By VICTOR SLEDGE, October 2021
Stephen Hawking is the principal personification of the words innovation, science, mathematics, and discovery. The physicist, cosmologist, and author was at the pinnacle of not just scientific exploration, but also what it meant to be a thinker over the last 50 years. It’s only right that he be the face stepping into a new realm of progression in the art world as an NFT.
Next month, world-renowned British-American artist, David Gamble, and crypto art dealer Morphy will bring Hawking into the NFT world by auctioning Gamble’s iconic photo of Hawking as an exclusive NFT.
The winner of the auction will also get access to a unique unlockable: an audio file of an uncut, 53-minute interview wherein Gamble discusses the day he took Hawking’s photograph. This interview was recorded in his New Orleans studio in May 2021.
The seminal photo of Hawking was taken by Gamble in late 1987 for Time Magazine, which published it in 1988. Gamble’s intention was to show Hawking in a way he hadn’t been seen before.
“What I was trying to get at with that picture wasn’t really physical,” Gamble explains. “It was an internal, mental thing.”
Gamble says that the narrative around Hawking was very important to him. Originally, the brief for the photoshoot included things like Hawking in front of the backdrop of a sunset and Cambridge, which Gamble wasn’t quite on board with.
“I tore that up, and I went ‘I’m not going to do that,’” Gamble says.
It was a decision that defined the lasting image of an icon for decades to come.
From there, the photo took on a life of its own. Gamble won multiple awards for his work, and Hawking even used the photo as the cover to his book, A Brief History of Time. Now, the photo is the most recognizable of Hawking, and it is about to take on a whole new life with Morphy.
In this novel time of scientific exploration and discovery along with endless technical advancement, there’s never been a better time for this new way of facilitating auctions, and there’s never been a better person to symbolize this moment than Hawking.
Gregory Gremillion, the founder of Morphy, says, “If you think of the parallels between all things crypto these days, we thought the timing was perfect to release this photo as a 1/1 NFT, at this moment in history.”
And it’s not just about Hawking for Gremillion.
“Gamble is a world-class artist. I think any of his works are ripe for this space,” he raves. “Photography is a traditional medium, but he’s used his tools in futuristic ways throughout his career.”
And after his iconic portraits of people like the Dalai Lama and Margaret Thatcher and even being personally invited to photograph Andy Warhol’s home after his passing, Gamble’s vision is the perfect way to step into the NFT space for Gremillion.
It’s almost poetic: a photograph of one of the most incomparable minds we’ve ever had, taken by one of the most visionary artists of our times, charting this new space that isn’t bound to the traditional parameters of art. The possibilities of the NFT space are as boundless as the possibilities of Hawking’s thought. That freedom is something Gamble sees fitting for artists like himself.
“The whole point of being an artist is to live in a place that’s not definable by the conventions of the society that we live in,” he says.
One thing he notes about the freedom of this new space being able to live outside of the conventions of our society is that we’re able to choose our own heroes.
“And if there is a hero for this new world,” Gamble explains, “I think it’s Stephen Hawking, the iconic figure for everything that’s embedded in what this new world represents.”
Gremillion and Gamble are embracing this “new world” and taking up their own space within it with this auction.
As an artist who has a career spanning over decades and across mediums, Gamble is completely on board with the NFT innovation in the art world.
“I think the art world needs a huge shaking up,” he says.
To Gamble, the NFT and crypto world is a new frontier that changes the dynamics of how art is seen, shared, and owned.
“It’s not a world that can be controlled by the establishment of art dealers and curators,” he says. “This is a step outside their world.”
For Gremillion, who has lived many professional lives, this new frontier is fulfilling to him because of the novelty it has.
“I’m just trying to be early in a space that’s not going anywhere for a long time, if ever,” Gremillion explains. “I have lots of friends who are justifiably skeptical about what I’m doing, and the first thing I tell them is that there’s a bit of philosophy they need to buy into first.”
Some fulfilling aspects of this venture, he says, are both the creativity involved and the flexibility of the work. As technology has progressed, and even with factors like COVID-19, the idea of exhibiting, buying and selling art has progressed too.
“I can do this from anywhere,” Gremillion says. “That’s inspiring to me.”
As with many fields since the pandemic, the NFT art world is born and bred virtually. The idea of needing to own a physical version of an artwork is, although valuable in its own right, no longer a requirement in this realm.
NFTs change the rules in buying and selling art. This is a world with new parameters, new dynamics and new players. And as established individuals like Gamble and Gremillion enter the NFT world, another novel aspect of the space is that it’s also a world with limitless potential because it hasn’t strictly defined itself yet. But one thing that is the same between the NFT world and the traditional art world is that great art is still great art.
The Hawking photo has a value that will only appreciate as the art world continues to progress, and the work of artists like Gamble will do the same as professionals like Gremillion continue to collaborate with them.
To learn more about the Stephen Hawking NFT, please click here.
For the auction on OpenSea, launching on Oct. 5, 2021, please click here.
To learn more about David Gamble or Morphy, please visit their websites below.
David Gamble: www.davidgamble.net
Morphy: www.morphyhodls.com. WM
Victor Sledge is an Atlanta-based writer with experience in journalism, academic, creative, and business writing. He has a B.A. in English with a concentration in British/American Cultures and a minor in Journalism from Georgia State University. Victor was an Arts & Living reporter for Georgia State’s newspaper, The Signal, which is the largest university newspaper in Georgia. He spent a year abroad studying English at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, where he served as an editor for their creative magazine before returning to the U.S. as the Communications Ambassador for Georgia State’s African American Male Initiative. He is now a master’s student in Georgia State’s Africana Studies Program, and his research interest is Black representation in media, particularly for Black Americans and Britons. His undergraduate thesis, Black on Black Representation: How to Represent Black Characters in Media, explores the same topic.