British Museum to sell 20 NFT paintings by English Romantic painter William Turner

The non-fungible tokens (NFTs) craze continues to take the art world by storm. 

With their rise, audiences can also be collectors of museum-level authentic artworks in digital form.

The British Museum will launch its second wave of NFT collections. This year, English Romantic painter, William Turner’s (1775-1851) works will be sold. The digital artworks’ starting prices range from the cheapest at €799 euros (around US$900 dollars) to the most expensive at €4,999 euros (around US$6,000 dollars).

Turner's A Storm (Shipwreck, circa 1822-1823) | British Museum 

Central section of Turner's A Storm (Shipwreck) 

In 2021, the British Museum collaborated with the NFT platform, LaCollection, to sell NFTs of masterpieces by Japanese woodblock print Master, Katsushika Hokusai. The works included Under the Great Wave off Kanagawa (1820–1831), Ejiri in the Suruga Province (circa 1830-1832) and Fine Wind, Clear Morning (1832) – from the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series.

This year, the two have joined forces again.

Among 50 watercolour paintings by Turner, as bequeathed to the Museum by former Christie’s executive Robert Wylie Lloyd (1868-1958), 20 were cast into NFTs for sale. Details will be announced on the official website this weekend (22 January).

Masterpieces such as A Storm (Shipwreck) (circa 1822-1823), The Colosseum, Rome (circa 1820) and Lucerne by Moonlight (1843) are featured in the NFT sale. The rest are yet to be announced.

Turner's The Colosseum, Rome (circa 1820) | British Museum

Turner's Lucerne by Moonlight (1843) | British Museum

Regardless of any level of NFT, the British Museum will keep one version. So the actual sales quantity is the number of each category minus one

According to Lloyd's last wishes, these paintings cannot be loaned out. The British Museum can display them for two weeks in February every year or by special request – making these paintings rare.

The 20 digital NFTs will be sold across three levels of scarcity:

  • 9 will be Ultra Rare (two editions, one of which will be retained by the British Museum)
  • 7 will be Super Rare (10 editions, one of which will be retained by the British Museum)
  • 4 will be Open Edition (a maximum of 99 editions will be sold over a 24 to 48 hour period and the final edition number will be set at the end of the sales window)

Prices for the Open Edition NFTs are estimated to start at €799, while the Ultra Rare Turner editions at €4,999.

The British Museum’s #TurnerNFT sale on LaCollection follows the pair’s first collaborative auction of 200 Hokusai NFTs

Rome, from Mount Aventine (1835) was Turner's most expensive painting sold at auction

In 2014, Turner's auction record was set when his painting, Rome, from Mount Aventine (1835) – depicting a view of Rome from the Aventine Hill (southernmost of the ancient city's seven hills) – was sold at Sotheby's London. Estimated between £15 million to 20 million pounds, it was sold at £30.3 million pounds (around US$41.2 million dollars) with buyer’s premium.

LaCollection was co-founded by French entrepreneur, Jean-Sebastien Beaucamps, to help museums reach new audiences with NFTs. Beaucamps contacted 30 institutions – from museums to art galleries, and the British Museum responded positively.