Cover Still from Illuminate by Sharmaine Kwan. (Image: Sharmaine Kwan and Bamboo Scenes)

Bamboo Scenes is spotlighting female artists with ‘A Woman’s World’, a virtual and immersive experience

A Woman’s World, an exhibition showcasing NFT art by female artists in Hong Kong—the first of its kind in Asia—is now open.

Curated by Hong Kong gallery Bamboo Scenes in collaboration with cyber architectural firm Oncyber, the exhibition runs through April 30 and is showcased through an immersive virtual gallery in the metaverse that allows viewers to see the pieces up close via computer or mobile. It also supports the use of virtual reality devices.

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The exhibition is the brainchild of Bamboo Scenes founder Madelon de Grave, who established the gallery in 2017. It has a reputation for showcasing rare and exclusive Hong Kong photography art prints, and this project marks the gallery’s first venture in the virtual world. Oncyber specialises in creating bespoke 3D spaces for the display of NFTs.

A Woman’s World features the works of five Hong Kong artists: Payal Shah, founder of jewellery brand L’Dezen, who recently launched her own wearable NFT earrings; Claudia Chanhoi, an artist whose illustrations aim to inspire conversations about female sexuality and break taboos; new media artist Sharmaine Kwan, who will mint a NFT exclusive to the show, with the goal of showcasing the importance of promoting women in the Web3 world; and photographers Vivien Liu and Elaine Li, who have both ventured into the NFT space.

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De Grave talks to Tatler about Bamboo Scene’s move into the virtual world and how female artists and collectors are thriving in the NFT scene.

Tatler: What inspired A Woman’s World?

De Grave: Inspired by female curators and my own experience as a female founder, I wanted to do something for Women’s History Month in March. I’ve always been intrigued by women in the art space,  and lately, in the metaverse as well. This exhibition is a great opportunity for us to celebrate an all-female team: we have female artists, female NFT collectors who contributed to some of the exhibits, and ourselves, including me and the team at Bamboo Scenes. We feel that it’s time to take our first step into the metaverse and NFT scene. The exhibition title is a fun twist on James Brown’s song “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”.

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Is the NFT art world welcoming to all genders?

Most of the successful artists that who have made a name for themselves are male. But I don’t think this gender imbalance means the scene isn’t welcoming for women. Since it’s such a new space, people have been very open to sharing connections and ideas. As a woman, I haven’t felt that it’s been difficult to get into the space. But what would be interesting to see is how the many strong female-led projects out there can attract more male collectors too.

Tell us about the artist selection process.

We want to showcase a variety of artists. We have always been focusing on photography art. So we still feature photography artists such as Vivien Liu and Elaine Li, our long-term photographers. Elaine, who has over 260,000 followers on Instagram, has been going into the NFT space over the last couple of months. She just launched a brand new NFT collection for the exhibition, so we really want to give her space.

We’re also seeing that Web3 has opened up lots of creativity and opportunities, so as we take the step into the NFT scene, we’re also expanding beyond photography.

With Payal Shah, we’re showcasing a private collection of a female NFT collector for the first time.

We also have Claudia Chanhoi. In a place where there are a lot of taboos around sexuality and the female body, she is putting her voice out there to her art, and that requires guts.

Then we have media artist Sharmaine Kwan, who creates dynamic art pieces. The number of women doing this type of art is still relatively small in comparison to men, so for her to do it, it’s really special.

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Tatler: What possibilities has Web3 brought to the art scene? How is viewing art in the metaverse different from a live or another virtual exhibition?

The possibilities that the metaverse have for showcasing art are almost limitless. The 3D experience isn’t new—since Covid, a lot of museums around the world have been offering virtual tours via Google Maps—but that viewing experience is still in its infancy.

With the improved technology, the metaverse is not just an alternative to live exhibitions; I would say it can even be a better one. Having been in Hong Kong for so many years, I know you have to be lucky to have an open gallery space where the light is falling in.

That’s not a problem with the stunning architectural masterpieces created by Oncyber. In terms of visuals, you can go crazy. The gallery experience can go as far as your mind can lead you, or even beyond.

I really tried to make the virtual exhibition as accessible as possible. You don’t need a crypto wallet to enter. All you need is either your mobile device or your laptop. If you’re a little more advanced and have your own VR system at home, you can enter it as if you’re walking into the metaverse.

Tatler: Will Bamboo Scenes go virtual from now on?

We’ll do a mix of both virtual and physical exhibitions. I believe the way we experience art is going to be more digital, but I also think, in a realistic way, the majority of people are still enjoying physical things.

What were the challenges you encountered while setting up this exhibition?

Because the metaverse is so new, little things like the technical process of getting NFTs into the gallery wasn’t always flawlessly. A month before Oncyber launched the mobile view, we started marketing the show even though we still had to get some entities in gallery. There were times when technology failed us, which was very stressful. But other gallery owners on Oncyber have been very supportive. They helped out and messaged that we could only be forgiving to ourselves when hiccups happened, because we’re all pioneers in this space.

Tatler: What more plans do you have in the near future?

We’ve been offering a platform for local artists in Hong Kong, but our aim is to do it in big cities around the world: our first stop is New York in June. We hope to be an incubator for artists who have created strong names for themselves locally and thrust them into the global limelight.

After this exhibition, we’ll have more NFT art exhibitions every six to eight weeks. For upcoming exhibitions, we’re enhancing the visiting experience: you can add your own NFT background music, or if you’ve bought a 3D dinosaur NFT, you can put it in the middle of the gallery.

I believe the metaverse is going to change the way we experience art, and it also welcomes a lot of new young collectors and creators who were not have not been well-known in the art industry.

A Woman’s World is on show until April 30.

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