Art

Wall art as NFTs? Chennai now has public art that is up for sale digitally

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar | Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

The year is, let’s say, 2675. The sacred Chennai tradition of FDFS (First Day Show) has got an upgrade. Life-size holograms replace cardboard cutouts, while an excited audience cheers in front of a large, perhaps, touchable screen. At Chennai Central Railway Station, auto rickshaws are now air cabs, as they whir past coolies (whose services can be booked online) and the occasional drone. At Marina beach, vendors dole out fresh, 3D printed bajjis against the backdrop of the iconic lighthouse: surreal with a touch of the absurd. 

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar | Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

But what may seem surreal for us, is futuristic for the team that conceptualised the art that now stands bright on the walls of Andhra Mahila Sabha on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar. The weekday morning traffic and the brutal summer sun (a deadly combo might I add), is no deterrent for passers-by to stop and look at the murals that have sprung up recently in the city. And, in a first for India, these artworks are also being sold as NFTs on Jupiter Meta, a curated marketplace for digital assets across the field of arts, making it a digitally-accessible wall that will sport QR codes. 

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar | Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

The walls reimagine Chennai in the future, but by retaining iconic elements and familiar traditions that remind one of the city it has always been. “The question was, how do we bring the past, present and future into a single frame. In some places, we went with humour, while in others a vision,” says Karthik SS of 108 Collective who helmed the team of artists behind the walls. This explains the frames that predict the future all the same, but also make the viewer wonder how realistic they actually are. 

Watch | Have you seen Chennai’s Sci-fi wall art?

While the city is familiar with the many different renditions of iconic Chennai landmarks, this time they are viewed through a different lens. The style of art also speaks for it. “We used the vector technique. There is not much blending in the colours, but the way the murals are laid out creates the dimensions,” Karthik explains. While Karthik did the initial concepts and sketches, Mumbai-based Aditya Chavan and his team did the styling. Interestingly, Hermon Arts, a group of signboard artists led by 54-year-old Hermon from North Chennai lent their hand painting skills to make the murals what they are. “They have a great hand. And we always take their help,” adds Karthik. 

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar

Wall art on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Adyar | Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

Intangible Chennai

Owning wall art has never been an option before. Jupiter Meta hopes to change this through this project. “All of the 12 panels have already been uploaded as digital art. The idea is to also give regional artists a global platform to display their talent. Having said that, when you put this on a blockchain in an NFT market, there would be no duplication. The art has value, and it’s an annuity. This is the way to make regional artists visible,” says KV Prakash, director of Jupiter Meta, adding that some have already been bought. And a lot of interest is seen among people who live outside the country and wish to own a piece of Chennai. The works are priced between ₹10,000 and ₹48,000. 

Though the initiative kicked off in Chennai, the company plans to take it across the country while keeping the arts at its core. 

Back at the site, characters that make Chennai what it is take over; albeit armed with ear pods and smart watches. Propped atop are gallery lights set on timer (6pm to 6am) that will light up the walls at night. “This wall art is here to stay for a while,” adds Karthik with a smile.  As for the NFTs, they should last forever.


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Printable version | May 3, 2022 7:08:50 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/chennai-hosts-wall-art-that-is-being-sold-as-nfts/article65317057.ece