A rising voice of international contemporary painting, Palestinian-born, Canada-based, Hanny Al Khoury is taking a leap into the seemingly ever-expanding field of digital art. With his recent venture into NFTs, the young artist shares with the global family of art lovers his emotionally charged Surrealist artworks, steeped into his personal experience of navigating trauma and identity crises. His paintings, and their digital versions, speak of pain and release, and transcend his own story to paint the Palestinian and human condition, seeking redemption through humanist values.
Al Khoury, who studied art in Tel Aviv and Haifa, moved to Canada in 2017 to open up his horizons. In a few short years, his canvases, at once carefully ordered and unsettlingly unstable, quickly gained recognition. After his first major solo exhibition in 2019 in Bethlehem, his career blossomed worldwide, with exhibitions in Abu Dhabi and Edmonton, among other locations, and an international representation by the New York, Paris and Beirut-based Mark Hachem Gallery.
Seamlessly bridging the gap between gallery grounds, art fairs, and the cyberspace, Al Khoury recently turned to producing art as NFTs (or, non-fungible tokens), aiming to create artworks that can, he says, “impact the digital world, which is developing into a reality as strong as ours.” NFTs have indeed dominated art world conversations for the past couple of years. These one-of-a-kind assets represent a real-world object – an artwork, music, a video for instance – under the form of digital files, such as a jpg or an mp3. They are made of non-interchangeable units of data stored on a digital ledger (the blockchain), and thereby unique.
In this sense, owning one resembles owning an original and authentic, yet reproducible, piece of art. NFTs also give artists unprecedented access to a global online market, and the chance to sell for considerable prices, going into the millions of dollars, to the new crypto-audience – one Al Khoury wishes to capture. “As an artist who expresses his feeling and thoughts through art,” he says, “I felt like taking the opportunity to list my work in the NFTs world to reach a new generation that appreciates art in a different way, the generation of the future.”
Acquiring NFTs today is an easy process: after creating a digital wallet using sites such as MetaMask to store tokens or ‘ethers’ (the currency generated by the Ethereum blockchain, which is favored by artists), one connects it to a peer-to-peer platform like OpenSea and uses it to purchase art securely on the website.
Eager to be part of global artistic innovation, Al Khoury became one of the first Palestinian artists to create NFTs. In August of 2021, he joined OpenSea, where he started putting up digital versions of his physical paintings for sale, succeeding in selling two NFTs in under two hours, each for 1 Ethereum (equivalent to 3,000 USD). This encouraged him to drop a full collection, called LaLa Land, in the beginning of October, 2021. (While part of the series, made of NFTs, will be available on OpenSea, the other part will be presented at Mark Hachem Gallery in Paris.) LaLa Land evokes the emotions arising in his birthplace of Palestine, trying, Al Khoury says, to “create a different reality, full of passion, pure interactions between the figures, and to bring the feeling of belonging to that land to its own owners.” LaLa Land also aims to constitute a healing journey towards a more just world, resonating with Al Khoury’s artistic philosophy, which envisions art, in his words, as “the consciousness of our fake consistency as a proof for the failure in the system, to encourage us to build a better future.”