Spanish multidisciplinary artist Ignasi Monreal has produced an animated series of NFTs titled “BL00M” (those are zeros, not Os) to headline our spring exhibition and auction of the same name, which focuses on the human experience in relation to flowers. Working in collaboration with London-based animation studio No Ghost, Monreal has created flowers that react to fluctuations in the cryptocurrency market.
A complex series of algorithms causes the flowers to bloom in response to financial upturns and wilt when the price dips. Many more visual cues — including a changing sky and buzzing insects — inform the depiction of the floral landscape’s flourishing and fading, capturing the nuances of natural cycles.
Each NFT features one of three types of blooms — poppies, tulips or lotus flowers — selected because of qualities ascribed to them at different points in history. The poppy alludes to the opium produced from its seedpod and hints at the sometimes addictive nature of cryptocurrency exchanges.
In Eastern cultures, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and spiritual awakening, as well as of prosperity and success, which gives the work a sense of duality.
According to Monreal, the tulip is the flower with the most conceptual power. “It relates to the financial bubble created by tulip mania in 17th-century Holland, when the price of these flowers went totally wild because of a trading trend. The type I’ve shown is the Semper Augustus, one of the rarest tulips of that time and now extinct.”
With this striped varietal, Monreal explores the push-pull between “real” and “assigned” values in commodities markets. Interestingly, the flowers in an NFT blossom when it sells, reflecting a less volatile and more subjective “emotional worth” connected to individual taste, he explains.
“I wanted to create an NFT that my 70-year-old grandmother could understand,” Monreal says. “The big question was how to bring poetry to a currency that fluctuates so much. I wanted to attach life to it. Thinking of the perfect symbol of timeless beauty, it had to be flowers.”
The concept behind his work may be easy to grasp, but its underpinnings convey a multitude of messages. For one, the work builds value around creativity from a “moving time” perspective, so that time really is money.
Moreover, each NFT is both limitless and limited, ever changing yet bound to a shifting transactional structure. The works also challenge traditional methods for evaluating art, because a falling crypto market doesn’t necessarily make the art any less desirable as a collectible asset.
“If the value of Ethereum drops and you are losing money, you may see a side to this piece that you may have altogether missed had the markets boomed that day,” Monreal points out. “The petals fall, the bees hover. There’s much beauty in these changes.”
As the centerpiece for “BL00M,” his dynamic digital garden also cultivates connectivity: Four other innovative artists explore the many subtle meanings of flowers, touching on everything from their sensual and spiritual symbolism to their decorative value and ephemeral elegance.
For the London-based collagist known as CoverArtGuy, nature has a restorative quality. His What a Beautiful Place to Breakdown (2022), in which a vintage black-and-white photo of a woman leaning on her car appears amid a bright oasis of colorful flowers, is about embarking on an inner journey of self-renewal.
“I wanted to create a piece that represents that moment when you realize you need to step back and adjust,” explains the artist. “The commuter is put into this situation through an inconvenience but has nothing else to do than stop and smell the flowers, creating a human experience that a lot of us have or will go through. I’ve always loved using flowers in collage, as they have a warm, nostalgic feel to them. The connection we have with flowers and nature in general is something that is needed in the NFT/digital space.”
Kyle Lee, who goes by the handle SOULPAINTS, explores more historical paths to spiritual fulfillment. His Child of Light (2021) has Pop art piquancy, showing an angel enveloped in cosmic symbols that include a fiery crescent resembling a blazing sun or perhaps a sunflower.
According to the Denton, Texas-based artist, the piece is coded with a deeper message about nature’s endless creation and man’s place within it. “A ‘child of the light’ actually means to be a student of wisdom, forever learning about yourself and growing with your environment and experiences,” he explains. “The work was inspired by 17th-century hermetic philosophy, which was practiced through visual documents that compared the inner workings of man to things found in nature.”
“In this piece, flowers represent peace, beauty and connection,” the Germany-based artist says. “The peace we find after sneaking away from a busy place. The beauty of observing the night through a bedroom window. The connection we feel from talking with someone about a thing that means something to us.”
Metaphors are also deeply ingrained in the work of Delaware artist Shaylin Wallace, aka Shay the Surrealist, who collaged a Northern Renaissance–style still life of florals, fruit and a hummingbird inside the silhouetted head of a young man.
“For this piece, called Wild Thoughts, I used images of flowers that are double-exposed inside of a figure’s head. Some of the flowers have bloomed while others are in the process of blooming, to symbolize a sense of inner change that’s happening in the figure’s head,” Shay explains. “When we look at people, the first thing we notice is their outer appearance, unaware of what’s going on inside of their head. Our thoughts can sometimes be very dark, depending on what we’re going through, but they can also be very beautiful and bright.”
This powerful sentiment ties together the various narrative strands in “BL00M.” As the artists bring their wildest visions to life in the metaverse, we too must take stock of our emotions in a world of expanding possibilities.