Italian museums are selling digital copies of masterpieces by Leonardo, Caravaggio and Modigliani
An upcoming exhibition in London will see four Italian museums selling digital facsimiles of masterpieces from their collections, like Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch and Leonardo’s Portrait of a musician and The Scapigliata. The company will raise funds to support the preservation of the original works, while trying to increase public access to them.
Eternalize the history of art: from Leonardo da Vinci to Modigliani (February 16-March 19) at Unit London Gallery will present six paintings digitized on screens of the same dimensions in frames virtually indistinguishable from those of the original works. The replicas were produced by Italian company Cinello, which patented the technology to create these encrypted digital artworks, known as DAWs. They will be sold as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain in editions of nine, priced from £100,000 to £500,000 (Unit London accepts both Ether and fiat currency).
The digital works were all produced in partnership with museums: the Uffizi Galleries in Florence (which sold a Michelangelo DAW Doni Tondo with Cinello last year for €140,000), the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta in Parma and the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, both in Milan. Proceeds from the sale will be shared equally between Unit London and the museums.
How it works?
When a collector buys the work, he receives the physical components: the screen, an integrated player that generates the image, the replica of the frame and the certificate of authenticity. They also receive the digital components: the NFT, and a single connection to the application, explains Joe Kennedy, co-director of Unit London.
According to Serena Tabacchi, director of Cinello, buyers will be allowed to resell these DAWs and, as with most NFTs, museums will receive royalties on all subsequent sales. However, the copyright of the image will remain with the museums, which means that collectors cannot reuse the DAWs for commercial purposes such as marketing them.
Kennedy says he expects institutions as well as private buyers to bid on the work. He describes DAWs as a “game changer” for museum lending, adding that the technology allows institutions to reduce carbon emissions from shipping while giving overseas audiences the opportunity to experience the art.
The exhibition is the first in a series of three, and he adds that it is “very likely” that the four Italian museums will participate in the gallery’s next two exhibitions.