Leading Artists Auction NFTs To Benefit Saatchi Gallery Learning  

Polly Morgan with her first ever NFT work

A collection of NFT digital art, created by leading talent, is currently under the hammer to support young artists. Commissioned by Hendrick’s Gin, the proceeds from the sale will be donated to Saatchi Gallery Learning – to further its education programmes and nurture budding creative minds

The artists have been briefed to create unique artworks to commemorate this most unique of summers

Following 18 months of stifled curiosity and suppressed creative expression, Hendrick’s Gin is encouraging the most inquisitive to resubmerge themselves once again… through the blooming artistic explosion of NFTs (non-fungible tokens or unique digital tokens). The arts and culture sector were hit terribly by Covid, with output 46% down on last year, in Q4 alone. Young people in particular have been hit the hardest with Saatchi Gallery Learning focusing on helping this demographic.

A guest views O(A)K Computer an NFT by Jake Elwes
A guest views O(A)K Computer an NFT by Jake Elwes

The artists have been briefed to create unique artworks to commemorate this most unique of summers. Acclaimed sculptor Polly Morgan and spoken word artist and commentator Raven Smith, with established digital artists Ray Caesar and Jake Elwes completing the captivating line up.

Each bespoke creation is being auctioned through Rarible – with proceeds being donated to support Saatchi Gallery’s Learning Programme – and bring to life the sense of escape and hope the nation feels this summer, as well as portraying the juxtaposition between the ‘Zoom overload’ digital world we’re now all so accustomed to, and the physical world we’re daring to dip our toes back into. The auction is live now here.

Donations from the Hendrick’s G&(NF)T exhibition X Rarible auction will support Saatchi Gallery to continue to expand its celebrated learning programme, geared towards introducing a diverse audience to the cutting edge of contemporary art. Saatchi Gallery Learning aims to reveal the possibilities of artistic expression to young minds, encouraging fresh thought and stimulating innovation such as NFTs.

Spoken word artist and commentator Raven Smith, who has penned his reflections on this unique summer for a piece of digital art for the collection, comments, “I love summer as much as the next guy, but this summer hit different. It felt like a series of pleasant but disjointed vignettes, rather than an overarching narrative. I wanted to print a still from our snapshot summer. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this and collaborating with the team to help the prose exist in a new and distinctive way.”

Lala Thorpe, Head of Learning at Saatchi Gallery adds, “Our learning programmes aim to respond to our ever-changing environments and encourage participants to explore fresh ways of looking at contemporary art. We are grateful to be a part of this exciting showcase of NFT works by emerging artists and to be supported in our efforts to continue to deliver our thought-provoking and immersive learning activities.” – Visit Auction Here


Ray Caesar

Ray Caesar (b.1958) is an English digital surreal artist who lives and works in Arcadia, Canada. He is represented by Gallery House Inc.

Ray spent 17 years working in the art therapy program of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where he chronicled everything from child abuse, re-constructive surgery, to the heroic children that deal with the hardship and challenges that life has to offer. Caesar’s experiences deeply influenced his artwork, which is digitally created using 3D modelling software, mastered while working in digital animation for television and film industries from 1998-2001.

In his creations he merges elements of decorative styles and architectural ages, mixing Art Decò, Victorian style and visual codes from the early 1900s. Caesar likens the virtual environment to “a dissociative fugue or very deep daydream… you can get lost in there very easily.”

Polly Morgan

Polly Morgan (b.1980) is a British artist living and working in London. Self-taught with no formal education in art, Polly Morgan works in taxidermy, concrete and polyurethane. Polly won the 2021 Royal Society of Sculptors First Plinth public art award.

She is persistently drawn to the deceptive qualities of veneers that are used to conceal or protect something less desirable or durable, and of snakes’ skins; designed to provide camouflage or to imitate more deadly breeds.

Social media and the Covid pandemic provide the context for her latest work, for which she uses the decorative hides of snakes and the trompe l’oeil designs in nail artistry to probe the disparity between surface and reality.

Raven Smith

Raven Smith is a London based cultural commentator and bestselling author. Named the ‘Del Boy of Content’ by the Financial Times, Raven uses his social media channels and columns to examine taste, modern living and pop culture via irreverent essays and Instagram posts.

