In a context of recession in the crypto-currency market, museums and cultural institutions are gradually adopting Web3 and NFTs.
While auction houses and galleries have already made good progress in their use of NFTs or non-fungible tokens, taking advantage of the cryptocurrency boom of 2021, the world of museums and cultural institutions seems more cautious in its exploration. of this volatile and risky market, since it is still under construction. Some museums have already tried their luck with an NFT sale, “a drop” [nldr : mise en vente d’un projet NFT], or other isolated initiative, but the majority are still considering their options. The current period of cryptocurrency recession also seems like a good time to take a step back and think about the solutions that Web3 can bring to museums. It is also important to remember that NFTs are not the only tools to explore the Web3 (or the third generation of Internet services based on a system of decentralized databases, or blockchains). For example, virtual environments (or metaverses), voting and governance systems (or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), decentralized curation, the formation of online communities and many other tools are at their disposal.
The Offices, the Hermitage and the British go Web3
Some cultural institutions have already launched initiatives around Web3. From May 2021, two months after the record sale of Beeple at Christie’s, a few museums have launched. Examples include the Uffizi Gallery (Florence), the Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg), the Belvedere Museum (Vienna) and the British Museum (London). Their initiatives are generally centered on the sale of NFTs representing masterpieces from their permanent collections (in the public domain), sales often carried out with a technical partner, such as the service platforms Cinello, artèQ or LaCollection. Currently, museums are considering larger projects, part of a logic of added value for their visitors over the long term. However, as with any new technology, we grope, we learn and we evolve: the Leopold Museum (Vienna) has launched its collection on the LaCollection platform, by offering NFTs bearing the effigy of the key works of their Egon Schiele collection. However, a clear utility is attached to the NFT, such as a ticket to visit the museum, a guided tour, or even a dinner with a curator, erasing the idea that the NFT is a simple collectable (digital collectible item).
The NXT Museum, for its part, is exploring how to build an easy-to-use NFT-based ticketing system as well as a way to organize exhibitions in a decentralized way. Merel van Helsdingen, founder of the museum, explains: “We are excited about the possibilities that Web3 brings to the traditional art world. The tools increase transparency and it’s a new way to connect with a community around art and technology. » The museum is also part of the WAC (Web3 for Arts and Culture) scholarship and education program organized by Diane Drubay, founder of We Are Museums, in collaboration with Tezos and BAD (Blockchain Art Directory), allowing nine institutions to immerse themselves in the world of Web3 for a few months through a series of classes, mentoring and workshops to get started. Diane Drubay also points out that “probable futures are infinite and unpredictable. It is important to talk about a Web3 future for arts and culture in the plural. We do not yet have an idea of all the possibilities for museums, but we know that its exploration is crucial”. Several digital art festivals are also exploring the question of the use of the metaverse and NFTs to build an active community all year round: October Digital, a digital art festival based in Arles, is interested in the use of ‘oracles to integrate real-world data like weather or pollution level into interactive NFTs.
How to get started?
The WAC FELLOWSHIP Initiative site publishes a list of resources for institutions. Two new publications also focus on Web3 applications in the art world with reviews and feature articles: Outland.art and Rightclicksave.com. Launching into Web3 also involves using the “Crypto Twitter”, where it is possible to follow the curators and critics involved in this sector such as Charlotte Kent, journalist and teacher at the University of Montclair, Christiane Paul, curator at the Whitney Museum of Art, Jason Bailey, founder of Artnome, Regina Harsanyi, specialist in new media arts and Maria Paula Fernández, founder of JPG Space. Given financial speculation and the art and crypto markets, the art world and its institutions need to tread carefully, taking the time it takes and ensuring their values are aligned with the new Web3 opportunities and initiatives to not alienate their current and future community. The fundamental elements of the blockchain are also not so far removed from the value system of museums. We find the same terms: democratization, accessibility, inclusion, equity, shared content, etc. “Maybe it’s my museum view that keeps changing my perspective on reality but when I read the words ‘community, security, trustworthy, open’ I think of a museum before I even think of blockchain , and I’m not the only one, concludes Diane Drubay.