NFT: can museums speculate?

Means of communication, NFTs also seem to be an innovative source of financing for museums. But is it risk-free?

What are French museums waiting for to start using NFTs? The question is on everyone’s lips at a time when several major museum institutions have already jumped into the breach with a weighty argument: the urgency of saving the treasury after the Covid crisis. Starring the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which will be a digital clone of the . from May 2021 Tondo Donic by Michelangelo for 140,000 euros [dont elle ne toucha que la moitié, soit 70 000 euros, l’autre étant dûe à la plateforme Cinello, ndlr]† Followed by the Hermitage Museum which organizes cryptocurrency auctions through the Binance NFT platform, for five digital duplicates of its masterpieces that have sold for more than $440,000, or, last February, the Belvedere Palace in Vienna that houses the Kiss from Klimt in 10,000 NFT portions, 2,400 of which were sold on Valentine’s Day for over 4 million euros! The experiments have been refined, as has the terminology, such as “limited edition digital lithographs”, which evoke multiples. But for now, French institutions are wary of the sulphurous image of this tiny digital token, which allows the art market to fluctuate at will. The Louvre indicates that it “like many museums, thinks about how NFTs can participate in the life of collections”† Pending the recommendations of the Ministry of Culture, scheduled for this June and entrusted to the ethical-legal analysis of lawyer Jean Martin, commissioned last November by the Supreme Council of Literary and Artistic Property.

The arguments put forward today: the rejuvenation of the image of the museum and fundraising, close to a patronage approach, although the purely philanthropic aspect is missing. Nevertheless, the financial support is real – like the wave of crowdfunding –, the money raised can be used for restoration or acquisition of works. “I think we are living through a historical period in art historyexplains Jean-Sébastien Beaucamps, co-founder of LaCollection, a start-up founded in January 2021. New collectors support museums with their NFT purchases. We are inventing counterparties to build bridges between the virtual and physical worlds. And we design our platform with a curatorial and not purely transactional approach. † Already associated with the British Museum, TheCollection is behind the Leopold Museum’s 24 limited edition NFTs, which will fund the museum’s purchase of all or part of a rare early painting by Egon Schiele recently rediscovered . collection, the price of which has not been disclosed. “The target is younger, more international. NFT collectors are on average under 40 years old”insert the specialist blockchain, noting that in this technological sector, France has three unicorns – Sorare, Sandbox and Ledger – whose founders are located in the capital. However, it is impossible to know the commission for these operations, the spirit of which takes over that of the licensing agreements.

Speculative urges?

“Museums become players in the market by making products that are easy to sell. By perhaps moving away from their primary missions, they also risk suffering from the volatility of their price. It is not certain that all issued NFTs will find buyers and, if the issue is successful, foreign experience shows that the NFT is quickly resold with significant capital gains benefiting only the speculator.warns Géraldine Goffaux-Callebaut, professor of private law and co-director of the Art Market master’s program at the École du Louvre, noting that there is currently no legal framework for the NFT, whose volatility is difficult to limit.

In a month’s time, the Vasarely Foundation, the first French private public benefit institution to venture there, also paid the price. Very pleased with her first sales of NFT (which aims to support the restoration of the architectural integrations of the master of the Op Art), she saw prices fluctuate from 600 to 400 euros. “We have done our best to reduce this risk by setting a level that cannot be exceeded, and we have created our own sales platform to be independent, using Polygone, the most environmentally friendly solution on the market. blockchain, explains Ugo Vasarely, head of operations at the foundation. Sensitive topic indeed, because “from an environmental point of view, NFT emissions are not neutral”, in abundance Géraldine Goffaux-Callebaut. As for the possible capital gain on resale, as in all the cases mentioned, it will benefit the institution and the issuing platform, if necessary, in the form of a percentage, such as a resale right .

Another innovative financing method is that of “tokenization”. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is the first in Europe to try it with the help of the Belgian platform Rubey for the acquisition in the form of digital assets or “Art Security Token” (which are not NFT and have the same legal nature as shares ) of virtual units of the Binche Carnival by James Ensor. In that case, each buyer becomes co-owner and accepts that the work (as of the reopening on September 24) be hung in the museum, then only in deposit, in the form of a ten-year long-term loan.

However, “French museums rightly take the time for this”, supports Géraldine Goffaux-Callebaut and recalls the absolute principle of the inalienability of public collections and respect for the moral rights of works. Will these new instruments ultimately influence the legislature?

Image artèQ.

Egon Schiele, “Little girl with a bow in her hair”, 1918, 27.7 x 40.9 cm.
Egon Schiele, “Little girl with a bow in her hair”, 1918, 27.7 x 40.9 cm.
© Leopold Museum, Vienna/ Photo Manfred Thumberger.

Jean-Sebastien Beaucamps, co-founder of LaCollection.
Jean-Sebastien Beaucamps, co-founder of LaCollection.
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Géraldine Goffaux-Callebaut, professor of private law and co-director of the Art Market Masters at the École du Louvre.
Géraldine Goffaux-Callebaut, professor of private law and co-director of the Art Market Masters at the École du Louvre.
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James Ensor, “Carnaval de Binche” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
James Ensor, “Carnaval de Binche” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
© Ruby.

Victor Vasarely, “ZETT”, NFT TIER 1, 1966-1975, 528 x 528.
Victor Vasarely, “ZETT”, NFT TIER 1, 1966-1975, 528 x 528.
© Vasarely Foundation.

Victor Vasarely, “OUR-MC”, NFT TIER 2, 1965-1975, 624 x 576.
Victor Vasarely, “OUR-MC”, NFT TIER 2, 1965-1975, 624 x 576.
© Vasarely Foundation.

Victor Vasarely, “TLINKO.  », NFT TIER 2, 1966-1975, 566 x 566.
Victor Vasarely, “TLINKO. », NFT TIER 2, 1966-1975, 566 x 566.
©Vasarely Foundation.

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