Kenny Schachter’s New NFT Game Is an Art-World Battle Royale That Pits Traditional Artists Against Digital Creators
Kenny Schachter has had, shall we say, a challenging relationship with the art establishment. An artist (and Artnet News columnist) operating at the edge of new media, Schachter has long eschewed gallery models and market winds, instead embracing emerging technologies in ways that have rubbed against the traditional art crowd.
Case in point: Schachter’s involvement in NFTs, which began in 2019. “Nothing prepared me for the level of conservatism and backwardness of the art world,” he told Artnet News of the response to the blockchain ventures. “It’s been very disconcerting.”
Schachter’s new NFT project won’t improve those relations—though it is canny work. Created in collaboration with digital gallery Daata, Pop Principle is a gamified project that pits two distinct camps against each other. In one corner is a group of traditional art players and in the other, the digital art vanguard. And how will the winner be decided? By the number of mints, of course.
On May 18, Schachter will release a series of eight open-edition NFTs, each featuring a player designed in three dimensions. They include artist Yayoi Kusama, critic Jerry Saltz, and mega-dealer Larry Gagosian on the team of old-schoolers, as well as digital stars Beeple, Osinachi, and Refik Anadol who make up the new media squad. Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist is included as a “neutral player” because he is Swiss.
The tokens will drop at Schachter’s solo show at the NFT Gallery in New York, and sold on Daata through June 17.
Four rounds of Pop Principle will be played, with the most minted character in each round being crowned the winner (the “Pop” in the project’s title references Pop art as much as popularity). The collector holding the largest number of the winner’s NFTs will further be awarded a physical sculpture of the character, while other holders will be able to burn their tokens to redeem prizes.
Once the rounds are completed, the four winning characters will face off in an ultimate showdown.
That a battle royale, even a fantastically imagined one, should be raging between the traditional and digital art worlds is “juvenile and stupid,” Schachter admitted, “but that’s really the way it is.”
“It should just be one happy little universe of people making art with similar goals and intent,” he continued, “but I created a whole new set of enemies by being such an adherent to NFTs.”
Schachter’s vocal support and near evangelism for NFTs—coining the term “NFT-ism,” among other things—aren’t entirely misplaced. As a contemporary art practitioner working in mediums from digital art to video, the blockchain has made sense as “a way to codify work into a digital certificate of authenticity, to be able to buy and sell these works,” he said.
In Pop Principle, this utility is folded into the content of art itself. For Schachter, the project’s participatory, gamified element, leveraging the format of open editions, offers a departure from existing static art forms.
“Art relates to social, political, economic, and technological aspects of our culture and society,” he said. “In that regard, it’s really interesting to have a project where there’s a participatory nature, and it’s really commenting upon a new form of art that is transformative and dynamic.”
The release of Pop Principle is merely the tip of a multi-chapter project. Schachter currently has 50 to 75 other characters in development, with hopes to expand his cast into the hundreds. The goal is for them to populate an actual video game in a later phase, in which the traditional and digital artists can engage in non-lethal combat, possibly by shooting paintballs at one another.
(Schachter plans to “flesh out” this game, plus his other blockchain projects such as Open Book, at his upcoming solo show at the Francisco Carolinum Linz in Austria.)
If all that sounds funny, even a little silly, that’s because it is: Schachter is no stranger to humor of the absurdist flavor, calling it “a release valve for life.” So even if the divide between the traditional and new media art worlds might never heal, that doesn’t mean an artist can’t make art, or light, in the meantime.
No points, though, for guessing which side Schachter is leaning towards in Pop Principle. “It’s an NFT project,” after all, he said.
“For me, NFTs are just a way to find people that would look at my work and potentially collect it when the art world was just a series of doors shut in my face,” he added. “It’s just a great way for artists to empower themselves to find other ways.”
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Françoise Gilot, Whose Art Transcended Her Relationship With Picasso, Dies at 101 – Smithsonian Magazine
Françoise Gilot, a lauded French artist who wrote candidly about her volatile relationship with Pablo Picasso, died this week at age 101.
“She was an extremely talented artist, and we will be working on her legacy and the incredible paintings and works she is leaving us with,” says her daughter, Aurelia Engel, to Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press (AP).
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, are some of the museums that have displayed Gilot’s art. While Picasso may have influenced her work, her artistic career began before the two met, and the unique style she created was hers alone.
Born in a suburb of Paris in 1921, Gilot developed an interest in painting as a child. Her mother—who had studied art history, ceramics and watercolor painting—was her first tutor, per the New York Times’ Alan Riding. Later, she took lessons with the Hungarian-French painter Endre Rozsda. Rozsda was Jewish, and he fled Paris in 1943.
The Guardian’s Charles Darwent recounts a prophetic final exchange between the student and her teacher:
“As his train steamed out of the station, the 21-year-old Gilot wailed: ‘But what am I to do?’ Her teacher, laughing, shouted: ‘Don’t worry! Who knows? Three months from now, you may meet Picasso!’”
Gilot met Picasso when she was 21; Picasso was 61 and already a famous, established artist. Their relationship began in 1944. Gilot later recalled good memories from this early period, and Picasso’s art from this time affirms this.
But Picasso, a notorious adulterer known for his abusive behavior toward women, quickly began mistreating her. Physical violence and blatant extramarital affairs were common during their relationship, even as the couple had two children together.
When Gilot finally left him in 1953, Picasso was shocked. He reportedly told her that she would be nothing without him; she was unmoved. Gilot recounted the harrowing relationship and its end in Life With Picasso, the memoir she published in 1964.
In it, she recalled Picasso claiming that “no woman leaves a man like me.” Her response: “I told him maybe that was the way it looked to him, but I was one woman who would, and was about to.”
The memoir angered the artist so much that he cut off contact with her and their children. He tried several times—always unsuccessfully—to prevent the memoir’s publication in France.
Gilot recounted the relationship with unrelenting honesty, remembering his “extraordinary gentleness” in her memoir while commenting frankly on his abuse. Picasso introduced her to Georges Braque, Marc Chagall and Gertrude Stein, but he disparaged her value as an artist and told her that nobody would care about her when she was no longer connected to him.
Yet Gilot’s legacy reaches far beyond Picasso, and in recent years, her work has garnered much more recognition. A 1965 portrait of her daughter sold for $1.3 million at auction in 2021, per the AP.
“To see Françoise as a muse (to Picasso) is to miss the point,” says Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice chairman for global fine art, to the AP. “While her work naturally entered into dialogue with his, Françoise pursued a course fiercely her own—her art, like her character, was filled with color, energy and joy.”
During her life, Gilot emphasized that she never felt trapped or controlled by Picasso. In fact, in a 2022 interview for her 100th birthday with Ruth La Ferla of the Times, Gilot said that her fierce independence informed the art she created.
“As young women, we were taught to keep silent,” she said. “We were taught early that taking second place is easier than first. You tell yourself that’s all right, but it’s not all right. It is important that we learn to express ourselves, to say what it is that we like, that we want.”
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