Art market pushes on with rocky crypto romance

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Art market pushes on with rocky crypto romance

‘COMPLEX AND UNREGULATED’

Thirteen Italian museums recently signed agreements with Cinello, a firm that sells limited edition digital reproductions, to offer ownership of digital replicas of masterpieces.

The buyer gets a unique, high-resolution digital copy to project on a screen and a certificate from the museum, which gets half of the proceeds.

The company held a splashy London show in February featuring digitized works by Renaissance masters including Raphael, Leonardo and Caravaggio. It has since sold a handful of them.

But Italy’s culture ministry was reportedly upset that a replica of Michelangelo’s “Doni Tondo” sold for around 240,000 euros, but Florence’s Uffizi gallery got less than a third of the proceeds.

A ministry spokesman was quoted in several outlets last month as saying the issue was “complex and unregulated” and asking museums not to sign any new contracts around NFTs.

Cinello boss Francesco Losi was not happy with the characterization, telling AFP: “We don’t sell NFTs.”

Buyers can ask for an NFT to match their image, but the firm said they have their own patented system to ensure ownership, which they call DAW.

MIXED BLESSING

Cinello said it had digitized more than 200 works and its sales generated 296,000 euros in extra income for Italian museums.

But the firm’s troubles in Italy underscore the mixed blessing of NFTs — they bring publicity but also suspicion.

The NFT sector – which covers everything from avatars in computer games to million-dollar cartoon monkeys – is rife with scams, counterfeit works, theft and laundry trade.

Losi said he is well aware that NFTs can be used “in the wrong way” and is unsure what future they have in the art world.

Anaida Schneider emphasized that her project was protected by law in Liechtenstein, the small principality was one of the first jurisdictions to pass a law regulating blockchain companies in 2019.

Furthermore, she said her insurance would cover damage to the artworks and she also took into account the possibility that the paintings would drop in value, although she declined to give exact details.

“I hope it never happens,” she said. “For me it is very important to put this idea in the market.”

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