The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) revealed today (13 February) a promised gift of 22 artworks minted on the blockchain—a collection that it says is the "first and largest" of its kind to enter an American art museum. The acquisition is courtesy of the collector who goes by the alias Cozomo de’ Medici and is allegedly the rapper Snoop Dogg, a longtime proponent of crypto and Web3.
Works by 13 artists from around the world make up the gift and purchase, and together tell a “representative history of the cryptoart movement”, according to the museum’s announcement. They include artificial intelligence (AI) art by Claire Silver; NFT (non-fungible token) photography by Justin Aversano; and the first major decentralised book minted to the Ethereum blockchain, Neil Strauss’s Survive All Apocalypses (2021). Lacma will also receive works by artists including Cai Guo-Qiang, the digital illustrator Yam Karkai, and John Watkinson and Matt Hall’s CryptoPunks—the popular pixel-art avatars that were among the earliest examples of NFT art.
The acquisition reflects Lacma’s interest in acquiring, exhibiting and conserving NFT-authenticated digital art, and its decades-long investment in artists who engage with technology. Its Art + Technology Lab, which provides funding and space to artists experimenting with new technologies, has roots in a programme established in 1967. Last June, the museum reiterated its support of digital art with a new acquisition fund for such works by women artists, established by heiress and NFT evangelist Paris Hilton.
“For decades, artists have incorporated technology within their practice, and the intersection of art and technology has been central to Lacma’s programming since the 60s,” Lacma director Michael Govan says. “As one of the first museums to support artists’ experimentation with technology, it’s fitting that Lacma would receive this first museum collection of blockchain art.”
The collection is named after its donor’s pseudonym, Cozomo de’ Medici, a nod to the Italian banker and major Florentine Renaissance patron Cosimo de’ Medici. The self-described “grand patron of the digital arts” first emerged on the crypto scene in August 2021 and built a collection of NFTs worth more than $17m. After gaining a following on Twitter while operating anonymously for a month, the user promised to dox themself, and the identity was soon claimed by Snoop Dogg, who simply tweeted from his own account: “I am @CozomoMedici.” While many believe that the rapper—whose blockchain projects include NFT art collections and his NFT record label—is the famed NFT trader, others remain sceptical of the claim. An investigation by Vice suggests that the real Cozomo is a white man who has spent far more time in Italy than the Doggystyle creator.
Lacma did not respond to inquiries about the donor’s identity.
The Cozomo de’ Medici gift greatly expands Lacma’s NFT collection, which began in 2021 with a donation from John Gerrard, of an NFT of his iconic work Western Flag. The museum also owns on-chain works by artists including Tom Sachs, Erick Calderon, Jessica Wimbley and Peter Wu.
“With this gift, my goal was to help bridge the worlds of on-chain art and contemporary art, which until now have existed separately,” Cozomo de’Medici said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to have these historically significant on-chain works contextualised beside many iconic works of art in Lacma's collection.”
Lacma is not the only major institution deepening its holdings of blockchain-based art. On Friday (10 February), the Centre Pompidou revealed that it had acquired 18 NFTs for its permanent collection.