Italy protects its museums from NFT fraud
The Italian government wants to stop the sale of digital art by museums to protect the country’s cultural heritage NFT Fraud. This decree comes in response to the recent sale of a €240,000 NFT of Michelangelo’s works, of which the Florence-based Uffizi art gallery received just €70,000. The country’s ministry in charge of regulating Italy’s museums has urged institutions to halt agreements with NFT providers.
The decision to halt contracts with NFT companies came afterwards the sale of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo NFT from the Uffizi Gallery last year. The sale was led by Milan-based technology company Cinello as part of a five-year deal to digitize artworks from the museum’s collection. The gallery received less than a third of the price it realized, despite agreeing on a fifty percent share, a Cinello spokesman told the Art Newspaper. The technology company took in so many fees that the museum only received €70,000. The works were produced in editions of nine, priced between €100,000 and €250,000 each.
Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (1505-06) | Courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery
Who owns Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo?
The NFT was originally conceived as a combination of digital and physical artwork. A screen shows the replica of the work in a wooden copy of the original frame. Following the sale, Italian newspaper La Repubblica posed a series of questions that sparked a public debate over ownership of the digital rights to Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo. The director of the Uffizi, Eike Schmidt, has revealed that the museum had not carried out proper due diligence in structuring the deal surrounding the NFT.
“It is essential to be informed not only technically but also legally”, he noticed. “Certain platforms where you register ownership may not provide adequate guarantees and you risk losing everything.” he continued. However, buyers of digital copies of iconic masterpieces from the Uffizi Collection can theoretically display and control the artworks in augmented and virtual realities. Undoubtedly, this could harm institutions by losing control over the works they sell from their own collection.
On the contrary, Cinello declares that all rights to the work remain with the museum. According to them, the goal is not to spread Italian heritage around the world, but to support the museum and generate income ‘the means necessary to protect, preserve and care for the originals in his collection.’
Next to the Uffizi Gallery (see more here), the tech company (more here) is currently collaborating with 10 other Italian museums, including the Museo di Palazzo Pretorio and the Pinacoteca di Brera di Milano. Still, the company hasn’t responded as to whether it will continue to offer and execute similar NFT deals. In addition to Cinello, other LaCollection companies have announced similar collaborations with the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. The latter digitized and decomposed an image of Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Kiss as a series of 10,000 NFTs, each priced at around €1,939.
Cinello founder and CEO Franco Losi (left) and Uffizi director Eike Schmidt (right)
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