Ithra’s show brings football and art together in NFT exhibition - GulfToday

Ithra’s show brings football and art together in NFT exhibition


The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in neon and skylight.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) celebrates the art of the beautiful game in a unique exhibition at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. From Strike to Stroke features 64 NFTs by 32 artists from the competing nations, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) fuses the pieces from the contending two countries in each of the 64 matches into an artwork based on the parameters and results of the game.

The result is a collection of 64 one-of-a-kind NFTs created through a collaboration of man and machine. From Strike to Stroke opened at the Galleria Mall in Doha, Qatar, on November 24, and runs until December 23.

“Ithra, a global gateway and a cultural bridge between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world, channels the world’s passion for football into its infatuation with the arts as the world comes together for the football biggest stage that is the World Cup,” says the cultural promoter. “The exhibition melds the man-made with the machine-made, and combines art, sport and technology in an innovative fashion.” The project is the culmination of the effort of 32 emerging and established artists, each tasked with creating a piece representing their country and using their respective team’s jersey colours. After each match, the AI-powered algorithm combines the artists’ creations with match statistics to generate artpieces that represent each game.


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The final collection will be a unique set of pieces presented as NFTs — non-fungible tokens. The cryptographic assets are based on blockchain technology, and created in a process similar to cryptocurrencies.

From Strike to Stroke includes both artists who work in traditional ways and have never created NFTs and NFT artists who had not worked within the traditional scope of fine art. “The passion shared by football fans for the love of the beautiful game can be tangential to the passion shared by art aesthetes,” said Dr. Shurooq Amin, in his curator’s brief to the exhibition.

A view of the World Cup NFTs exhibition.

“By connecting 32 artists from both the traditional and digital arenas, Ithra not only bridges the gap between Web2 to Web3, and between football and art, but furthermore between human and machine, as the artists collaborate with AI generation technology to create unique NFTs that combine art, football and technology.” The AI-generated Saudi Arabia-Argentina NFT is alongside those of other completed matches on OpenSea, the world’s first and largest digital marketplace for crypto collectibles and NFTs. Qatari artist Fatima Mohammed said that “as a young Qatari living in a country that is experiencing radical change, my work focusses on the social structure of the Arabian Gulf and how it has evolved over time.

“My art portrays these cultural developments in the fictional world of ‘3naj’ (Anaj) through sculpture, painting and performance art. She is a product of the West, 3naj is my muse. Part Arab and part American bald eagle, 3naj displays her heritage proudly by wearing the batoola (traditional metal face covering) as a protective golden beak.

“She nurtures her young by providing shelter, food, independence and the freedom of flight. 3naj herself cannot fly, but is fearless. Without wings, she is unable to flee from conflict, so must stand her ground and speak her mind to create positive change in her community.” Jeddah-based Saudi conceptual artist Amr Salih Bogari, whose work connects digital drawing, collage and photography, started his NFT journey last year. He said about his piece: “Here I highlight the fusion of love with different local cultures and how strongly they are interconnected in one land, one kingdom and one people. Green symbolises abundance and white symbolises peace. Sadu and Qat art are considered some of the most important local arts that reflect the beauty of the artistic and cultural details of this lovely kingdom.” Argentinian expressionist artist Ezekiel German is known for exploring human emotions through art. “Argentines are very passionate about soccer; so in this piece I’ve tried to capture the feelings generated by the championship through expressive lines conveying vitality and dynamism,” he said.

Abdias Ngateu is a Cameroonian artist who was born in 1990, and trained in graphic and decorative art. Precariousness, urban mobility, dehumanisation, urban space and current events in the world are the themes he questions in his plastic and aesthetic work.

But he does not aim to present misery and pain; rather, he wants to sow the joy of living through fluorescence colorimetry. Ngateu has to his credit three important individual exhibitions in Cameroon and Mali and around thirty collective exhibitions since 2011.

“This work celebrates the joy of living through the soft and soothing colours of our beautiful country Cameroon,” he said about his World Cup artistic shot. “This painting on canvas shows the festive and joyful side that we have in Cameroon and the joy of participating in a major international event that is the World Cup.” “As the American chosen to represent my country through art,” said Edward Rivera, “I am very proud to present this work. I wanted to create a piece that represented America as a melting pot illustrating the mixture of culture that is rich in its roots and history.

“Even though we all don’t meld together perfectly at times, we are united in liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that’s what keeps us strong. As someone that represents a mixed culture myself, I am very proud to present what America means to me through art.”


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