How much do museums make from NFTs?

June 13 2022

Image of How much do museums make from NFTs?

Picture: TAN/Uffizi

Museums have so far been reluctant to declare how much they've been making from selling jpegs NFTs. In The Art Newspaper, Gareth Harris reports that the Uffizi has sold a single Michelangelo NFT (above) through its commercial partner, Cinello, for €240,000. The Uffizi's cut? Just €70,000. And of that, I suspect they spent a fair deal on legal fees setting up the scheme.

According to Gareth's piece, however, much of the controversy in Italy over the sale seems to be about who 'controls' the NFT, and thus the image:

The move has sparked concerns however about whether major works are up “for sale”. An article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica last month asked: “Who owns Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo?.... who has the legal rights linked to the work? If the buyer ever decides to exhibit it, can he do it without the permission of the Uffizi? Basically: do we not risk losing control of our heritage in a time when we are increasingly moving towards the metaverse?” The newspaper adds that Italian government ministers have also raised concerns about the deal with Cinello.

In a lengthy statement, the Uffizi says: “Basically: do we not risk losing control of our heritage… In reality, [existing laws] give punctual and precise answers to those questions long before the invention of the technology in question, i.e., the Ronchey law of 1994, and again the Urbani code of 2004…. the rights [linked to the works] are in no way alienated, the contractor has no right to use the images granted for exhibitions or other unauthorised uses, and the assets remain firmly in the hands of the Italian Republic.”

For those of us who do our bit to help spread appreciation for Old Masters to new audiences, it's despairing to hear major museums like the Uffizi obsess about who has 'control' over images of publicly owned artworks. Nobody needs to control these images.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.