Sybille Pfaff, German Consul General in Dubai, right and Petra Kaltenbach pose with the latter’s art installation

German expat NFT artist, Petra Kaltenbach grabbed headlines on winning Best Emerging NFT Artist at the Gulf News Web3 Awards, held this year in June. Now, the artist is back in the news after putting together a hybrid art installation to commemorate the long and cordial ties shared by Germany and the UAE.

The creation comprises of one installation and four large abstract paintings with corresponding videos, all linked by augmented reality software that is activated by scanning the actual paintings with a smartphone. The artwork is being featured at an exhibition held by the German consulate this month and in November, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Her artwork will also be featured at a public exhibition in Ras al Khaimah, at the Al Qasimi Art Foundation from December 5-12 this year.

In an exclusive interview with GN Focus, Kaltenbach talks about her inspiration, how the NFT art marketplace is trending and why transformation fascinates her as a theme.

Share your experience on participating and winning the Best Emerging NFT Artist at the recently concluded GN Web3 Awards.

It was exciting because I didn’t know if I was going to be the winner until the awards ceremony. All nominated projects were served by renowned artists or blockchain experts. I am incredibly honoured to receive an award for my first NFT project.

How did the entire project for the 50 Years of Diplomatic Relations between the UAE and Germany come about?

For several years, I had been working on art projects with the German Missions in the UAE. Together, we developed the idea to symbolise the long-standing partnership between UAE and Germany through an innovative art project called WE_50 Years of Diplomatic Relations Between the UAE and Germany

The artworks embody transformation, the WE means reaching goals and ideals together. Defining a partnership intensifying with time - facilitating exchange, shared standpoints, and developing new perspectives. The closer we get, the easier we overcome challenges and as we transform, the stronger the WE becomes.

The aim of this art project is to reach out to people in all seven emirates of the UAE, to further build bridges between the two countries by creating a continuous network of relations

- Sybille Pfaff, German Consul General in Dubai

Embedded tech in video art sounds very futuristic, what is the scope you see for this artistic form gaining in popularity in years to come?

Since 2015, I have been connecting artworks via QR code. People weren’t familiar with the technology but this has changed since Covid. Our world is rapidly changing and technology is embedded into society, including the art world. NFTs are a blessing for video art — for the first time originality is guaranteed.

Digital art is a medium — like canvas — with every new medium comes new possibilities, artists, and buyers. I believe video art is paving a transition from classical into digital art, and I bridged this gap through an AR app, connecting physical works with digital NFT-art.

When did you first hit upon making NFTs of your art collection, how viable is it globally and in the region?

Last autumn, I was invited to participate in a group exhibition with an art video. I quickly became fascinated by the topic of NFT because I immediately recognised the possibility of securing my digital art against intellectual theft and proving its authenticity. One of the big problems of video art / digital art was the non-provability of authenticity. It will take a few more years for digital art to really establish itself, but I think a big step has been taken with the NFT.

Digital technologies have become indispensable in our everyday lives. Digital art is a part of it. It will take some time for this new art form to become established. In Germany, there is a saying: Good things take time.

Tell us about your curatorial stint with World Art Dubai and how it has helped shape your world as an artist.

World Art Dubai has existed since 2015. It has always been one of the most important art fairs in the entire region. World Art Dubai, owned by DWTC, awarded me Best UAE Resident Artist in 2018 and appointed me curator in 2019 — in a team of 3 female curators.

Working as an artist and curator is always a challenge for me... as a curator, you are constantly evaluating other artworks at a high level, and this constant evaluation of course also has an impact on my own art. You become much more critical and set very high standards for yourself.

For me, it is important to be a role model and to bring in new artistic impulses. So I certainly stand for the tech artist who not only paints classically but also uses new technologies such as UV printing in combination with classical painting, video art, unusual materials, and NFTs.

Why does transformation as a theme fascinate you?

In 2004, I moved to Dubai where I experienced irresistible, rapid, and unprecedented growth in the urban environment around me. This brought me to my core theme of transformation.