After Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Italy’s Uffizi Gallery has found a miracle solution to make up for its lockdown losses: transforming its works into NFTs.
The Uffizi Gallery, or Galleria degli Uffizi in Italian, is a world-renowned palace in Florence with the finest collection of Italian paintings and works of all the great European masters. Like many museums, the art gallery has not been left unscathed by the pandemic. It suffered significant economic losses after nearly eight months of closure, with a drop in the number of annual visitors from 4.4 million in 2019 to 1.2 million in 2020.
In order to compensate for its loss of revenue, the Uffizi Gallery decided to transform some of its most famous works of art into NFTs and offer them up for sale. In partnership with Cinello, an Italian company that specialises in the purchase of 1:1 scale digital versions of masterpieces. These digitised works of art, which the company calls DAW (an acronym for Digital Art Work), are limited, numbered, authenticated by the museum, protected by patents, supposedly impossible to reproduce and accompanied by an NFT token for a smooth sale.
The first work digitised and sold was Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (The Holy Family) painted in 1505. According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the NFT of this circular painting was sold for €140,000, or ~£121,000. It was snapped up by an Italian woman who wanted to get it as a birthday present for her husband, a prominent collector.
The museum plans to transform many other major works from its collection into DAW in the coming weeks, such as Caravaggio’s Bacchus, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Raphael’s Madonna del Granduca. Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery, told the Corriere della Sera: “In the medium term NFT sales will be able to partially meet the financial needs of the museum. It is not a change of course in terms of income, it is additional income. Still, the creation of this kind of market will not happen quickly.”
The famous economist Joseph Schumpeter claimed that “the new does not outlive the old, but appears next to it and competes with it to the point of ruining it.” Will digital art be the future of art and museums? Only time will tell.
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