How museums and NFTs might find common ground
Over the past year, NFTs have been the biggest disruptors to the art world. Large auction houses quickly explored large-scale NFT auctions, Damien Hirst weighed opportunistically and even Art Basel has a taste recently. Among the great museums, the Uffizi in Florence have sold an NFT authenticated digital interpretation of Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’ (1504–1506) and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has initiated plans for auction some of his most renowned masterpieces like NFT. Recently, the British Museum has announced its intention to sell NFTs of 200 Hokusai works of art in tandem with its upcoming exhibition. Among others, ICA Miami has acquired an NFT cryptopunk while the Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery has sold a limited edition based on “The Ancient of Days” by William Blake (1827). But these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Museums have legitimate reasons for refraining from hastily exploring NFTs, ranging from legal and copyright issues to mistrust of the market frenzy. But by dismissing NFT only as a business fad, they are also ignoring their own biases and shortcomings. Museums have in fact been reluctant to embrace digital technologies at all levels. Rooted in an organizational culture shaped by curators where the emphasis remains academic and anchored in the physical experience of art, adoption has largely been limited to the creation of digital archives of collections, encouraged by the pandemic and the resulting need to increase engagement on social media and online. access.
This narrow approach to the adoption of digital art and technologies reinforces the perception within the NFT arts community that legacy institutions like museums are elitist and archaic. Ironically, museums have done little to add to the dialogue about the progressive possibilities that NFTs offer the art world – a solid way to establish the provenance of works of art and to facilitate long-term resale royalties for the art world. the artists.
So how do you frame the discussion so that museums can engage with NFTs critically while tapping into meaningful opportunities? First, they need to understand that DTVs are a trend at the intersection of technology, finance, and culture with the potential for innovation and social impact that goes beyond market speculation. . While the media have been obsessed with the commercial possibilities of art since the Beeple auction, NFTs have a wide range of emerging applications for games, sports, collectibles, utilities and virtual environments. Museums must recognize NFTs as a natural step in the evolution of contemporary art in tune with our digitally driven lives, the emergence of which has only been catalyzed by the pandemic. Large museums have in fact been more open-minded in their contemporary acquisitions, but the underlying mindset remains that their collections should only include physical objects.
Cultural institutions must therefore ask the broader question: how do they engage in digital and digitized art? They also need to get rid of their prejudices about acquiring and owning items and focus on what makes them truly socially relevant: the act of exposing them. To do this, they must create the right infrastructure and technology partners while working with digital artists, curators and collectors who have a more informed understanding of this nascent ecosystem.
Whitworth Art Gallery who collaborated with Vastari Labs for the William Blake NFT project offers valuable information. As a smaller institution with more freedom to experiment, it was in a better position to start. Instead of symbolizing the original work, he sold a limited edition of multispectral imagery of the work, thereby bypassing potential ethical or copyright issues on the original while raising awareness of related scientific analyzes. . They also chose the Tezos blockchain platform which has a much lower carbon footprint than other cryptocurrencies. Proceeds from sales will be used for social projects that benefit the local community. Critical to the museum sector, NFTs present not only an opportunity to democratize fundraising, but also to move away from questionable fossil fuel sponsorships. After the pandemic, museums must also create online communities and develop digital revenue sources. NFT art items, limited editions, and memorabilia that follow the popular collectibles trend among Gen Z and gamers offer innovative possibilities. NFTs, which are characterized by their unique code chain on the blockchain, also create opportunities to personalize such offers.
Ultimately, it’s important that museums approach NFTs creatively and think beyond the simple digital representation of their popular artwork to seek short-term revenue.
Museums have been unable to explore technological projects in the past due to their careful, scientific and object-oriented approach to the management of their collections. NFTs, and digital art forms at large, present a significant opportunity for museums to improve accessibility to their collections, to connect with a larger and younger community globally and to collect funds in a post-pandemic world.
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