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Digital artist Amrit Pal Singh makes a play in the gallery

Known for creating toy faces of global cultural icons, Amrit Pal Singh is exploring a new space to show his art

For toy faces, Amrit Pal Singh picks artists that he looks up to. Photo: Method Bandra
For toy faces, Amrit Pal Singh picks artists that he looks up to. Photo: Method Bandra

Amrit Pal Singh is not your typical artist. Quiet, unassuming and all of 34, he is India’s most important name in the world of non-fungible tokens (NFT), having earned a staggering 393 ETH (around 6.5 crore now) from digital artworks online since he began in 2020. Now, he’s holding an offline exhibition, The Toy Face Tour, of his iconic digital toy faces—or toy-like renditions of cultural figures and characters. Coinciding with his 100th NFT drop, his first solo features prints on paper and canvas as well as a constructed toy room, designed entirely by the artist himself.

The objective is simple: to spread the joy of creativity and art and build a community of individuals who can appreciate his work. In an interview with Lounge, he talks about what creativity means to him in today’s world. Edited excerpts:

As an NFT artist, how does it feel to showcase your artwork offline?

I feel that to showcase something in a tangible form is a great experience and I am so glad that with my solo show, I was able to achieve that. That being said, I love showcasing my work digitally. It is way more accessible and I absolutely love using the web and social media to get more eyes on my art. I don’t want to pick one over another. I want to explore them both and push both of them to make my online experiences more immersive and offline ones more grand.

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How has the NFT space impacted your career trajectory?

I started making toy faces back in 2020, which became quite popular with tech and design communities. But once I stepped into the NFT world, my practice took a new direction and got exposed to a lot of new communities. Not just me, I feel NFTs really helped digital art and artists to be seen in a different light and be taken more seriously.

The lines that separate collectors, artists and curators have gotten blurred and I have embraced all three roles, and so did a lot of artists who got into NFTs. The collaborative spirit is really high due to the global nature of NFTs. I was able to collaborate with artists worldwide, from Pablo Stanley, LIŔONA to Mark Watts, an artist who did the original Transformers G1 illustration back in the 1980s.

Before that, I was doing a lot of commissioned work and exploring passions like literature, art, cinema, product design, interiors, history and architecture. All of these have come together beautifully in the physical toy room that I have created in the exhibition for audiences to immerse themselves in.

Your love for toys is evident in your work. How did that come about?

I was one of those kids who loved playing with toys. From LEGO sets, Hot Wheels cars to G.I. Joe figurines, I collected everything. The colours, textures and nostalgia have remained and found their way into my art. When I was making toy faces, I picked artists whom I looked up to when I first started making art. I remember my first trip to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi while I was in school and discovering Amrita Sher-Gil. I loved how charismatic she was and, apart from being a talented artist, she was such a style icon. I just had to dedicate a work to her.

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Similarly, I made a toy face of M.F. Husain, who had visited my school back in 2002 and painted his iconic horses on the wall of the room where we used to have our art classes. Another personal favourite is Yayoi Kusama. I love her earlier works and how bold and playful she is as an artist. Other toy faces include personalities like Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Piet Mondrian and Frida Kahlo. To me, toy faces are a great medium for nostalgia. They almost act like portals to a simpler time.

The future of NFTs is a topic of much discussion and speculation. As an NFT artist, what are your thoughts on where this technology is headed?

The NFT world has evolved a lot. There was a lot of hype initially and then it slowed down but personally I feel now it’s more realistic and sustainable for the long run. People have to have realistic expectations of what NFT as an investment looks like. That being said, I am still very positive about the space and its future. I feel NFTs will be the No.1 tool to trade digital art and it will keep evolving. Plus, like crypto trends are cyclical, so it will be interesting to remain ready for the next surge and slowly build meanwhile. Personally, I have had a good collector base that keeps supporting me.

What’s next for you? What drives you to create and keep going?

I don’t plan a lot. I am more of a go-with-the-flow kind of artist. I will never have a five-year plan but what I really want to explore now is to build experiences for both digital and physical worlds, collaborate with other artists and masters of their craft, keep taking toy tours to different cities and spread awareness about my art, digital art and NFTs.

Gautami Reddy is a Delhi-based culture writer, who explores the realms of art, design, architecture, and technology.

Presented by Method and, The Toy Face Tour will be at the International Museum Expo, Pragati Maidan, Delhi, till 20 May, at Method Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, from 8-25 June, and Church Street Social, Bengaluru, from 7-23 July.

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