When he was a child growing up in Szechuan, China, Harry XiZhuo Lin enjoyed watching television programs on art and culture, such as those on the History Channel. He always noticed where the artwork came from –- places like Egypt, China and India –- and where it had ended up –- places like the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre.
Lin, an Advertising and Digital Design senior, learned more about “stolen art” and issues of repatriations through his studies at FIT. His interest never abated. He was recently awarded first prize in an NFT Design Competition sponsored by Fabriq Labs, a digital design marketplace. Lin’s winning project, “The Stolen History of Art Collection,” is a NFT collection of artwork and artifacts that have been deemed improperly acquired from their places of origin.
Lin aims to correct misconceptions and bring attention to looted art:
“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this,” says Lin. “If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic.”
Lin describes NFTs as “representing digital authenticity and ownership.” His NFT collection is minted through what he calls an “experience art gallery.”
”Visitors will be allowed to acquire the NFT through contactless technology,” says Lin. Think of it as digital theft of already stolen art!
“We want people to keep the authentic history of art alive,” says Lin who is passionate about artwork being accessible to all. He says that of the approximately 8,000,000 artifacts in the holdings of The British Museum, only a very small percentage are on display.
During a semester abroad studying at Leeds Arts University in the UK, Lin gained greater appreciation for issues involving art repatriation:
“I feel privileged to have visited the UK and to travel abroad to see these artifacts in person. I wish my people from China could all do the same to understand our heritage and the achievements of our ancestors.”
Lin’s winning project was part of his senior graduation thesis in the format of an integrated advertising campaign. “This is an ongoing project. My hope is that one day museums will acknowledge the dark history of their acquisitions by repatriating certain works of art,” he says.
“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this. If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic,” says Lin.
In addition to minoring in Art History, Psychology, and Creative Technology, Lin is president of the Metaverse Club, for FIT students interested in exploring new technology and working on digital design projects.
The Metaverse Club won third place in the NFT Design Competition. Its project prompts fellow students to create a collection of NFTs that reflect the diversity and creativity at FIT. Photos of students are turned into characters in voxel (Lego-like) style. The club’s advisor, Interaction Design and Immersive Technologies professor Michael Posso, ’08, had arranged for guest speakers to discuss blockchain and 3D design.
The second place prize went to Lauren Breuer, a Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries senior. Her “Spot the Difference” art collection addresses the topic of speciesism with a focus on the dog and cow meat trades.
Fabriq Labs, an advocate of “Web3,” partnered with FIT for this first NFT Design Competition. Web3 is the general term for the emerging on-line collection of small, specialized, often individual web services. The contest was initiated by Chair William Reinisch and Professor Renee Leibler of the Entrepreneurship department.
Prize money was $2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second; and $750 for third.
Click here to learn more about Student Contests and Industry-Related Projects.
All images used with permission