British Museum to sell NFTs of 200 Hokusai works—including The Great Wave

The institution has partnered with French start-up LaCollection to auction the non-fungible tokens, coinciding with its exhibition of the Japanese artist's work

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Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave, 1831) by Katsushika Hokusai © 2021, The Trustees of the British Museum

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave, 1831) by Katsushika Hokusai © 2021, The Trustees of the British Museum

To coincide with its Hokusai: The Great Picture of Everything exhibition (30 September to 30 January 2022), the British Museum (BM) has partnered with a French start-up to sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of 200 Hokusai works. Half are digital images of works in the exhibition, including the famed The Great Wave, while another 100 are from the museum’s own collection, including drawings from the recently re-discovered book which is the subject of the exhibition.

The venture is an initiative of a French start-up, LaCollection.io, co-founded by the entrepreneur Jean-Sébastien Beaucamps. His previous professional experience often consisted of helping enterprises move into the digital sphere. Beaucamps contacted some 30 institutions—from museums to art galleries—via LinkedIn, and the BM responded positively. The BM's licencing manager, Craig Bendle, says: “It is so important that as a museum we continually adapt to new markets and find new ways of reaching people that we may not reach through traditional channels.”

The NFTs will correspond to digital images of the Hokusais, produced by the BM. They fall into different categories, from “unique” (a single image of one of the most famous works), through “ultra rare” (2), “limited” (1,000) and “common” (10,000). Prices start at about $500 for the common NFTs, according to Beaucamps.

They will be sold on LaCollection site, some at a fixed price, others at auction: “drops” will operate, with the editions being gradually fed onto the market. Payment can be in fiat (traditional) currency or cryptocurrency, and Beaucamps says a secondary market can emerge, with owners being able to resell, either on its own platform or on another platform such as openseas.io.

One of the two editions of The Great Wave will be put up for auction between the 30 September—the date the exhibition starts—and 20 December. The second will be auctioned early in 2022.

While Beaucamps will not reveal how much the BM is getting, he says the museum is “largely rewarded”. In the case of resale of an NFT on the secondary market, 10% goes to the museum and 3% to La Collection.

“For me it is important to democratise art,” Beaucamps tells The Art Newspaper: “This is a way of helping museums attract a younger, more diverse and more international public.”

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