Here’s the winners of the world’s biggest cannabis art competition

cannabis art
PHOTO: Ulrich Schidt – “Bubbles of a Lifetime”

It’s literally the highest art in the world.

Hieronymus Bosch-inspired paintings mingle with contemporary lowbrow street art, video games, desserts, nuclear waste and everyday activities like waiting for a bus or taking a shower in Bill Hope’s “Blob Tower”; the Best Overall Winner of the 2017 “High Art” contest, which concluded on April 20.

Fully designed, three-dimensional spaces are manipulated with new technology to include humans swimming perpendicular through windows in a rotating set, recalling the surrealist paintings of René Magritte or Salvador Dali, in Adam Martinakis’ 1st Place Video “Memorooms”.

This year, artists from 63 different countries submitted more than 3,000 entries to the fourth-annual international “High Art” contest, sponsored by Northern California marijuana brand The Natural Cannabis Company (NCC).

Australia’s Bill Hope took home the $15,000 cash Grand Prize, part of nearly $80,000 in cash prizes doled out for this year’s contest. Additionally, the winners, featured here, will gain maximum exposure through NCC’s packaging designs, advertising, marketing, and social media content.

Cannabis and fine art have been separate, niche industries that have rarely interacted throughout history, but as the green rush is taking the country by storm, it is inevitable that these two worlds collide. Natural Cannabis Company has taken the initiative to infiltrate the art world with a cannabis-based aesthetic, and it is growing exponentially with every passing year.

In 2014, in collaboration with Juxtapoz magazine, the nation’s number one lowbrow and alternative art publication, NCC created High Art, an international cannabis-themed fine art competition. In the art world, we use the term “high art” to delineate highbrow art, the kind of art you need a Masters Degree to understand. With NCC’s help, the art world is going to have to come up with another phrase, because this competition has changed everything.

NCC wanted to create High Art as a means to support cannabis-loving artists as well as get fresh and innovative creative packaging art for their brand. In its fourth year, High Art 2017 has become the only international art competition involving professional artists, students and amateur enthusiasts with specific attention to the cannabis lifestyle and aesthetic.

In 2015, NCC started a High Art Gallery in Santa Rosa, offering an additional art world bonus for winners, to have their art in a white cube exhibition space for all to see, with quarterly exhibits.

Because of the high volume of entries in previous years, the High Art team added additional categories this year, to help organize the entry pool and encourage more submissions. The categories for High Art 2017 were Print, Photography and Video. Each category is judged differently, according to the art form, the style, the innovation and creativity relating to cannabis and art.

NCC also decided to go even further and bring High Art to the art world masses, and host a booth at the 2016 Art Basel Miami art fair, one of the biggest and most expensive art fairs in the world. They showcased winners of High Art, and helped the art world understand this new movement. This year, they plan to do the same.

In the recent history of cannabis-themed artwork, the psychedelic and often digitized aesthetic of this particular brand of art has lacked innovation and creativity, but in this new era of technological advances and boundary-shattering expression, High Art has redefined what cannabis art can be. Of course, many submissions and even finalists within the competition still remain true to the cliche pot leaf-centric, flat and tie-dyed look of what conservatives think of when they hear “cannabis art,” but the majority of the work in this year’s High Art competition finalist pool are inspiring and are outside of the boring stoner box.

The future of cannabis art is now more open to innovation and creativity than ever. We can see from the pool of artwork in this year’s competition, cannabis art will not simply be about the euphoria associated with consuming cannabis, or what dumb antics a poorly drawn caricature gets into when intoxicated. Cannabis art is becoming more complex, more intelligent, and more conceptually refined. It can be a broader and more imaginative expression of the mind-expanding conceptual experience of life, of making, of considering the world around us, and it is in part due to the ability to consume cannabis, whether medically or recreationally, without the fear and ignorance of previous eras.

Take a look.