Hermitage Museum to Sell Monet, Leonardo Paintings as NFTs

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is minting several masterpieces from its collection as NFTs. The sale of NFT versions of works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci will take place at the end of August on the Binance online marketplace.

The museum, located in the Winter Palace of the tsars, had to work around Russia’s strict restrictions on cryptocurrencies to organize the sale. Recent cryptocurrency legislation in the country placed limitations on the use of digital assets as monetary currency.

Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of the Hermitage, said in a statement that the sale was “an important stage in the development of the relationship between person and money, person and thing,” adding that NFTs “create democracy, make luxury more accessible, but are at the same time exceptional and exclusive.”

Headed to sale are NFTs of Leonardo’s Madonna Litta, Judith (ca. mid-1490s.), van Gogh’s Lilac Bush (1889), Wassily Kandinsky’s Composition VI (1913), and Monet’s Corner of the Garden at Montgeron (1877).

The initiative, dubbed “Your token is kept in the Hermitage,” is part of a push to growing the museum’s digital reach. It is intended to “ensure a new level of accessibility to the Hermitage collections and emphasize the democracy of the museum, and emphasize the importance of digitalization as a new stage in the art collection world.”

“We will expand other opportunities, in particular digital ones, which will introduce the collections and the palace. We will build new experiments based on new technologies,” Piotrovsky said.

Piotrovsky’s signature appears on the Hermitage NFTs—which, the museum said, makes each NFT an original work. Copies of the NFTs will also be kept by the Hermitage, which plans to display them this fall in an exhibition centered on NFT art.

The Hermitage is not the first world-class museum to make NFTs of artworks in its holdings. In May, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence sold an NFT of a Michelangelo painting for $170,000 in an effort to recoup financial losses resulting from the pandemic. The Uffizi said at the time that it also planned to issue NFTs of works in its collection by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Titian, and Raphael.

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