Aya Tarek launches Egypt’s first art collection for an NFT marketplace

Vicious, tenacious, defiant, eclectic … that’s how visual artist Aya Tarek has been described on the tortuous path that led her career from politically driven street art in her hometown of Alexandria to the opening of Egypt’s first art exhibition, which was designed for an NFT Marketplace was curated this week.

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are proof of ownership of a digital work of art. Ownership is verified through a secure blockchain mechanism, which means that the original artwork belongs exclusively to the buyer while others can view it and distribute screenshots of it.

Who is Aya Tarek?

Though the Egyptian artist has a traditional visual arts background that she spent hours perfecting brush strokes and color blends, Tarek’s versatility – rooted in a strong urge to stay relevant – emerged early in her career. And in the 13 years since it caught her country’s attention, it has moved from painting – first on canvas, then murals – to digital art, 3D motion graphics, feature films, and now NFTs.

Though catapulted into the national limelight due to her political street art produced on the brink of the 2011 popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian president, Tarek’s artistic journey began a few years earlier. Many Alexandrians were already familiar with their graffiti in 2008.

She was in too microphone, a 2011 political film that portrayed the lives of artists and intellectuals in Egypt and the challenges they faced under Mubarak.

In the early 2010s, Tarek became fascinated with street art because of the increased visibility it offered. She wanted her work to be seen and rated by more people than a gallery can hold.

Her desire for less control over the space in which art is allowed to exist was one of the main reasons Tarek was intrigued by NFTs.

“When I first heard about NFTs, I didn’t really understand what they are. How many people today. I thought, ‘How exactly do you sell a digital work of art?’ I had a large collection of digital works of art that I couldn’t do anything with, ”she says.

Tarek explains that NFTs made digital art a salable commodity, which in turn brought the spotlight to artists who work exclusively with digital media.

That led to Token, an exhibition of Tarek’s latest work. The show was produced by the B’sarya For Arts in Alexandria, which organized the venues and enabled the creation of the NFTs.

A show for an NFT market only

In a dimly lit art space in the heart of downtown Cairo, Tarek opened tokens to the public through a partnership with a new NFT marketplace called NFTY Arabia, which was launched in the UAE. It is curated by Marwa Benhalim and runs until December 22nd. It includes a mix of physical paintings and digitally rendered works that will be the first items to be sold on NFTY Arabia.

“Most of the exhibition deals with consumerism and capitalist tendencies. It’s about our need to consume things and how that affects our perception and interaction with everything, ”says Benhalim.

In a corner of the gallery a painting T-bone shows a delicious-looking steak that at the same time makes the viewer’s mouth water and the stomach contracts with discomfort when red streaks of paint drip from it. In another piece, a digitally constructed man continuously reaches in front of a luxury villa.

Tarek implements her intention with expert precision through the living collection.

“NFTs are a great answer to a void in the art market. Many artists today no longer work with analog media at all, so that all of their art is created using digital means. The traditional set-up offered no space for such work, ”she explains.

Her feelings have been confirmed by Timmy Mowafi, co-founder of NFTY Arabia.

“I think it’s time that artists from the Mena area got the space to sell their work and get the recognition they deserve. If new technologies like NFTs make a valuable contribution, it is empowering many people who may have been sidelined or viewed as outsiders in the past, ”says Mowafi The national.

“When we sat down and she [Tarek] When she shared her vision with me, I realized that there are no NFTs that showcase modern street culture in Egypt, this is really something special.

“We’d seen NFTs of ancient Egyptian iconography, but very few people focused on the country’s more modern subcultures.”

Unlike other NFT marketplaces that allow anyone to mint a work of art and upload it for sale, NFTY Arabia retains the curatorial rights to their platform. Mowafi says this was because he wanted to implement a set of quality standards for the art sold by his marketplace.

The platform will showcase the work of 50 of the region’s top artists in February when fully launched.

Token is open on the Kodak Passengerway in downtown Cairo through December 22nd

Updated: December 11, 2021, 12:41 p.m.

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