Curation vs Gatekeeping

by Anna Seaman

In a continued effort to support the various communities within the NFT space comes another crosspost. This post originally appeared here.

MORROW collective is working with galleries and artists to bring together art from around the world in curated, themed exhibitions. One word in that sentence may stand out to cryptoart purists, who often prioritise frictionless, open and free access to making art available: curation. But is curation a bad thing in cryptoart?

Almost everything you see, hear or read is curated. Every news source has an editor at the back end deciding on what is and what is not ‘news’. Every social manager has a similar gatekeeper managing content and any book you read has been through thousands of edits that gently mould and shape the content into what the author or publishing house decides is the most appropriate way to present it. Even now, as I write, would you say I am curating this article, or would you say that I am a gatekeeper of language, releasing only what I see fit? Those two words, gatekeeper and curator, are deliberately placed at odds with each other in the context of this piece.

Gatekeepers carry negative connotations. A gatekeeper is the bouncer at the nightclub who decides if you can get in or not. They control, strong-arm and can ultimately say “no”. Yet curators come across as much more trustworthy. They are seen as friendly guardians, managers and perhaps, they are ‘yes-people’ as compared to the gatekeepers’ ‘no’ Essentially though, they have the same task: to filter.

When we launched MORROW collective, we brought to the table more than two decades of curatorial and artistic experience. We are proud of the fact that in a crowded marketplace of NFTs, which encompass anything from digital trading cards and art to virtual real estate and gaming, we are bringing a filter to what can often feel like an overwhelming flow of content. Importantly, we feel our project and values can coexist, and indeed compliment, all else going on in this wonderful new world.

When it comes to art specifically, NFTs are wonderfully democratising. The removal of boundaries such as access to fine art galleries and notoriously sniffy art fairs has been amazing for those with raw talent and with very few avenues to be able to reach new audiences. Artists all over the world can have access to global audiences and there are countless touching stories of people whose lives have been changed by the income from NFTs: mortgages paid off, houses bought, families fed and the tensions of money problems resolved.

However, like all good things in life, there needs to be a balance. For every diamond in the rough, there are a million cracked pebbles and we all need a bit of guidance. Therefore, what MORROW collective does is offer a layer of curation. We work with leading galleries all over the world to give their artists access to create NFTs and we also reach out to emerging artists through our incubator platform. We want to help artists to get access to audiences as well as to develop their careers. At the same time, for those voracious collectors out there, we are keen to share with them the compelling and engaging narratives that we see time after time with all the artworks that we exhibit. It really is a win, win situation.

Curation, for MORROW collective, is about the creation of immersive and cohesive experiences in art, bringing together pieces with compelling themes, substance and stories. For example, our GENESIS exhibition features art with heart-breaking narratives of loss, conflict and nostalgia, but also celebrates hope and tradition. So, curation in this context is not a barrier — it is our attempt to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts, to maximise the benefit to the artists, viewers and potential collectors alike.

With the growth of NFTs and yes, it is still growing, despite the recent leveling out of the curve that you are being told is the death of the market, there is something much more exciting emerging than the dizzying dollar signs grabbing the headlines. What we are seeing is the birth of a new sector for arts and culture. It is an explosive new market where geographical boundaries are redundant and neither time zone nor shipping costs are a factor. In fact, once artists really grasp the true potential of the NFT world, they will realise that physical laws are also off the table. Forget gravity, forget dimensions, forget medium: in the digital world, anything is possible. And as curators in this sphere, this is so exciting.

Equally, we still hold dear the experience of seeing art in the flesh or IRL (in real life), to use the proper lingo. Standing in front of a vast, incredibly detailed painting can be breath-taking and the use of sound and light in IRL installations is currently unmatched. At MORROW, we know there is room for both and, we welcome both. In fact, we celebrate the marriage of the two worlds and hope that by creating a bridge, we create more traffic between the two spheres. More communication and more crossover can only lead to more inspiration all around.

So, in the end, as we enter the future and look at the art of to(MORROW) are we gatekeepers or are we curators? Does it really matter?


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