Christie’s London announces a digital companion piece to Leonardo da Vinci’s penetrating study Head of a Bear, via a collaboration with digital artists Hackatao, an artist duo born in Milan and who have been pioneering the crypto art space since 2018. In response to Head of a Bear by Leonardo da Vinci, to be offered in the Exceptional Sale in London this July, Hackatao has created a work inspired by this Old Master drawing, bringing the bear majestically to life. This specially commissioned digital work will be unveiled at Christie’s King Street from 3 July, as part of the Classic Week view, visible via the Aria AR app. The digital work has been donated to The Museum of Crypto Art where it will subsequently appear.
Hackatao’s response to the masterpiece Head of a Bear by da Vinci is based on the concept of the continuum; a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct. A never-ending pattern, a curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole, and which leads to infinite circularity and the eternity of art.
Hover over the image of da Vinci’s Head of A Bear and, via the Aria App, the bear head becomes animated, fur undulating and ruffling and head-turning, and ultimately the mouth of the bear opens and the viewer enters into its jaws. The transition from Leonardo’s drawing, through the mapped 3D head, to the final digital drawings resembles an ocean wave. Throughout this very technical metamorphosis from physical to digital, the attention to detail driven by nature’s movement ties the two works together. Leonardo da Vinci was at the forefront of art at his age and now, in 2021 his work has inspired this response by Hackatao, with each artist taking their inspiration and vision from the everyday subject matter.
Hackatao is currently living and working immersed in nature in the mountains beyond Milan, where Leonardo once was a court artist. The artist duo has been integral in the revolution of crypto art and a significant influence in disrupting the way in which art is presented. They demonstrate that it is possible to remove oneself from urban life, whilst using technology to keep them fully engaged in the advancing digital world. Hackatao has been a core part of an art movement born from communities based on the web, where space and time no longer exists and where the creators can remain anonymous, being judged only for their art.
Behind every art movement, there are visionary pioneers, and the name ‘Hackatao’ was born out of the fusion of two words ‘Hack’ the pleasure of discovery, and ‘Tao’ meaning all living.
Their work has been lauded for its vision and interpretation of issues in today’s society including the environment, cryptocurrencies and humanity, whilst Hackatao also renders the ever-present question in today’s world probing ‘what is art’, as Leonardo may have done as an experimental and pioneering artist in his lifetime.
Hackatao has been experimenting with technology and believes that digital art is the new means to create and demonstrate artistic expression albeit via modern technology. As such Hackatao’s work Hack of a Bear is brought to life today in the metaverse (a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users) manifesting as a digital work inspired by the original 15th-century drawing.
Stijn Alsteens, International Head of Department, Old Master Drawings, Christie’s Paris comments, ‘Leonardo’s exceptional powers of observation and skills as a draughtsman allowed him to capture the world surrounding him as no one had done before – and indeed, like very few have been able to do since. As described in one of his notebooks, the studies he made from nature could also form the basis for works of fantasy and imagination.
His ‘Head of a Bear’, made in the early 1480s, seems to have been used by him when he was working on his celebrated portrait of Cecilia Gallerani in Cracow, which includes an idealized depiction of an ermine. The practice of seeing and studying reality whilst understanding its structure, beauty and artistic potential enabled him to transform it into a new work of art which he made his own – much as innovative digital artists like Hackatao do today.’
Noah Davis, Specialist, Post War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s New York comments, ‘One can only assume if Leonardo, the consummate technologist of his day, were living and working now, he would be absolutely fascinated by the rise of NFTs and probably even minting his own.
This collaboration marks an important moment for crypto-native artists like Hackatao when their practice is exploding into focus at the highest echelons of the international art market. It also marks an incredible moment for the Museum of Crypto Art (M○C△), as this will be the first time the work of Leonardo is exhibited in the metaverse. As the old boundaries between lived and virtual experience fade, Christie’s will continue seeking new ways to navigate the fascinating overlap between the two.’