British Museum enters world of NFTs with digital Hokusai postcards

Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

The British Museum is venturing into the emerging world of non-fungible tokens by partnering with a new platform to launch digital postcards of the work of Katsushika Hokusai.

NFTs – unique digital assets stored on the blockchain – have gripped the arts sector since the digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, made history in March by selling an NFT for $69.4m.

The new NFT platform dedicated to museum and institutional collections, called LaCollection, launches on 30 September, and aims to inspire the next generation of art collectors and enthusiasts by selling NFTs in conjunction with leading institutions.

It is hoped that, co-produced by the British Museum, the Hokusai postcards will bring the work of one of Japan’s most celebrated artists into the digital realm.

The launch coincides with the exhibition opening of Hokusai, The Great Picture Book of Everything at the British Museum, which will display 103 drawings by Hokusai that have not been seen before. The works were produced in the 1820s-1840s for an illustrated encyclopedia that was never published.

More than 200 Hokusai NFT artworks will be available for purchase online, including digital images of well-known prints by the artist, such as Under the Wave, Off Kanagawa, Clear Day with a Southern Breeze, and Ejiri in Suruga Provence. Also available will be lesser-known works, including drawings from the recently re-discovered The Great Big Picture Book of Everything.

The NFTs will be sold at fixed prices, while others will be sold at auction.

“We are very excited to partner with LaCollection and explore innovative ways to engage with the growing NFT market,” said Craig Bendle, licensing manager at the British Museum. “It is so important that as a museum we continually adapt to new markets and find new ways of reaching people that we may not reach through traditional channels.”

Bendle added: “The NFT space is new to many people so allowing them to enter the market in a simple and straightforward manner is very exciting.”

Jean-Sébastien Beaucamps, co-founder and CEO of LaCollection, said it was an “honour to partner with the British Museum”.

“LaCollection is born from two passions: art and technology,” he said. “We hope that the platform will engage new audiences, those who have never visited the British Museum or engaged with their vast collection and provide the opportunity to discover its collection in new and exciting ways.”

This summer, the Whitworth Gallery launched the first museum-accredited NFT. The image was generated from William Blake’s The Ancient of Days, one of the most widely reproduced images within the gallery’s collection.

An incident earlier this month, in which a collector bought a fake Banksy NFT for £244,000, shone a light on the vulnerabilities of NFT trading.

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