Seasoned crypto-collector Fanny Lakoubay registered the first NFT-based artwork on the online exhibition loan database operated by Vastari, representing a new milestone for the growing non-fungible token industry . The work Imago 2k2 a.C. by artist duo Hackatao will now be accessible to museums for loan opportunities.
Vastaris database facilitates the exchange of objects in private hands with museums who wish to exhibit them. Vastari facilitated over $2bn of (physical) content matches with venues in 2019-2020. But how are these digital artworks on a token meant to be exhibited within museum spaces? Do artists wish for their works to be shown within museum walls, or do they expect them to live in the ether? Is there a physical manifestation for these works?
Vastari's team is willing to find out. "Our system is made for collectors to share works they believe are museum-worthy, and for museums to message them directly - so there's no reason why this can't be the case for NFT works. Collectors attest to the quality and so will endorse the works that they deem to be most culturally significant, and it will be for the museum curators to decide if they agree" says Vastaris CEO, Bernadine Bröcker Wieder.
Panelists from Vastaris recent webinar on the subject Are NFTs the Future of Digital Art? commented extensively on how this new technology is enabling a movement called crypto art, empowering new artists, but is also an evolution of the digital art movement that has existed for decades.
Lakoubay believes in crypto-art and NFTs as a new art movement. She supports the artists she collects by organising events, advising companies and ultimately, buying the art itself. This NFT craze is exciting (it gives digital artists a new way to sustain themselves, it creates a tight community of artists supporting each other) and scary at the same time (with the obvious price bubble, short-term hype, and questions to solve). Above all, it creates conversations and debates we need to have. So even if we have yet to figure out how best to involve institutions and how to technically do the lending, what better way to do this than try and iterate on ideas with early adopters and museums who are interested?
The first registered NFT work has been exhibited before, physically at Breezy Gallery and digitally at the Contemporary And Digital Art Fair (CADAF) in June 2020. Lakoubay bought both the NFT token and the painting on canvas that accompanies the work, but mentioned on Vastaris webinar that she considers the token to be the work - the painting is just a physical accompaniment, each tradable separately as intended by the artist.
The two other webinar panelists, Jason Bailey and Aleksandra Artamonovskaja, believe in the potential for these blockchain-based artworks too. Both have backgrounds in the wider art market. Bailey's blog, Artnome.com, has been a bible for those wishing to learn about art-based crypto-assets, but as a self-professed "art nerd" he believes that NFTs are a natural progression for the digital art movement started in the 70s. Having bought works and supported artists for more than 5 years, Bailey stressed that there are many problems remaining to be solved, such as the ecological impact of blockchain systems which he is battling with a GreenNFT grant.
Artamovskaya sees a larger role for new middlemen - curators and galleries - within the space to help buyers navigate the confusing market and even benefit from sales alongside artists, buyers and sellers. Electric Artefacts, the digital art marketplace she founded last year, has started supporting artists with their drops and commissions, in the way a traditional gallerist would have done in the physical world. She also highlights the importance of thinking of organisations (including museums) place in the metaverse.
What will museums think of all of this? Only time will tell. Now is the opportunity for Crypto-collectors to not only buy and sell, but to grant museums access to their collections for use.
Commenting on the artworks addition to the Vastari platform, Hackatao stated: We are so excited for our art to be enjoyed in a museum, as an addition to the supreme museum of all time, without walls nor closing time: the web. When an NFT finds its way into the temple of art history, a museum, you realize that the story is real. And wed be happy to be part of it.
Collectors looking to lend their own NFTs can register for a free trial to Vastari Collections