Where to with web3?


That’s a question for 2022 QAGOMA Digital Resident Jessie Hughes.

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have disrupted how audiences experience art, while the emergence of digital marketplaces and technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have created new ways for artists to engage with their viewers.

In response to these rapidly changing conditions, QAGOMA is making major upgrades to its digital presence, including digitising the entire Collection, increasing our digital capabilities and focusing more on digital content production. All this digital activity aims to make the Gallery’s entire Collection accessible virtually to everyone through photography, 3D imaging, timelapse records of installation and more.

Thanks to the generous support from donors to QAGOMA’s Collection Online Campaign, the Gallery has been able to engage a number of digital specialists to help explore this rapidly changing world – under the leadership of QAGOMA’s Digital Transformation Manager, Morgan Strong.

The rapid uptake of NFTs in the art world has not only presented exciting opportunities for galleries but also raised concerns about sustainability, retaining value of artworks, and equitable access for audiences. As a publicly funded cultural institution, it is important for QAGOMA to be at the forefront of this change, to be part of the dialogue, and to get the balance right.

Prominent creative technologist and artist Jessie Hughes has been appointed as the Gallery’s 2022 Digital Resident. Jessie will research emerging technologies, including Web3, NFTs and the metaverse, and what roles these might play in reinventing engagement with exhibitions and works of art in the QAGOMA Collection.

2022 QAGOMA Digital Resident Jessie Hughes

On her upcoming residency Jessie Hughes says:

Chasing the coat-tails of this technological disruption, I am particularly eager to investigate how artists, arts workers and creators alike can reap the benefits of these progressions, ensuring we’re riding the wave with it. Everything from creators receiving royalties directly thanks to blockchain technologies, to mobilising communities with DAOs [decentralised autonomous organisations] to support creative production, to clarifying ownership through NFTs, this is a seismic shift happening that requires keen attention to getting it right. I am also a massive advocate for physical experiences within spaces like QAGOMA, and so I’m really interested in exploring how we can leverage digital technologies to encourage physical participation.

Most importantly, this appointment is driven by a need to research the ethics of emerging Web3, NFTs and metaverse trends. Famously, the art world has seen some large NFT sales, including Beeple’s Everydays: the First 5000 Days 2021, but this program is not about cryptocurrency and monetisation of the QAGOMA Collection. The Gallery wants to approach this new technology with a strong ethical underpinning: not only in terms of the sustainability and privacy issues involved, but also conscious of how art can be separated from crypto and speculation to ensure the technology is not exclusionary to creators from minority and under-represented groups.

Ultimately, this research will help us see the potential of Web3 for QAGOMA, and what it means for Queensland artists and the State’s Collection.

QAGOMA would also like to acknowledge QAGOMA’s 2021 Digital Resident, QUT’s Associate Professor of Digital Pedagogies Kate Thompson, and her extensive research into how new technologies are being utilised by audiences in Gallery spaces.

You can help make our Collection more accessible through inspiring and thought-provoking digital resources by donating online or contacting Dominique Jones, Philanthropy Manager on (07) 3840 7246.

Featured image: Digitising the collection / Elizabeth Gower, Australia b.1952 / Thinking about the meaning of life 1990 / Synthetic polymer paint on drafting film / 288 x 787cm (overall installed) / Purchased 1993 under the Contemporary Art Acquisition Program with funds from Ian Gray through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Elizabeth Gower / Photograph: L Wilkes © QAGOMA