They may have been created decades ago, but the dizzying geometric shapes and colorful graphics of Op Art pioneer Victor Vasarely have never been more relevant than today in the era of digital art and NFTs. At least that’s what an exhibition opened Thursday in one of London’s biggest stores is trying to demonstrate.
Running through March 31 in Selfridges, the exhibition features a total of 55 works ranging from canvases to ceramics and tapestries. This is the first exhibition of works by the late Franco-Hungarian artist in the UK in over 50 years.
But the exhibition is not only about exposure, it is also about fundraising. Thirty-seven of the works, as well as a series of NFTs freshly created by the London-based NFT platform Substance, are available for sale. The proceeds will go towards the restoration of monumental works at the Vasarely Foundation Museum in Aix-en-Provence, France.
The show also features a creative partnership with fashion brand Paco Rabanne, which will be launched in a new 2022 collection inspired by Vasarely’s art at the Oxford Street store.
The exhibition strives to revive the legacy of the pioneer of the Op Art movement while presenting it to a younger audience, said Pierre Vasarely, President of the Vasarely Foundation.
“He wanted to promote art [through] architecture, town planning, music, fashion, just like the way people think in recent years, ”Vasarely told Artnet News. “He wanted to bring art to the city, to the streets, to everyone. “
Pierre Vasarely said his grandfather had originally created the works on display, including the geometric designs adorning the storefront, by hand, before the introduction of computers. “It was revolutionary,” he says. “The NFT trend today is heading in that direction.”
The physical works available for sale, including 15 unique works and 20 serigraphs, originally belonged to French collectors. A total of 12 Vasarely NFTs attached to Vasarely’s monumental works at the foundation will be released, with the first batch of six going live on February 16 and the remaining six available on March 12. Each NFT can be purchased from the London store in person or online on the Subtance platform (and accessed later in the Metaverse, of course). Pricing has yet to be announced.
Born in Pécs, Hungary, in 1906, Vasarely first studied medicine before embarking on painting. He moved to Paris in 1930 and began to experiment with surrealism and abstract expressionism before developing his checkerboard paintings in the 1940s. He died at the age of 90 in 1997. He was the subject of a retrospective at the Center Pompidou in Paris in 2019.
The artist built the Vasarely Foundation between 1973 and 1976. It was declared a historic monument in 2013 and has an annual attendance of around 100,000 visitors. The foundation isn’t the first to create NFTs based on the work of a late artist: Alphonse Mucha’s foundation launched its own line of NFTs late last year.
Pierre Vasarely said he had “no idea” how much money the sales would bring in, but he hopes the project will allow more people to see Vasarely’s art, especially at a time when the travels and gatherings inside are difficult.
“We are doing this exhibition at Selfridges with technology to show how contemporary his work is still today,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to imagine what Vasarely would have done if he had had access to computers at the time.”
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