Museums and art galleries are in quest of ways to ride the NFT wave

·3-min read
The London gallery HOFA will exhibit virtual artworks such as Vladinsky's 'Observer NFT' (2021) at the 'Matter & Form NFT' exhibition.

As NFT artworks continue to rise in auction, museums and galleries are wondering how to take advantage of the growing interest in non-fungible tokens. For most, it's proving to be a logistical challenge, at least for now.

The art world is having its "NFT" period. If the phase really took off with the record sale of Beeple's "Everydays: the First 5,000 Days" (for $69.3 million), auction houses and art galleries are rivaling one another with initiatives to get in on in this booming market. Sotheby's will soon sell digital works by the artist Pak in NFT and allow potential buyers to bid with cryptocurrencies. Phillips and Bonhams may follow suit in the coming months.

And that's no surprise. The covid-19 pandemic has led to a 22 percent decline in global art sales in 2020, according to the latest report from Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market. NFTs, on the other hand, saw their market explode last year, with transactions even reaching more than $250 million according to data from NonFungible and L'Atelier.

And it's the growing interest in these "unique" tokens, which establish a certification on a digital file, that the House of Fine Art HOFA hopes to capitalize on. The London-based contemporary art gallery will offer a series of limited edition virtual works by established and emerging contemporary artists such as Zhuang Hong Yi from China starting March 25. "Red Flower IV" is one of them. It will be sold in 50 copies, priced individually at 1 ETH (1730 US dollars).

Making crypto-art more accessible

"Our new crypto-artworks will break new ground for collectible digital contemporary fine art. It's part of our ongoing effort to diversify the options available for art investments while also welcoming a new and enthusiastic cohort of young, affluent investors," stated Elio d'Anna, cofounder of the HOFA gallery.

Meanwhile, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing has set out to host "the world's first major institutional crypto-art exhibition." "Virtual Niche: Have You Ever Seen Memes in the Mirror?," which will run from March 26 to April 4, seeks to develop the general public's understanding of crypto-art and contextualize it in an institutional setting.

It will feature some 60 artists at the forefront of this movement, including Beeple, Robert Alice, DJ deadmau5, Mario Klingemann, Pak and Mad Dog Jones. UCCA visitors will also have the opportunity to see for the first time Robert Alice's "Portraits of a Mind," a series of 40 giant paintings composed of bitcoin source code. One of them, entitled "Block 21", sold for $131,250 last October at Christie's.

So what are NFTs?

"As generational tastes shift, we felt it important to support an exhibition that showcases a demographic's interest that has had little previous institutional examination. We hope this exhibition will help propel the dialogue surrounding crypto-art from the fringes into the mainstream," stated Elliot Safra from the AndArt agency, which had an advisory role for the UCCA exhibition.

While the art market's enthusiasm for NFTs doesn't look set to end anytime soon, the functioning and appeal of these non-fungible tokens may still be unclear to art lovers... and even museum curators. That's why the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is currently seeking interns with expertise in the field. Among other things, they would be responsible for evaluating how "crypto-art" and blockchain could inform the New York museum's collecting strategy and its vision for digital, according to the Solomon R. Guggenheim's official site . It would seem that NFTs are well on their way to finding their place within cultural institutions.

Caroline Drzewinski