Hermitage Museum to sell Monet, van Gogh and da Vinci masterpieces as NFTs to raise funds

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is announcing an auction of tokenised versions of several masterpieces from its collection to raise funds. Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci are amongst the artists on the non-fungible token (NFT) sale. It will take place at the end of August on the Binance online marketplace

Digital copies of the originals being put up for the NFT sale will include Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna Litta, Giorgione’s Judith, Vincent van Gogh’s Lilac Bush, Wassily Kandisky’s Composition VI and Claude Monet’s Corner of the Garden at Montgeron. The project is called “Your token is kept in the Hermitage”.

Italian Renaissance painter, Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna Litta, was completed circa 1490. State Hermitage Museum Collection. 

For each painting, two copies of NFT were created. The first will be stored in the Hermitage and shown in an exhibition devoted to NFT art this autumn. The second will be presented on the Binance marketplace, where sales will be carried out in the format of an auction. All proceeds from the sale are transferred to the Hermitage.

The Hermitage’s NFTs will be signed by Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Museum's general director. Piotrovsky not only assured the authenticity of a limited series of works, but also created an independent work by applying his signature, date and exact time of signing. 

Italian Renaissance painter, Giorgione, completed the artwork, Judith, in 1504. State Hermitage Museum Collection. 

Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh's Lilac Bush, was completed in 1889. The artwork was made during the Dutch artist's stay in Saint Rémy, southern France. State Hermitage Museum Collection. 

The NFT sale is a first step in seeing the museum growing digitally, according to Piotrovsky. The Hermitage's general director said that the Museum will expand to other opportunities, in particular digital ones, which will introduce the collections and the palace. The Museum will build new experiments based on new technologies, he added.

Russian Abstract art painter, Wassily Kandinsky's Composition VI, was completed in 1913. State Hermitage Museum Collection. 

French Impressionist painter, Claude Monet's Corner of the Garden at Montgeron, was created in 1877. State Hermitage Museum Collection. 

Binance was founded by Chinese Canadian engineer Zhao Changteng in 2017. The cryptocurrency was first created and then, due to the rise of NFT digital art, the NFT platform was also established. The Binance NFT platform accepts three virtual currencies, namely ETH, Binance Coin (BNB), and Binance Stable Coin (BUSD), which has a 1:1 exchange rate with the US dollar.

The NFT auction record was written in March. Beeple's JPG work "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" was auctioned online at Christie's for US$69.35 million (HK$540 million; NT$1.95 billion). Other key NFT artworks are Beeple's "Crossroads" and "Ocean Front", which sold for US$6.6 million (HK$51.3 million; NT$181.15 million) and US$6 million (HK$46.6 million; NT$167.4 million) respectively. 

Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days NFT artwork

The Hermitage is not the first museum to sale NFT versions of its artworks. In May, Italy's Uffizi Galleries in Florence sold an NFT version of a Michelangelo painting for €140,000 (US$170,000). This was to recuperate financial losses due to the pandemic. The Uffizi also mentioned that it planned to issue NFT versions of other key artworks in its collection by Italian Renaissance painters Botticelli, Titian and Raphael, as well as Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio.