Skip to content

Bard Ionson’s Art as an NFT Enters the University of Oxford Bodleian Weston Library

a hornbook with a digital image of oscillscope alphabet art in it

Bård Ionson’s art is for the second time being displayed in a library. But this time it is leaving Mannassas for Oxford England. It is Alphabets Alive! an exhibition celebrating the artistic and social significance of alphabets. Housed in the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, England, Alphabets Alive! is curated by Robert Bolick, collector of artists’ books and curator of the “Books On Books” website.

Entrance Alphabets Alive! Bodleian Library by Ian Wallman
Entrance Alphabets Alive! Bodleian Library by Ian Wallman

On view from July 19, 2023 – January 21, 2024, Alphabets Alive! features work by over 150 artists. “Encounter medieval and modern bestiaries, miniature and monumental books, alphabets made by Renaissance designers or generated by artificial intelligence, and abecedaries of human bodies and beachcombed rocks … discover how the simple structure of the alphabet inspires works that are playful, provocative and profound,” says the website for the exhibition.

Battledore in in the museum case at the Alphabets Alive! exhibition

Robert Bolick has written a fantastic essay on the meaning and background of the art at Books On Books. In part he says,

When the Books On Books Collection is donated to the Bodleian Libraries, the chain of digital ownership will extend by one more block. The wallet in which the Battledore NFT and financial terms, if any, reside will transfer to the Bodleian with a digitally secure chain of custody and provenance. Of course, with the accompanying transfer of the physical artifact associated with the NFT, the artist and collector will be giving an ironic wink of the eye to the amusement and relief of the Keeper of Rare Books at the Bodleian.

Rober Bolick

This art is both physical and is inscribed on the Ethereum blockchain as an NFT which might make it the first CryptoArt or blockchain tracked artifact to enter this collection of books and artifacts starting in 1602.

This piece Battledore sits between the world of books, art and digital art. Not quite sure if it is a book, visual art, animation, augmented reality art, or an NFT; like much of his art it sits in the cracks between mediums, formats and genres. It is yet another distortion between realities. Patterned after what schoolchildren used to use to learn their letters this hornbook shows art Bard created with an oscilloscope. The second layer is that using the Artivive app there is an augmented reality where the viewer can see the animation and the letters turn into symbols of corporations or what they produce. (Raytheon is there with the R turning into a battery of the Patriot missile system.) The third layer is that this art has been minted on the Ethereum blockchain and so it is traced and exists as an NFT. I will be transferring the NFT to the libraries wallet at the end of the exhibition.

This will hopefully be the first step to establishing the Library in web3 and on the blockchain.

This piece appeared in my first solo exhibition at Bull Run Library in Manassas Virginia. And now it will be donated to be in the permanent collection of the Bodleian Libraries.

19 July 2023 – 21 January 2024 in the Treasury at Weston Library Oxford UK Free admission