Art is no stranger to augmented reality (AR), the technology that integrates computer-generated information and images into real-world environments. At New York's Museum of Modern Art, for example, some artists have turned the museum's Jackson Pollock gallery into a "personal augmented reality playground," where they can virtually remix or replace the paintings using an app. In recent news, at the Annual Bing Agency Awards event on Thursday, September 20, an artist used the Bing search application programming interface to create virtual "sculptures" from search queries submitted by guests.
This AR trend has trickled into the cryptospace, with one artist, Trevor Jones, creating an array of blockchain-inspired AR paintings. His forthcoming solo exhibition, Disruption: The Art of Blockchain, will showcase paintings of various figures and themes relevant to the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, such as John McAfee, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, Ethereum's Vitalik Buterin, a bull and a bear (to represent the different states of the crypto market), and a wave (to signify those "riding the crypto wave").
The exhibition will run from October 22-26 at Edinburgh's Dundas Street Gallery, where visitors can use a smartphone app to transform the artwork into videos and educational content about blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.
To accompany his upcoming show, Jones has co-opted the capital's National Portrait Gallery, virtually transforming 28 historical portrait paintings into prominent blockchain figures, such as Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs and the Winklevoss twins. In explaining his AR takeover, he said:
"After researching the world of cryptocurrency this last year for my forthcoming exhibition, I discovered many of the key players in the crypto community were regarded almost as royalty. I thought it was fitting that I transform the portraits of some of Scotland's greatest historical figures, kings, queens, philosophers and scientists, into these new tech entrepreneurs and 'explorers' of the 21st century."
Further, Jones noted that he sees his National Portrait Gallery project "as an opportunity to introduce more people to the world of crypto." Anybody who downloads the free CreativMuse App can view the "augmented" versions of the historical paintings. In fact, he said that 1.27 million people visited the gallery in 2017 – a large audience to potentially engage with and learn about some of the cryptospace's key figures.
To date, the art and blockchain spheres have converged in various ways, including but not limited to cryptocurrency art auctions and exhibitions, museum exhibits featuring blockchain-inspired artwork (of a non-AR variety), and a blockchain-based art cataloging system. AR is yet another way the two worlds collide.
Correction (9/24/2018): An earlier version of this article stated that the Annual Bing Agency Awards was held on Friday, September 21. It was actually held a day earlier.