Jackie Tsai was born in Shanghai, China but now calls London home; if he ever stays in the British capital long enough, that is. His studio is in vibrant Shoreditch, a stone’s throw from Julian Opie’s studio. But now that borders have reopened, the in-demand artist travels the world, meeting fans, gallery owners and potential partners.
As prolific as it is provocative (Tsai’s work often boldly places Western pop culture figures in a traditional Chinese context, as seen in Harmonious society — which depicts Superman, Batman and Robin seeking refuge in China after their world collapsed, allegorically reflecting the country’s industrial rise and waning Western dominance), the 38-year-old artist is also well known for creating flower skull which fashion designer Alexander McQueen used in his Spring/Summer 2008 menswear collection. This recognition, it must be said, catapulted him into the minds of international connoisseurs.
Such infatuation with a controversial aesthetic quickly led Tsai to the same “terrible child” as McQueen, although he quickly retorts: “People think I have a rebel spirit. Yes, my work is sarcastic, but it’s also funny, full of humor and controversy. I want it to make the viewer think.”
The new MetaSkull collection focused on the metaverse was only launched on October 19th. It consists of 1001 unique digital art objects dedicated to three different themes: gambling, poker and anti-war action. The entire collection was created using a generative art technique. also 3D in nature is an innovative move as most of the NFT products on the market today are 2D. To do this, Tsai worked in partnership with Froyo Games, a Web3 gaming platform with extensive global video game development experience, partnered in Southeast Asia with iCandy Interactive, the region’s largest game development company.
“My vision for MetaSkull is to dispel the notion of fear and negative attitudes towards death, especially among the Chinese,” he says. “In addition to being a bridge between Eastern and Western art, I also want to be a bridge that links traditional art forms to the NFT,” he says. “We are now living in interesting times where traditional artists are struggling to transform their art into the digital world. The voices of the NFT artists are getting louder and louder, but the two worlds still don’t understand each other.”
What makes the launch of MetaSkull particularly interesting is that Sotheby’s will auction the first NFT (1/1001) featuring a unique skull design on a moon-like background and the inclusion of a flying avatar between today and October 28th. chose this design to celebrate my journey into the limitless metaverse,” he adds. “It’s like exploring the vast surface of the moon for the first time.”
Art aficionados will note that it is highly unusual for such a well-known international auction house to have a bidding process for an NFT art launch. The rest of the MetaSkull collection will be available for public minting at a later date, yet to be announced.
However, Sotheby’s sold Tsai’s first ever NFT project in 2019. Chinese flower skull, lot 37, a programmable NFT sold for $302,400, the highest price for an NFT designed by an Asian artist to date. “I am thrilled to present my digital art masterpieces in their various forms to open up new perspectives for the digital audience,” says Tsai. “MetaSkull lays out humanity’s different perspectives on death, highlighting changing attitudes towards life and how our choices ultimately affect our journey towards the inevitable.”
In Malaysia, Tsai last exhibited in December 2021 at the Qing Gallery in Kuala Lumpur with his Forever now Exhibition.
This article first appeared on October 24, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.