NFTs—scam or possible solution to climate change?
That’s one question the brains behind Verse: The Art of the Future hope you might consider at the San Francisco Mint this weekend.
The immersive, in-person augmented reality experience debuts Thursday at the former coinage caster, also known as The Granite Lady, and features 3D digital artworks by local and internationally-renowned creators of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
In recent years, these virtual “one-of-a-kind trading cards” that can take the form of GIFs, digital drawings, photos, videos, music and even tweets—and have sold for millions of dollars—have sparked controversy. They’ve been accused of disrupting the fine art market, being the next frontier for scams and for being a vehicle for money laundering. Some critics say the digital tokens are nothing more than overly-hyped (and easily copied) digital files with no real-world value.
“Increasingly, it looks as if the NFT emperor is wearing no clothes,” privacy advocate Albert Fox Cahn, told Forbes in a 2021 interview.
Ray Kallmeyer, CEO or Enklu, one of the presenters of “Verse” warns that you may very well have an “emperor has no clothes”-type of moment when you first enter the Mint because the space will appear completely empty. “You’re going to see a bunch of people staring around at the walls.”
That’s because they’ll be staring at holograms only they can see—with the aid of special augmented reality goggles.
Kallmeyer explains that Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets and attendees’ smartphones will reveal the holographic NFT artworks hidden in the air, and unlike a normal museum, you’re actively encouraged to touch the art and “dip your head inside it.
Among the artworks you may want to wrap your head around are previews of NFT saplings created by the new online platform Avatree, launching in July. The digital trees named after the platform are being developed to fight climate change by sequestering carbon, explains Avatree’s Chetan Nandakumar. While NFTs have been heavily criticized for their environmental toll, this particular NFT is designed to be “a badge of one’s climate action over time” that can be posted on a website, social media or even brought into the “metaverse,” Nandakumar says. Tickets start at $15 for juniors and $35 for adults.
SF Mint, 88 5th St.
Thursday, Feb. 3 – Friday, Feb. 18 @ 12:30 p.m.
Berggruen Gallery, 10 Hawthorne St.
Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 3-5 @ 11 a.m.
On Christmas Day 2021, the Bay Area lost a local art legend. Wayne Thiebaud, who passed away at age 101, was best known for his still-lifes of confection shop windows and evocative citiscapes. A selection of Thiebaud’s paintings will be on view at Berggruen Gallery in a memorial exhibition opening Thursday.
Along with his peers, like James Weeks and Richard Diebenkorn, Thiebaud made significant contributions to pop art through his involvement in the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Though no one would mistake any of Thiebaud’s paintings for a photograph, he managed to capture the spiritual essence of his subjects in a way no camera ever could—conveying the vertiginous incline of San Francisco’s steepest streets by compressing an entire city block into two dimensions or conjuring the creamy texture of frosting by lathering his canvases with generous globs of oil paint.
He taught at UC Davis for most of his life, as an assistant professor from 1960 to 1991, and lectured pro bono as Professor Emeritus from 1991 until his death. (MB)
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St.
Thursday, Feb 3. @ 7 p.m.
The 24th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival kicks off Thursday and runs through Feb. 13. This year’s festival takes place at the Roxie Theater and will show 68 different films (42 shorts and 26 features) from 10 countries. “The Sleeping Negro,” a an atmospheric and surreal meditation on being Black in America, headlines opening night. The S.F. Indie Fest’s online and on-demand services are also available at sfindie.com for those who are unable to attend a planned screening or who are being Covid cautious. (MM)
Lower Polk & Tenderloin
Thursday, Feb 3 @ 6 p.m.
The Lower Polk and Tenderloin Art Walk is a community-led monthly event held by over 30 gallery owners and artists’ studios in San Francisco’s Lower Polk and Tenderloin districts, as well as the Lower Polk Community Benefit District. Each participating gallery or studio features a diverse collection of art in a variety of genres and styles. Check out the map for additional details. Be sure to check out John Vochatzer’s recently opened Moth Belly Gallery, which we covered back in November. The street artist better known as Calamity Fair, hopes to give a voice and aesthetic identity to the Tenderloin, the neighborhood he has called home for 18 years. (MM)
Starline Social Club, Oakland
Friday, Feb. 4 @ 9 p.m.
There was a time when local teens in search of their own Stand By Me-esque adventure made the pilgrimage from all over the Bay Area. The Secret Sidewalk—a miles long, flat-topped aqueduct, which used to carry water from Sunol, through Niles Canyon, to Fremont and other East Bay cities—is an ideal place to drink wine coolers, smoke pot and get up to all kinds of youthful shenanigans far from the watchful eyes of parents and other authority figures.
