One of the world’s most prestigious and renowned museums is turning to non-fungible artwork. Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum has unveiled a huge NFT exhibition, The Ethereal Aether. Featured work explores all things crypto, creative, and blockchain.
The project also marks the launch of Celestial Hermitage. This brand new online museum is a digital branch of the prized Russian institution. It’s the latest example of a major arts powerhouse looking to extend its reach into the metaverse. A move we have already seen from the likes of Manchester International Festival.
The Ethereal Aether opened on 10th November and runs until 10th December 2021. All works in the exhibition showcase cutting edge crypto art. But, more significantly, they also aim to increase understandings around blockchain, cloud worlds, and NFT technology.
According to Celestial Hermitage’s own explanation, this enormous undertaking was catalysed by the non-fungible boom of summer 2021. And all that activity can be traced back to one transaction. Namely crypto investor MetaKovan buying ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, Beeple‘s NFT art piece auctioned by Christie’s for $69.3million.
Of course, the exhibition itself goes well beyond the hype created by exponential growth in NFT artwork value. Ethereal Aether is about the exchange of ideas across mediums in an age when we are rapidly recreating everything from our physical world in a ‘cloud world’. The exhibition’s mission statement explains the arrival of these ‘twins’ marks the beginning of a new digital future.
The Exchange of Ideas
If you’ve ever visited Saint Petersburg chances are Jean-François Thomas de Thomon’s Old Stock Exchange building was on your tour map. The French architect fled his homeland in 1789 to escape the Revolution. He then wound up designing some of the most beautiful neo-classical buildings in Eastern Europe.
The Saint Petersburg address is among his most famous. It has now been used as a basis for the the virtual space in which the Ethereal Aether exhibition takes place. This is about much more than aesthetics, too. Those at the Hermitage are clearly making links to stocks and market values. Not to mention currency and the exchange of financial assets.
When NFTs are so closely tied to cryptocurrencies and new financial systems, this tie-in is inspired. Crucially, though, the curators are keen to point out this gallery space goes beyond the ‘digital twin’ idea, because the exhibition exists in that virtual environment.
A Little on The State Hermitage Museum
Wondering why Ethereal Aether and the Celestial Hermitage are such big news? Simply put, anything the Hermitage does is huge news because the museum is the largest in the world in terms of gallery space. It was originally founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. She used paintings acquired from Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky to kick start the collection, and it has grown ever since.
Since inception, the State Hermitage Museum has consistently worked to educate audiences around art rather than just exhibit work. As such we couldn’t imagine a more fitting place to find one of the most significant attempts to make sense of the NFT art boom currently underway.
Of course, this isn’t the only exciting non-fungible exhibition we’ve seen recently. Just look at London’s House of Fine Art or Philadelphia’s first NFT gallery. Nevertheless, in terms of signs that crypto art is now a fully-fledged part of the art world, you’ll have to go a long way to find better than the Hermitage.