NFTs IRL: Seattle to be home to first museum dedicated to blockchain art

New institution will include exhibitions about digital art, as well as QR codes for visitors to view NFT works.

Can art that does not physically exist still be exhibited in a museum? Apparently so. A new museum in Seattle, opening this month, is billed as the first art museum and gallery to only exhibit blockchain art. “Digital art pushes the boundaries of physical space without the limitations of mediums and materials,” say Jennifer Wong and Peter Hamilton, the co-founders of the museum, in a statement.

The Seattle NFT Museum opened last January 14 in the city’s Belltown district and is positioning itself as the first of its kind—and one capable of embracing what might be a revolutionary new era in art history. Wong and Hamilton hope the museum—the partial result of a partnership with Samsung, which has provided more than 30 custom-designed screens—will put Seattle on the map as “a hub for blockchain innovation and a space to serve the NFT community”, which, thus far, has been treated with suspicion by the traditional art world.

The museum put Seattle on the map as a hub for blockchain innovation and a space to serve the NFT communityJennifer Wong and Peter Hamilton

It will be interesting to see how the NFT community responds. NFTs are generational; they are the technology and preserve of a generation that was raised on video games and internet culture, and now makes little distinction between the real and the virtual. To own a painting in a frame hung on a wall, or a bunch of pixels on the net: what is the essential difference?

The proposed museum is an amalgam of the two. In many respects, it will mirror an established institutional format. There will be a curatorial focus on how the art is presented, with carefully framed exhibitions, a defined programme and distinct seasons. The works are also relevant to and reflective of the wider Seattle community, with a strong focus on local artists. Works will be visible through QR codes, providing visitors with “various online portals while in the museum, opening up the possibility of artists adding additional ways of interacting with the work”. Each installation is linked to the token’s metadata and to content relating to the artist’s story.

The museum’s founders have little experience in the traditional art world but come from a technology background. Wong is the head of sustainability at Convoy, a digital freight startup, while Hamilton is an angel investor who founded TUNE, a mobile marketing company. “We’re not experts,” Wong says. “We’re here to learn as much as anyone. That is why we are counting on the feedback and support of NFT enthusiasts to continue growing the vision.”

Hamilton and Wong have partnered with the NFT collector Aaron Bird, who will initially lend the museum works from his collection. On show will be works from Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks series, some of which have traded for more than $10m. Bird will also lend the museum generative art by Tyler Hobbs and Erick Calderon, better known as Snowfro.

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