Can NFTs help museums survive in the digital era?

METASEUM.space
4 min readApr 20, 2022

Museums and artists have an untapped market at their doorstep, offering opportunities for networking and finance that didn’t exist before.

Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, museums have found in NFTs and the metaverse opportunities to continue activities outside of the physical realm and maintain a good financial balance. In perspective, this makes a great deal of sense, since NFTs offer avenues for digital ownership and new immersive experiences, despite the skepticism surrounding them. This article attempts to dilucidate the tangible benefits of crypto in the art world, basing ourselves on our knowledge and successful precedents, and how can we at Metaseum bridge the gap between the art world and the digital world in a safe and trustworthy manner.

In the first place, NFTs offer artists the possibility of digital ownership, allowing them to enjoy the fruits of their labour and connect directly with a wider audience without intermediaries. This is not an entirely revolutionary concept; in the 1960s, with the rise of conceptual art, certificates of authenticity were created to avoid plagiarism and fraud. Now NFTs serve a similar function within the digital world, while also allowing other people to enjoy the artwork without owning it, thus also opening avenues for collective ownership, or shared enjoyment of artwork.

Needless to say, NFT functions go beyond a digital certificate of authenticity, but this is their most important feature when it comes to providing artists and museums a space to make a living from their artwork. A good example of this is Kenny Schachter, artist and writer, who successfully sold his artwork as an NFT and managed to reach out to a greater number of people compared to what he managed to sell in physical format. Kenny then proceeded to write a series of articles explaining how NFTs work and their usefulness, allowing other artists and museum staff to learn to navigate around this new platform for selling and promoting art.

Source: Beeple’s collage, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, sold at Christie’s

Individual artists and curators aside, so far most museums have only started addressing NFTs by organizing webinars and panel discussions, bringing together digital artists, NFT minters or museum directors to discuss the potentials and risks of this new instrument. Hirshhorn museum for example organized a talk amongst artists who had experimented and successfully managed to sell their artwork in the form of NFTs, such as the aforementioned Kenny Schachter. An example of this is the Cuseum webinar on March 2021, from which many interesting points came out, such as best practice rules for museums to avoid fraud and speculation and focus on the artistic value of NFTs.

Additionally, a contentious point was the ecological footprint of Ethereum transactions in the sale and purchase of NFTs, to which all panelists agreed that there was a possibility to reduce such footprint, and that minters and sellers should look into developing certificates guaranteeing that efforts were made to reduce NFT’s carbon footprint. This is a precedent that museums and artists, as potential providers and consumers of NFTs, could establish with the help of experts in the field of crypto.

Nonetheless some museums have started selling their own NFT collections, particularly during the pandemic, when physical access was restricted. Examples of these are the British Museum, who sold Hokusai’s most famous works in NFT format at a value of 45,000 USD. The Uffizi gallery used its partnership with Italian encryption firm Cinello to get over a financial slump in the past couple of years, turning some of its most famous paintings into NFTs which sold at a value above 100,000 USD.

A mock virtual gallery we designed for Rijksmuseum, who are looking to open a final version in 2023

However, for museums NFTs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the immense potential of virtual reality and the metaverse. Museums can recreate their galleries in the metaverse while also selling NFTs, as well as reenacting historical events and providing context of the lives of artists and patrons. An example of this is the design of a Non-fungible Castle by 3.O Labs, associated with the Web 3 Metaverse, who recreated Lobkowicz palace in Prague and displayed 500-year old paintings together with NFTs, which could be purchased by visitors.

The Metaverse is a great opportunity to offer immersive experience and collective ownership to clients, by exhibiting new NFTs on sale and offering special benefits to buyers while allowing other museum visitors to enjoy the artwork at any time.

At Metaseum, we believe that with our knowledge and connections we can assist museums in the process of opening up to digital experiences, in a way that respects ethical policies and best practice guidelines, setting mechanisms to avoid fraud and speculation and reduce the climate footprint of NFTs. These guidelines can be adopted by museums and their clients who want to be part of our network while they enjoy a virtual experience tailored to their vision. We are backed by our knowledge of the crypto market and a range of interested clients, including prestigious institutions such as Rijskmuseum or the Eiffel tower.

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