In an attempt to protect their cultural heritage, the Italian government has decided to ban the digital arts dale by Museums.
They have decided to make this in light of the events of a tech company that took a large number of fees from the NFT of a Michelangelo masterpiece. The masterpiece in question is "Doni Tondo".
So, it all started with Uffizi Gallery selling Michelangelo's masterpiece Doni Tondo. The painting was sold for a whopping price of € 240,000 last year. At that moment they thought they had found a new major revenue stream. Therefore, they decided they would take this opportunity and turn their most prized artwork into NFTs. Selling these artworks NFTs to raise funds after the cash-strapped year.
Of course what good work to start with than Michelangelo's, they decided to split the proceeds with Cinello (1). It is an Italian company that has managed to patent a new way to make the digital facsimiles of famous paintings. Each piece was attached with a certificate of authenticity signed by Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Museum.
They agreed for Uffizi to get 50% of the proceeds for each DAW made from the pieces of its collection that would be sold by the company. DAWs are Cinello's Digital artwork token. Everything was fine until people found that the company was taking too much fees. The museum only made about € 70,000 from the NFT.
The backstory doesn't end here!
The Italians started questioning to whom should the digital rights of the artwork belong?
When this information came to light the Italian ministry responsible for the regulation of museums asked all the institutions to temporarily cease contracts with NFT providers(2).
And this is how we reached today's issue of the Italian government taking strict actions and banning NFT sales by the Museum. Therefore, from now on no one would be able to get their hands on digital art pieces.
The main driving force behind such strict action was to protect their cultural heritage to protect them from NFT scams and frauds!
So, What Exactly Happened?
The Milan-based company Cinello was given a five-year contract to digitally reproduce art pieces from the Uffizi museum's collection. The company produced digital artwork called DAWs (3) based on the Ethereum blockchain technology. Would you like to know more about the Uffizi digital artworks created by Cinello?
Well, here it comes...
More about the digital works
Each of the digital artwork, which Cinello calls Daws, were certified on the Ethreum blockchain and traded as NFTs in conjunction with Unit, a contemporary art dealership in London. The works were made in editions of nin, priced between €100,000 and €250,000 each (4).
The NFT was initially designed to be a hybrid of digital and physical artwork. Are you wondering how that was to be accomplished? So, they were going to combine the wooden copy of the original frame, with a chip and a screen. The copy of the art piece would be recorded by the screen and the chip. But this did not happen!
The sale of the digital artwork generated public scrutiny after an Italian newspaper called La Repubblica questioned who owns the digital rights to Michelangelo's Doni Tondo.
The Director of the museum admitted that the new owners can, in theory, control the use of the artwork in augmented and virtual reality, which means Uffizi could possibly lose the rights when it concerns controlling the artwork on platforms like Metaverse (5).
Yup! it still goes on...
As we are already aware of the possibilities and potential of the metaverse, we can already assume this move would be considered a huge loss on the part of the museum.
A spokesperson of the ministry stated while addressing this matter to the same newspaper:
"Given that this matter is complex and unregulated the ministry has temporarily asked its institutions to refrain from signing contracts relating to NFTs. The basic intention is to avoid unfair contract(6)"
On the Other Side
A spokesperson of the company had previously stated that they would be equally splitting the proceeds with the Uffizi museum after the production costs. So, what is included in the production cost? the production cost includes taxes, the cost of producing a frame, platform commission, and finally 20% operating fee. Therefore, the production cost reached a staggering amount of € 100,000.
What is their reaction?
Cinello maintained that all the rights to the work still remain with the museum. Further, they added that their aim was never to disperse Italian heritage around the earth. They expressed they wanted to assist the museum is raising funds in order to protect, maintain, and conserve the original artworks.
The Five-year contract between Cinello and Uffizi Museum has already come to an end. But Cinello right now is still working with 10 Italian museums. The list includes Museo di Palazzo Pretorio (7) and Pinacoteca di Brera di Milano (8).
The sudden halt of NFT sales by the Museum might cause issues for the company. The company has yet to respond or comment about its future plans, whether it will continue similar deals or not?
The Question also arises...
How this could possibly impact other companies and museums around the world who have also entered such contracts. Would they also become concerned about the digital ownership of the artworks in the digital world?
Many Museums around the world have joined hands with companies in order to raise funds by digitizing their famous artwork collection and selling them in the form of Ethereum blockchain-based NFTs. A few examples of such incidents are the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.
What would happen is still up to speculations and what we can do is wait and nothing else!