What can NFTs do for dead artists?

Last month, while strolling through the glass-roofed rotunda of the British Museum, I wandered into the gift shop and saw something that made me do a double take. Amid the souvenir umbrellas and postcards, there was a sign that said “Visit our NFT Store” and provide a QR code. Near the coat check line, I came across a porcelain print of Katsushika Hokusai, the venerable 19th-century Japanese artist. Someone had a poster stating that the woodblock print of 1833 had been converted to a non-fungible token, or NFT version, and it was purchased by a collector under the pseudonym pixeldrip.eth in January of 2022, for just over four thousand dollars. The label read “Scan to view our latest drops”. Don’t bother with the fact that the majority of visitors likely have no idea what all these terms mean. What were digital replicas of an Edo-era artist doing in one of the world’s most famous museums, prominently displayed as if they were valuable works of art in their own right?

The British Museum’s NFT shows were presented in association with a Paris-based company called laCollection, which was founded by Jean-Sebastien Beaucamps in early 2021. Beaucamps presented the museum in partnership and won an exclusive five-year contract to produce NFTs from the collection; The company will soon announce a partnership with a US corporation as well. LaCollection aims to offer a more structured offering than other NFT marketplaces. “I thought platforms like OpenSea were a lot like the eBay experience,” Beaucamps told me, adding that the NFTs for sale, which now also include J.’s work, are from the online museum. The British Museum does indeed create commercial replicas of the artwork it owns, of course – that is the purpose of the gift shop. But the aura of originality and rarity that NFT creates puts the products in a different category. According to a British Museum spokesperson, “Every NFT, meaning What, is completely unique, and as a result is very different from something like a label or a T-shirt.”

Needless to say, Hokusai never made digital art. Neither G.M.W. Turner nor Giovanni Battista Piranesi immortalized ancient Rome in his famous drawings and died in 1778. However, through British Museum displays, they all became part of a new effort to capitalize on the artists’ work after his death by embracing the NFT fad that combined with the richness of currency Modern encrypted. Last year, digital artwork originally created by Andy Warhol was turned over to NFTs and auctioned off at Christie’s. In January, the Picasso NFT project caused a feud between the artist’s descendants and his property. These new products may create new sources of revenue or at least attract new interest. The British Museum NFTs were launched at a time when fewer people had physical access to them due to the pandemic. “They realized that NFTs were ideal marketing tools to reach out to these communities that they had not yet reached,” Beaucamps said, adding that the NFT scene is “a lot smaller,” “a bit more male,” and more cosmopolitan than art museums. The usual crowd. The Museum earns a commission on every NFT sale plus a percentage of the secondary market fee. The British Museum has declined to comment on the revenue generated so far, but is planning a set of new editions for later this year.

Creating a new work by a late artist is usually a taboo in the art world. Posthumous prints sell for less than those the artist personally supervised in her lifetime. The British Museum has created NFT editions of varying levels of ‘rarity’, even ‘extremely rare’, but such posters have nothing to do with the coordination or supply of the original artwork. In contrast, a project by the property of American illustrator Lee Mullican seeks to use NFTs as a way to synthesize original digital art. Last year, Cole Root, the property manager, decided to sell NFTs to some digital pieces that Mullican had created on computer software in the 1980s but never printed in his lifetime. “It’s easy to assume he’s going to get out of his way through networked screens,” Root said of Mullican. Root has teamed up with an NFT company called Verisart, which has worked with artists like Roe Ethridge, Quayola, and Rob Pruitt. The release of the late artist’s mysterious digital works as blockchain artifacts has a certain logic that is lacking in some other posthumous endeavors. Mullican NFTs, priced at about 1 ether, or $2,000, come with a title deed, certificate of authenticity, and an original source file for the piece (although the technology can’t guarantee that these will stay connected with the NFT artwork if sold). Root told me he doesn’t see Mullican NFTs as a repetition of a work of art per se but “the frame or box that holds the art.”

Julian Sander, grandson of German photographer August Sander, sees things more clearly. “I am against the idea that the NFT itself is something of value,” he said. “It is virtually worthless; it is literally just a reference point for information.” However, in February of this year, Julian began what amounted to an experiment in mass digital archiving, when he submitted ten thousand NFTs of contact prints to his predecessor’s work. August Sander, born in 1876 and died in 1964, is best known for his sprawling series of stereotypes”twentieth century people. NFTs are images of physical prints that the Sander family has created and explained over the generations in order to organize the purposes of the negative artist. Galerie Julian Sander, in Cologne, runs Galerie Julian Sander, which exhibits photography, but he has also been a programmer since his youth and has built an inventory program for art collections. NFT in 2020 and began working with a photographic organization called NFT Fellowship.This technology “provides a Wikipedia-like opportunity to integrate information from different sources in a place that becomes permanently accessible and open.” My goal was to establish the history of August Sander’s work as My family has been researching it for four generations in a place where everyone can access it.”