this to be professionally framed.Availability: in stockCondition:As New: The work of art is in the same immaculate condition as when it was created. This could be the description for a work of art that may have been in storage for years, never sold on the market but may still be some years old.© The Artist or Assignee
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