CultTech Media

How is CultTech integrating into the global agenda?

We are 3 months into 2024, and the culttech movement is picking up pace. Cultural startups are getting funding (Apollo Art, Proofcheck, Docent — to name a few); the topic is voiced at the 4YFN Barcelona conference; a new art and technology Mesh Festival is announced for October 2024 in Switzerland. Meanwhile, at the beginning of spring, a few culttech startups got representation at two key industry events in the MENA region: Art Dubai, an international art fair, and Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, a global forum for leaders from the fields of culture, public policy and technology.

Anastasia Mishina, a cultural producer and an ambassador of culttech, went there and gave an overview that sheds light on the growing focus on startups in today's agenda.

CultTech at Art Dubai

Art Dubai, the premier international art fair for the Middle East and Global South, celebrated its 17th edition from March 1st to 3rd, 2024. Over 120 galleries exhibited contemporary, modern, and digital art. The event also featured a solid public program with talks and partnerships.

Surely, art is a focal point at the art fair, but the presence of startups was notable. Most of them were highlighted in the Art Dubai Digital section, curated by the duo Auronda Scalera and Alfredo Cramerotti, co-directors of IAM-Infinity Art Museum, based in the Metaverse. That part of the fair united different models of digital art existence and distribution.

At Art Dubai Digital, startups were spotted at three booths: Cinello, Immaterika, and Holy Club. In fact, Cinello’s tech solution connects all of them, and the Holy Club digital gallery can easily become a startup hub at the fair. Three out of the four companies mentioned below have ties to it.

Cinello. Featured Booth at Art Dubai Digital.

Cinello is a company that digitally reproduces renowned art masterpieces. They go far from the NFTs that we constantly hear about in the context of digital artworks. Cinello offers special software and hardware that together create a pretty special digital artwork called DAW®. When they sell a DAW®, they actually sell a whole package: a MYGAL® device, a black box that is a secure offline container for the artwork, a matte screen in the original artwork size, a replica of the original frame, and a certificate of authenticity jointly signed by Cinello and the respective museum.

Cinello presented DAWs® of female portraits by Da Vinci, Raphael, Bronzino, and Modigliani at their booth. The fantastic part is that when selling them, 50% of each sale's net revenue goes to the museum partner. In 2022 and 2023, the company was able to give back €300,000 to museums!

Recently, the startup launched a new division called Cinello Unlimited, extending its solution to contemporary digital artists. This is what links them with other booths at Art Dubai Digital. At the fair, Immaterika, a creative Web 3 factory, showcased works by artists who are part of Cinello Unlimited's collection using their patented technology. Holy Club's digital gallery displayed Matteo Mandelli, who was, in a way, a modern-day Lucio Fontana with an electric cutter, who created his work in partnership with Cinello.

The booth primarily enhanced Cinello's visibility: with over 35,000 attendees at the fair, all participants received substantial coverage through its resources and media. Moreover, it turned out to be a cross-gallery promo for the startup since its technology was used and sold not only at the startup's own stand but also at the two others in the section.

Artivive. AR collaborative presenter for the Holy Club digital gallery.

Artivive, long-time advocates of the culttech scene in Vienna, offers an AR tool that enables artists to integrate 2D and 3D digital layers into their artworks.

During the fair, they played a crucial role at the Holy Club stand, showcasing the THEM artists' collective. Their artworks feature AR dimensions accessible through the Artivive app. It's user-friendly and hassle-free: the app's primary function, image recognition, kicks in instantly upon opening without the need for tedious settings or logins.

Artivive technology is the sole means to experience four artworks fully. With only one tablet available at the gallery's booth, participating in the fair likely resulted in an increase in downloads of the startup's application. Even though not all Art Dubai users may become regulars, they got to know the app.

Foundation. Sales mediator for the Holy Club digital gallery.

Foundation is an NFT marketplace designed for curators, collectors, and creators. Its focus is on building a community.

At the fair, they were featured in the context of the already-mentioned art collective THEM, represented by the Holy Club gallery. Works by THEM could be bought directly from the Foundation, but you can check them out here without necessarily buying anything. According to their section on Foundation, four of the seven artworks presented have been purchased on the platform. Additionally, based on accessible provenance data, three of these four were bought on the last day of the fair, March 3rd.

Foundation was an implicit and indirect participant in the fair. It would be great to meet them in a discussion as part of the public program with the next startup.

IOGINALITY. Hosted Public Discussion in VIP Program.

IOGINALITY is a platform that unites digital exhibitions and NFT marketplace. In Dubai, they hosted a public discussion titled 'Digital Dispatches' as part of the VIP program in the TODA (Theatre of Digital Art) space. The event featured an unconventional format, including a Q&A session based on pre-submitted queries. As the initial hype around NFTs faded, professionals raised deep industry-related questions, which IOGINALITY had collected via an online form before the event and addressed on the spot.

What draws attention to IOGINALITY's work is their focus on IP rights when purchasing NFTs. Sale options are customizable there. They offer three licenses: basic, commercial, and full. They clearly outline to collectors the extent of usage rights, from non-commercial use to the freedom of printing and merchandising.

Participating in this way helps IOGINALITY establish itself as a startup deeply involved in NFT sales and advancing the arts and culture sphere, gaining recognition for investing in a curatorial approach.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Following the Art Dubai fair, the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi took place in the capital Emirate. This annual global forum brings together leaders from various fields, including arts, design, heritage, media, museums, public policy, and technology, to delve into how culture can drive societal transformations worldwide. Its 6th edition occurred from March 3rd to 5th, 2024, organized by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi in collaboration with prominent partners like UNESCO, The Economist Impact, Google, and others.

The Summit is gradually emerging as the cultural equivalent of The World Economic Forum in Davos. Similar to the WEF, it attracts high-profile participants and stakeholders to tackle pressing global cultural issues and explore avenues for innovation. The digitalization of culture was a recurrent theme throughout the summit, with one startup even taking center stage.

Ask Mona. Facilitated Professional Workshop on Cultural AI.

Ask Mona offers artificial intelligence solutions for cultural institutions, including a practical information chatbot, an AI Guide for exhibitions, and smart magnets equipped with QR codes for interacting with historical characters.

At the Culture Summit, startup co-founder Valentin Schmite led a workshop titled 'ChatGPT, Generative AI, and Creativity: Shaping Tomorrow's Cultural Landscape'. He showcased AI's practical applications, providing real-time examples for ideation, accessibility, data analysis, and mediation for cultural institutions. Following an engaging Q&A session with the audience, he introduced their latest innovation: the smart magnet.

This workshop at the specialized event enhances the startup's reputation as a leader in its field and helps forge new partnerships within the cultural sector.. The latter is particularly fruitful in the MENA region now: attendees included professionals from Europe and museums and government agencies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, and on Saadiyat Island only, where the summit occurred, cultural institutions unveil one after the other. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abrahamic Family House, and The Bassam Freiha Art Foundation are already open, while Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, The Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, and The Sheikh Zayed National Museum are set to open soon.

The presence of culttech startups at events like Art Dubai and the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi highlights the evolving intersection between arts, culture, and technology. As these events gain significance each year, startups play an increasingly independent role in shaping this relationship. They contribute through their own booths, workshops, discussions, and partnerships with galleries or other startups. Observing the fusion of the refined ambiance of art fairs or culture summits with the startup environment instills optimism for the cultural and technological landscape. Moving forward, maintaining a strong presence at such events is essential for driving progress and fostering collaboration.

Cover image: Courtesy of The National UAE