Formed in 2009, this local instrumental quartet, which fuses boom-bap beats, On The Corner-era Miles Davis jazz experimentation and all kinds of electronic knob-twiddling, takes its name from the mythical Atlas Obscura destination. Their latest release stays on brand, name checking another 100-year-old ruin that once carried thousands of gallons of water. Secret Sidewalk dropped Sutro Sound Bath in August.
The band launches a new quarterly residency at the Starline Social Club in Oakland this Friday, Feb. 4. They’ll be joined by Saxreligious and Daniel Riera. Just as it was with visiting the Secret Sidewalk of old, San Franciscans eager to check out this show will need to pile into a car or hop on BART and head east. (NV)
Robert Koch Gallery, 49 Geary St.
Saturday, Feb. 5 @ 11 a.m.
From his home in California’s Central Valley outward, Matt Black has photographed across 46 of the United States since 2014. The resulting exhibition, Black’s first at Koch, is as visually gritty as the scenes he captures. These high-contrast, black-and-white prints, reminiscent of the work of Japanese photographer Daidō Moriyama, convey a restlessness on the part of Black and his subjects alike—cowboys, flea market vendors, a murder of crows—as well as their fatigue: in one picture, a lone figure rests his forehead against the telephone pole bisecting the composition on a Texas street corner, unable to take another step. (MB)
Hashimoto Contemporary, 804 Sutter St.
Saturday, Feb. 5 @ 1 p.m.
San Francisco-based artist Casey Gray is a progenitor of process, using a technique of hand-cut masking and spray paint to create impressively detailed paintings with a unique, airbrushed quality. For his latest, and third, solo show at Hashimoto, “Wild Animal,” Gray narrows his focus to portraits of animals, rather than the complex still-lifes of his previous bodies of work. The theme, Gray says, is inspired by his experience as a new father: animals are popularly marketed to children as toys, books, entertainment. But Gray’s new paintings are perhaps the artist’s most mature, stylistically developed works to date. (MB)
Bernal Heights Meeting Room, 500 Cortland Ave.
Saturday, Feb. 5 @ 2 p.m.
Who knew folding a piece of paper into a wavy accordion could be so rewarding? Jeremy Shaffer—the origami wizard behind the the boomerang airplane—has racked up more than 9 million views on YouTube with his tutorial. Shafer is no longer a regular at the Bay Area Rapid Folders meetings, but the group is still running strong, teaching kids (and kids at heart) how to make amazing figures and flying objects out of compressed wood pulp. (PB)
The Church of Eight Wheels, 554 Fillmore Street
Saturday, Feb. 5 @ 11 a.m.
David Miles Jr., a.k.a. The Godfather of Skate, was thrilled by at least one pandemic silver lining. When Covid wasn’t pushing people indoors and deep into their Netflix queues, it was drawing them out into the fresh air where the virus is far less transmissible. One activity many San Franciscans picked up was roller (and inline) skating. Miles is still giving lessons. Tickets for the hour long session start at $30; it’s an extra $10 if you need to rent some gear. If you feel confident enough to get out on the rink, the Sunday evening open skate is half the price. (PB)
Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness
Saturday, Feb. 5 @ 5 p.m.
The San Francisco Symphony rings in the Year of the Tiger with a festive melange of orchestral works influenced by the musical traditions of East and West. Music buffs may recognize the strains of Eternal Vow from Ang Lee’s 2000 Academy Award-winning movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But there are other celebratory gems in store. Texu Kim’s Spin-Flip is an eight-minute ode to ping pong; The Butterfly Lovers concerto, censored during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, represents a China in transition; and Liu Yuan’s Train Toccata brings the ethos of a rushing locomotive to life. (CC)
Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St.
Sunday, Feb. 6 @ 10 a.m.
Food and shelter are expensive enough in San Francisco. Thankfully, it doesn’t always cost an arm and a leg to take in some culture. The first Sunday at the Asian Art Museum, for example, is always free—though special exhibits, like the current showing of “teamLab: Continuity,” are extra. For those in the mood to multitask, the museum is part of a scavenger hunt of sorts— including six red tigers around town commemorating the Year of the Tiger. (PB)
Contributors: Christina Campodonico, Max Blue, Meaghan Mitchell, Nick Veronin, Paolo Bicchieri.