It’s the first fine-art physical NFT gallery in South Africa, and Usurpa wants to live up to its namesake – ‘usurp’ means to take a position of power or importance by force.
Art lovers and digital enthusiasts can find out of it has succeeded by visiting the Usurpa Gallery in Riviera, Johannesburg. This month, it is running The New Medium group exhibition, an intersection of technology and fine art featuring twelve South African artists. They are Seth Pimentel, Baba Tjeko, Naledi Modupi, Sinalo Ngcaba, Mncedi Madolo, Nene Mahlangu, Mark Draws, vonMash, Oliver Pohorille, Terence Maluleke, Samurai Farai and Navel Seakamela.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens, or digital assets based on blockchain technology) may not be what you associate with fine art, and yet, at its core, an NFT is just a digital certificate of ownership of art — just as you could own a one-of-a-kind physical painting such as the Mona Lisa.
As such, an NFT is the ownership of a piece of digital fine art. The provenance of each work can be captured on the blockchain, and secured through individual smart codes.
Usurpa has taken the concept of digital art from the constraints of computer or phone screens into a physical space that connects both the artists and art lovers with the new medium, showcasing what digital art can offer on the crisp Samsung Frame Technology.
With these screens, Usurpa introduces digital art to the world of interior design and decor, offering art lovers the opportunity to add their digital art to the walls of their homes, offices and commercial spaces.
The New Medium group exhibition features works by the twelve artists that have been adapted from either a physical or a static digital form into dynamic artworks. It is “a masterclass in African optimism driving a narrative change in both the concept of art and how African art can be projected to the world”, says the gallery.
Usurpa CEO Steve Tanchel says: “Imagine you have a stunning image of a lake on your wall and, just once a year, a sea creature makes an appearance in the lake, there are now so many more layers of the artist’s narrative that can be explored.”
He says Usurpa’s sole mission is to empower established and up-and-coming African artists through a decentralised platform that introduces digital art as a modern form of fine-art investment. Tanchel, with Usurpa co-founders Adam Trope and multidisciplinary artist Kay Kay Ribane, assembled a team comprising CFO Michael Salomon, artist and creative director Zelé Angelides and software engineer Devon Jacobson to steer this initiative to bring fine art to the digital space.
The New Medium is on show at Usurpa until 1 June 2023. The gallery is open to visitors from Tuesday to Friday between 10h00 and 17h00, at 70B Oxford Road, Riviera, Johannesburg.