The Ohlala creator and finance app GCash partner to usher in a new platform for Filipinos to explore NFTs
Contemporary artist Reen Barrera has been lauded for his neo-expressionist paintings and handmade sculptures since 2014. His signature character Ohlala, named after the common French exclamation for disappointment, has taken a life of its own through vibrant paintings and meticulously-crafted wooden figures, with a style drawing inspiration from neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In the course of his artistic career, he has done nine solo exhibitions and 21 group exhibitions in the country alone. He also had exhibitions in Australia, Los Angeles, New York, France, Miami, Taipei, Tokyo, UAE, and London. His works have even spawned waitlists lasting up to two years, but in an effort to make art more accessible and to evolve his craft, Barrera takes his first step into the digital art space through non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
At the Astbury, finance app GCash partnered up with homegrown NFT marketplace Likha and contemporary art gallery Vinyl on Vinyl for the release of the first GCrypto NFT collection: The House of Ohlala by Reen Barrera.
“NFTs, in my opinion, are like another medium, like a tool to make art. It’s like being able to give your art another life in another dimension, like the digital space where it can reach more audiences,” shares Barrera. It didn’t take long for Barrera to start creating digitally, especially with the confidence he has in the partnership. “For someone like me who’s afraid to venture into something new like NFTs, I would be at ease knowing that I’m with a company I trust,” he added. Recalling his undergraduate courses on digital art, he took to his pen and tablet to begin a new family of Ohlala faces.
The concept of the character remains as always: a soft commentary on socio-economic classes. Each Ohlala character’s head is covered in a canvas cloth, denoting how we design our own fate regardless of economic background. The faces are adorned with a myriad of colorful symbols and patterns inspired by the colors of Manila’s streets, a representation of the idiom “written all over your face.” Barrera affirms, “The detail and the heart that I’ve put into my traditional art is the same with the digital format I’m making.”
This resulted in a collection of 1,000 NFTs that were built on the Polygon blockchain, with each NFT selling for 80 MATIC, Polygon’s native cryptocurrency.
The underground culture of Web3 that reverberates conversations on NFT minting and cryptocurrency trading now has the mainstream spotlight shining on it through GCash with the GCrypto NFT Hub. The launch event, which aptly took place at the basement level of the building, gathered art collectors and blockchain enthusiasts alike to witness firsthand the beginnings of this new platform.
“Through the GCrypto NFT Hub, we hope to provide Filipino artists a platform to bring their digital art to a wider audience, while also enabling more Filipinos access to buy their first NFT art,” shares Jong Layug, the head of wealth management at GCash. “Ultimately, our thrust in GCash is to bridge artists and the crypto space, to make their works more discoverable,” he added.
The event was hosted by Megan Young and Mikael Daez. After a brief cinematic to commemorate the launch of The House of Ohlala, Reen Barrera, Vinyl on Vinyl owner Gaby Dela Merced, and head of partnerships for crypto and Web3 for GCash Mark Nuñez took the stage for a fireside chat on the state of NFTs. “When [Web3] first launched, it rocked our world. Everything IRL (in real life) is now considered traditional,” Dela Merced shared. “But once you explore the capabilities of NFTs, it goes beyond our white walls, and Reen is an artist that can push those boundaries,” she affirmed. Nuñez even teases the crowd: “Expect that we will be onboarding more homegrown artists, more Filipino talents to build their own NFT collections.” In an exclusive interview, Layug even goes so far as to share, “We are actually talking to global artists as well.” The evening was capped off with lively beats by crwn.
Those in attendance were treated to exclusive surprises. Guests were able to design their own custom bag tags, printed with their chosen name and an Ohlala portrait. Barrera’s NFT holders got access to more perks that night, including exclusive merchandise, signed and framed one-of-one print-outs, a chance to purchase Barrera’s elusive paperworks and sculptures which were displayed on the ground floor open lounge, and being part of a whitelist for future collections.