May 27, 2022
 min read

NFTs Supporting Arts and The Preservation of Art

Bridging the physical and digital divides to support the preservation of art.

Physical art and artifacts have a lifespan - eventually, they will decay and break down. NFTs offer a new possibility for the preservation of physical art and artifacts. NFT art of original pieces and documents could be created, with communities of NFT collectors acting as caretakers of the underlying works of art.

Creating digital art from physical works of art and archival documents creates a new art form and allows art collectors another way to own art. This might entice physical art collectors to enter the digital art world with NFTs of their favourite genre or works of art. Each time a collector purchases an NFT, they can also assist in preserving and restoring historical works of art and documents. And because artists can create multiple copies of NFT artworks, the cost to become an art collector may be lower, allowing more people to collect copies of their favourite works.

If a historically or culturally significant piece of art has digital reproductions made and sold as NFTs, it opens the door to previously inaccessible artworks. NFT company Pelbuy has done just that with the help of Fine Art Conservation Lab; they have digitally recreated a painting representing American Independence. 155,485,078 NFT Pixels were created for the painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware," which is an American National Treasure. Each "NFT Pixel" represents one pixel in the digitally verified painting and will be sold as NFTs on Independence Day (July 4th), 2022. This project not only made sure an American National Treasure was authentically documented and digitally preserved but opened up (partial) ownership of a piece of American history to the masses.

Since NFTs can have residual percentages of sales go to the original digital creator, they also offer a way to finance their restoration. For example, if digital artwork gets resold multiple times, it could earn a residual income for the creator or organization that created the artwork each time it sells. Set up during the minting of NFTs, this is another way to add extra funding to preserve works in institutional archives and collections.

On a smaller scale than the "Washington Crossing the Delaware" project, NFTs created from cultural archives could also play a part in funding and maintaining them. Art in cultural archives is primarily undocumented and not even viewable to the public. By creating digital versions of these documents, art historians could make them viewable and even purchasable to the general public. Many family historians would be proud to own the NFT of an original document showing when family members emigrated to a new country. Or of the ticket, they used to cross the ocean to emigrate, 200 years ago. Creating NFTs of these physically delicate cultural documents makes them accessible and can help finance their preservation.

Preserving art isn't limited to historical and cultural art pieces and documents. NFTs can also be used to protect temporary art, creating digital art from works that cannot physically exist for a long time. Take street art, for example - unique works of art are often washed away, replaced or taken down. Digitally documenting street art not only preserves it but can help artists gain income from NFT sales of their work.

In 2021 a group of artists created a group of murals in the Tribune Tower in Oakland. Knowing time would remove the murals, the artists also had 3D images created and transformed their mural project into the digital world. Murals to the Metaverse also turned into 3D digitally enhanced images, and for a time, the artists offered viewers augmented reality tours of the space. They not only ensured they preserved their art but opened up viewing and ownership opportunities.

Similarly, NFT art sales could benefit artists and art communities as well. Initially, a residual sale income could be set up to go to art projects or groups, allowing income for the perpetuity of the NFT. Then, each time it sells, the group would get that residual portion of the selling price.

Click NFTs is doing just that. Click is building bridges between past, present and future generations by way of the blockchain. At Click, they believe "NFTs have the potential to make lasting contributions to culture. By using them to spotlight iconic artworks, rare or forgotten archives, and boundary-pushing contemporary artists." With each NFT drop, they support artists, foundations and museums. In addition, they've created a model where sale proceeds fund future artworks, public programs, exhibitions and restorations.

NFTs are no longer contained solely in the digital realm. Instead, they offer a new way to bridge physical and digital divides, preserving art and cultural archives. At the same time, they provide artists and organizations income for the duration of their digital art. In essence, in perpetuity.

Kim is creative, adventurous and giving. She joined the Award Pool team as a copywriter.

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