London Gallery Sells NFT Reproductions of Art Masterpieces

Fancy a real Leonardo work of art on your wall? Or A Raphael? How about a Modigliani head?

Even with the budget, the prospect of acquiring one would be slim. But that’s where the gallery Unit London comes in.

Together with digital art platform Cinello, the gallery is using blockchain technology to create digital “counterparts” of six Italian masterpieces.

The works, by Caravaggio, Raphael, Leonardo, Hayez, and Modigliani, have been digitized on screens mounted within identical replicas of the works’ original wooden frames.

Each is available in editions of nine, a number traditionally associated with the production of sculptures.

According to Unit London, Eternalising Art History “comes at a time when travel is still limited and there is an appetite for the development of innovative ways to experience culture.”

The concept may prove a lifeline to hard-up galleries hit by falling visitor numbers during the pandemic.

Galleries have certified NFTs on Ethereum

Four major Italian galleries have joined the project that takes digital replicas of masterpieces and certifies them on the Ethereum blockchain. They can then be traded like any other non-fungible token (NFT).

Four museums, Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera and Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, and the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta di Parma, have authorized the reproductions.

And each gallery stands to earn 50% of the net revenue from the sales. The balance is split between the gallery and its tech partner.

A solution for works of art too old to travel

The new technology also means works too fragile to be moved can now be exhibited digitally away from home.

Speaking at the launch of the sale, Guido Guerzoni, a professor at Bocconi University, said: “In one year of the pandemic, European museums lost 70% of their visitors and between 70-80% of their revenues.”

He added that for bigger museums, a loss of international visitors had a much bigger financial impact. 

And new entrepreneurial initiatives are becoming a financial necessity if galleries are to survive.

According to a spokesman for Unit London, there has been “overwhelming interest” in the project, with 12-15 sales expected by the end of this week.

Prices range from $114,000 to $284,000.

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