Phillips has announced the “Ex-Machina: A History of Generative Art” exhibition and online auction. Curated by Georg Bak, Ex-Machina illustrates the history of generative art, starting in the 1950s with the pioneers of computer art through to present-day generative nonfungible token (NFT) artists. Featuring unseen works by pioneers Vera Molnar, Hebert Franke and Gottfried Jäger, Ex-Machina also brings to market for the first time works by generative NFT artists Snowfro and Dmitri Cherniak. A public preview of highlights ran in 2022 from May 31 to June 17 at Phillips’ Paris gallery on Rue du Bac before the upcoming full-scale exhibition from this Monday, July 11, to Aug. 5 at 30 Berkeley Square, London. The works will be offered in an online auction from this Wednesday, July 13, to July 20 on the Phillips website. Prices range from $2,400 to $1.3 million. 

Benjamin Kandler, project lead of digital art at Phillips, said: “Phillips is excited to bring to market so many historic works, and this marks the first time such an extensive exhibition and sale of such works have ever taken place. In Paris and London, Ex-Machina will be on view for a combined month-and-a-half — a conscious decision to allow the public to engage with and experience this unique offering. Vera Molnar’s “(Des)Ordres” has been consigned directly from her studio; a work of this scale and condition has never come to the public market before. We are also excited to have pieces coming directly from Herbert Franke and Eduardo Kac, the latter of which, from his Minitel series, have been acquired by Tate Modern and the Museum of Modern Art.”

Ex-Machina features several historic and emerging works by generative NFT artists, bridging the evolution of generative art over the last 70 years. The most significant digital work is Dmitri Cherniak’s “Ringers #29,” coming from the prestigious collection of Narcissus Gallery and part of the artist’s renowned Ringers series. “Ringers #29” is just one of four Ringers out of 1,000 with an extra-green dot and the first one to ever come to market since the project was released. Originally released on Art Blocks, Cherniak used a P5.js script to explore the concept, “How many ways can you wrap a piece of string around a set of pegs?” He worked on the algorithm for years, eventually resulting in the Art Blocks release. Each work is unique in that it does not exist until the collector purchases it. Their transaction data interacts with preset variables, producing widely different works with unique characteristics. 

Ex-Machina demonstrates the breadth of medium and creativity in the generative art space. Its highlights include the Chaos Machine by Distributed Gallery, a collective of artists and engineers who create works based on distributed technologies, typically blockchain-based. The Chaos Machine is an Ethereum-based jukebox that is activated when fiat banknotes are inserted into the machine and incinerated. The playlist for the jukebox is user-generated and, once active, plays out of both jukeboxes, regardless of how far away from each other they are. Once a banknote has been burned, the user is issued a QR code that allows them to add another song to the playlist. Only two Chaos Machines have ever been produced.

Phillips is also excited to have a work minted especially for sale by Snowfro from his acclaimed Chromie Squiggle series. The exhibition and sale present a wide variety of mediums including photography, sculpture, editions, oscillograms, NFTs and installations.

About Phillips 

Phillips is a leading global platform for buying and selling art and design from the 20th and 21st centuries, with dedicated expertise in the areas of 20th-century and contemporary art, design, photographs, editions, watches and jewelry. Phillips offers professional services and advice on all aspects of collecting. Auctions and exhibitions are held at salerooms in New York, London, Geneva and Hong Kong, while clients are further served through representative offices based throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Phillips also offers an online auction platform accessible anywhere in the world. In addition to providing selling and buying opportunities through auctions, Phillips brokers private sales and offers assistance with appraisals, valuations and other financial services.

Press contact 

London: Katie Carder, head of press in Europe