4 reasons why museums are steering clear of the NFT craze

The attention-popping sale worth of $69 million on March 11, 2021, for a non-fungible token (aka NFT) created by the digital artist Beeple despatched shock waves by means of the artwork world. Extra multimillion-dollar sales of these digital property, which exist on a blockchain and are maintained on networked computer systems, quickly adopted.

At the identical time, artwork museums have confronted substantial financial shortfalls accelerated by a decline in guests and donations, courtesy of COVID-19. Many have thought of taking (*4*), equivalent to promoting treasured artworks, to plug price range gaps.

Can NFTs generate the revenue many museums sorely need? Some are issuing their very own tokens, together with the British Museum and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The Miami Institute of Contemporary Art accepted an early NFT from a donor. There’s even an NFT of complete museum known as the Museum of Digital Life.


But, greater than six months into this disruption of the artwork world, museums have generally engaged very little with NFTs. As researchers who study each the funds of nonprofit organizations and the progress in NFTs, crypto-assets, and other associated blockchain applications, we see 4 major reasons why museums have but to show the NFT craze right into a monetary windfall.

1. NFTs are difficult

The folks operating museums have experience encompassing artwork, schooling, and curation. NFTs are a wholly totally different realm that’s fairly indifferent from artwork and have more in common with cryptocurrency than typical artworks like work and sculptures.

What units NFTs other than cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, which are designed to be interchangeable, is that every NFT represents a novel asset. Determining how NFTs should be handled, held, and valued is difficult, and the capability to rapidly mint NFTs for public sale just isn’t one thing that will come naturally to museum workers. What’s extra, NFTs are sometimes purchased and offered with cryptocurrencies, and not many organizations—together with museums—commonly make transactions utilizing them.

On high of any lacking monetary know-how and a tradition that seeks to minimize risks, there are legal complexities and insurance complications, so we will perceive why museums haven’t rushed into the NFT market.

2. The financial upside may be lacking

The connection between the possession of a bit of artwork and an NFT related to that art work may be complicated. Though it could seem in any other case, the NFT is a separate asset from the artwork itself. The homeowners of the artwork retain ownership even after any NFTs derived from that artwork are minted and offered.

This separation might imply that the proprietor of the artwork has no explicit capability to show an affiliated NFT into a giant payoff. Very like the worth of a portray has little to do with what the paint, canvas, and body are value, an NFT’s monetary value is subjective. It will depend on what others are prepared to pay.


The creators of the underlying artwork, equivalent to musicians and artists who retain management over their work, can—and do—mint NFTs related to them. As soon as artwork is held in a museum assortment, nonetheless, the worth of NFTs is much less clear.

Very like how an author-autographed copy of a guide may be extra helpful than a guide with out that signature, an NFT minted by an artist of a well-liked art work can appeal to curiosity from collectors. On the different hand, a guide signed by its writer, or an NFT minted by a museum, is certain to be much less interesting to collectors. But, an artist-minted NFT {that a} museum holds may fetch extra curiosity.

Said one other approach, even when a museum possesses helpful art work, that does not mean minting NFTs is a assured income stream.

3. The NFT market values artists, not establishments

One underlying cause the marketplace for NFTs tied to art work has thrived is as a result of consumers view buying and holding an NFT as a way to work together with and financially support the artist.

Extra broadly, the ethos is one of decentralization, and NFT consumers are much less more likely to be smitten by an middleman becoming a member of the fray.

An instance of the ethos constructed round supporting artists is the prevalence of smart contracts that safe royalties for the artist and that can movement each time an NFT tied to at least one of their works is offered.

The truth is, the monetization typically touted as the major upside for museums looking for to leap into the NFT market will not be so simple as it initially seems.

First, museums have to see whether or not monetizing their present collections would in any approach undermine public entry to the collections—probably violating their missions and bylaws. Second, they should have protocols in place to make sure that proceeds from gross sales tied to the assortment are accurately reinvested. And there’s a danger that this course of may inadvertently result in items of the assortment being handled as monetary devices if earnings is being generated from them relatively than solely serving as gadgets on show for the public.

Shifting ahead, it stays to be seen whether or not NFTs will financially profit brick-and-mortar museums, relatively than creating new alternatives for digital ones.

4. Volatility and uncertainty make NFTs dangerous

Although the excessive costs they’ll fetch are eye-catching, there are numerous instances of NFTs that quickly become worthless.

And, as with cryptocurrencies, there’s heaps of volatility. The values of several NFTs have undergone massive and dramatic losses, together with ones issued by Grimes, A$AP Rocky, and John Cena.


Counting on NFTs to lift money could also be dangerous, and the boards of museums might decide that it’s inappropriate for his or her charitable group to personal them. Which means museums could also be compelled to rapidly liquidate any NFT they mint or obtain—even when that sale will make the NFT much less helpful to the establishment.

Additionally, there may be nonetheless a fantastic deal of uncertainty about what helpful NFTs can do for an artwork museum’s major objectives. They are neither bodily in nature nor works of artwork. Even digital art work that may be displayed is separate from any NFT derived from it.