Raven was formerly commissioning director at Nowness and has written columns for Vogue and Sunday Times, as well as contributing to a variety of other publications and national broadsheets. He is quoted by many as the funniest person on Instagram. His first book, ‘Raven Smith’s Trivial Pursuits’, was a Sunday Times best-seller.

Jake Elwes

Jake Elwes (b.1993) is a media artist living and working in London. Trained at The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, his recent works explore his research into machine learning and artificial intelligence. His practice looks for poetry and narrative in the success and failures of these systems, while also investigating and questioning the code and ethics behind them.

His current works explore AI bias by queering datasets with drag performers. They simultaneously demystify and subvert AI systems.

Jake’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including current and upcoming shows in Germany, Shanghai, Beijing, Venice, Edinburgh, London, Austria, Spain, India and Australia.

Since 1985, Saatchi Gallery has provided an innovative platform for contemporary art. Exhibitions have presented works by largely unseen young artists, or by international artists whose work has been rarely or never exhibited in the UK. This approach has made the Gallery one of the most recognised names in contemporary art. Since moving to its current 70,000 square feet space in the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, London, the Gallery has welcomed over 10 million visitors. The Gallery hosts over 5,000 schools visits annually and has over 6 million followers on social media. In 2019 Saatchi Gallery became a charity, beginning a new chapter in its history. Instagram: @saatchigallery_learning #SummerEscape @HendricksGin

An Artlyst Q & A with Polly Morgan:

AL: Your works always intrigue on the visual. How did the lockdown affect your artistic process?

PM: It was tricky as I had two children under 3 so they were home all day having been at nursery before. I had less time than ever but found inventive ways to involve the elder one in my work. I had been embarking on an exhibition, How to Behave at Home, titled pre-Covid, Suddenly we were all having to reconfigure how to behave in our homes and I found myself inspired by the position we were in. It was so extraordinary and unlike anything I’d experienced before, I saw parallels between the items that were arriving for the studio, packed neatly in specially moulded foam, and all of us, locked away in our homes feeling cosy or claustrophobic depending on your home/domestic arrangement.

AL: Do you feel expression and creativity in the art scene in general was emboldened due to lockdown or suffered?

PM: I think the results were split. There were those who had more time to create and blossomed and those with fewer resources or no access to their studios who diversified into new mediums successfully. But there were also no galleries or art fairs and buying art is a luxury that is one of the first things to go in a crisis so artists suffered financially.

AL: What was your inspiration for getting into art which so often deceives, yet ultimately provokes?

PM: I have always been a fan of tromp l’oeil images and I realise that my getting into taxidermy was a form of 3d troupe l’oeil to me; you think you’re looking at something that isn’t really there. The same goes for my casting of everyday objects, who would expect a piece of polystyrene to feel so heavy when picked up? These things tie in with my interest in veneers and the way we clad things we see as inferior with supposedly superior materials, or the way we edit our photographs to give the impression we are younger, thinner and with more exciting lives.

AL: You mainly work in taxidermy, concrete and polyurethane. Have you ever worked in other areas for your creations or plan to move into different sculptural disciplines?

PM: I draw occasionally and have developed new painting techniques for my sculptures which I sometimes think may spill over into something more. Making the NFT has been an exciting process for me as I’ve never worked in animation before and it’s been thrilling to be able to bring my sculptures to life in this way. I am interested in moving into film as a way of embellishing my ideas.

AL: Could you tell us about your latest project, and the motive behind your move into an NFT artwork?

PM: The brief was ‘summer 2021’ and I instantly thought of us all, emerging from our homes like hatchlings. I use polystyrene to represent buildings or homes and the way they mould to their tenants and offer protection, more than ever in 2020. I wanted to make something that reminded you of an egg hatching but also with a nod to our online selves, more prevalent than ever in 2020. Snakes scales, like pixels, are brightly coloured and often thought to mimic the patterns of more deadly snakes to ward off predators or provide camouflage so they can assimilate. I feel we do the same online; altering our appearances to look more acceptable or to conform to social standards and thus avoiding censure by our peers.

AL: Why did you feel it was important to get involved in such a project?

PM: I wasn’t comfortable with just jumping on an NFT bandwagon and trying to cash in on a recent phenomenon. I liked the thought that the funds raised would be helping young people to get creative in company again. It felt like the perfect salve after a really tough year for some.

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