Commentary: Despite Beeple’s US$69 million windfall, uncertainty plagues museum NFT art sales


The connection between the ownership of a piece of art and an NFT associated with that artwork can be confusing.

Although it may appear otherwise, the NFT is a separate asset from the art itself. The owners of the art retain ownership even after any NFTs derived from that art are minted and sold.

This separation may mean that the owner of the art has no particular ability to turn an affiliated NFT into a big payoff.

Much like the value of a painting has little to do with what the paint, canvas and frame are worth, an NFT’s financial value is subjective. It depends on what others are willing to pay.

The creators of the underlying art, such as musicians and artists who retain control over their work, can – and do – mint NFTs connected to them. Once art is held in a museum collection, however, the value of NFTs is less clear.

Much like an author-autographed copy of a book can be more valuable than a book without that signature, an NFT minted by an artist of a popular artwork can attract interest from collectors.

On the other hand, a book signed by the publisher or an NFT minted by a museum is bound to be less appealing to collectors. An artist-minted NFT that a museum holds could fetch more interest.

Stated another way, even if a museum possesses valuable artwork, that does not mean minting NFTs is a guaranteed revenue stream.

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