WAC Resources

Unpacking NFT Fundraisers by Cultural Institutions

Blockchain Use Cases for Museums
In recent years, museums worldwide have been exploring the potential of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) as a means of fundraising and engaging with digital art enthusiasts. These initiatives not only generate revenue but also open up new avenues for artistic expression and community involvement. Let's delve into some noteworthy projects in this evolving landscape:
Musée d’Orsay: AGORIA { Le Code d’Orsay } - 2024

At the start of this year, Musée d’Orsay orchestrated the exhibition AGORIA { Le Code d’Orsay }, inviting artist Agoria to reimagine the museum, its architecture, and its masterpieces. As part of the exhibition, NFT artworks were made available for sale on the NFT marketplace objkt.one. Seven NFTs were sold, totaling 38,800 tez, with a portion of the profits donated to Musée d’Orsay.
MoMA x Feral File: SOUND MACHINES - 2024

Simultaneously, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) collaborated with digital art platform Feral File for an online auction named SOUND MACHINES. Featuring contemporary artists like Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst, Yoko Ono, and Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, the auction showcased 30 sets minted on the Ethereum blockchain. Notably, 60% of the proceeds supported the artists, while the remainder benefited sound art, collection care at MoMA, and Feral File for production costs. MoMA also retained 20% of primary market sales and 2.5% of secondary market sales.

LACMA: Ringers #962 - 2023

Dmitri Cherniak's generative art series Ringers took a philanthropic turn with Ringers #962: The LACMA Iterations. Each print, signed and dated by Cherniak, was accompanied by an NFT, the number of which corresponded to the pieces ordered in a 24-hour purchase window. This project raised over $600,000 for LACMA’s operating budget, adding hype and exclusivity through limited editions.

Opéra de Paris: Emergence, an algorithmic ballet - 2023

In March 2023, the Opéra de Paris unveiled its inaugural NFT collection, Emergence, an algorithmic ballet. Created in collaboration with the generative art collective OBVIOUS, the collection featured video footage of ballet dancers overlaid with seasonal AI-generated elements. With a total sales volume of 14 ETH (approximately $28,300 USD), the project aimed to crowdfund renovations for the historic opera house. Notably, NFTs offered membership benefits and exclusive offers, fostering community engagement beyond traditional channels.

Haus of Electronic Arts (HEK) NFT Shop - 2023

The Haus of Electronic Arts (HEK) in Basel introduced the HEK NFT shop, collaborating with artists like Leander Herzog and Quasimondo to offer generative artworks. Selling 256 NFTs by Leander Herzog and 175 NFTs by Quasimondo at 100 tez each, HEK aimed to explore art and technology convergence while supporting artists. HEK ensured ethical transparency by exclusively commissioning new digital artworks for their shop, distributing primary market benefits between artists and themselves, and refraining from involvement in the secondary market to align with museum ethics.

Jackson Pollock Studio: Beyond The Edge - 2023

Partnering with the NFT platform Iconic, the Jackson Pollock Studio introduced Beyond The Edge, an NFT collection documenting sections of Pollock's iconic paint-splattered studio floor. Each of the four NFTs, sold in editions of 100 each, was accompanied by a museum-quality print. Priced at 0.8 ETH (approximately $1,600 USD) each, the collection raised over $500,000 for the Jackson Pollock Studio, supporting the stewardship of the studio and the broader Pollock estate.

Buffalo AKG Art Museum: Peer to Peer - 2022

In a bid to embrace digital art, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum hosted an online exhibition and fundraiser titled Peer to Peer in partnership with Feral File. While the museum claimed 50% from primary market sales and 5% from secondary market sales, artists received a mere 16.67% of the funds. Nonetheless, this initiative paved the way for digital innovation in fundraising strategies.

These initiatives underscore the evolving role of museums in the digital age, leveraging NFTs to foster creativity, engage audiences, and secure vital funding for cultural preservation and innovation. As museums continue to navigate the complexities of the Web3 space, transparency, community involvement, and ethical considerations remain paramount in shaping the future of art fundraising.
  • Challenges and Considerations

While the adoption of NFTs presents exciting opportunities for museums, it also raises important questions regarding transparency, ethical considerations, and community engagement.

  • Transparency and Accountability: Concerns have been raised about the distribution of proceeds from NFT sales, with some critics highlighting the need for greater transparency regarding how funds are allocated. Museums must ensure clear communication regarding their financial practices and the impact of NFT sales on their missions and objectives.

  • Ethical Implications: The intersection of art and commerce has sparked debates surrounding the ethical responsibilities of museums in the NFT space. Questions about the equitable distribution of profits, artist compensation, and the commodification of cultural heritage underscore the need for museums to navigate these complexities thoughtfully.

  • Community Engagement: Building meaningful connections with collectors and supporters is essential for the long-term success of NFT initiatives. Museums should explore avenues for community engagement, such as Discord servers or virtual events, to foster dialogue, collaboration, and shared ownership of digital artworks.
As museums continue to explore the potential of NFTs as fundraising tools, it is imperative to prioritize transparency, ethical stewardship, and community engagement. By harnessing the power of digital innovation responsibly, museums can unlock new revenue streams, expand their audiences, and reimagine their roles in the evolving landscape of cultural philanthropy.