The Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami (ICA Miami) has acquired the NFT piece, “CryptoPunk 5293,” as a gift from Eduardo Burillo, a museum trustee. The work is one of the 10,000 digital pieces created by art collective Larva Labs in 2017. The museum plans to exhibit the piece in summer 2021.
While a significant acquisition — the first NFT in the institution’s own collection — ICA Miami is not the first museum to acquire a NFT piece. In 2015, MAK Vienna acquired Dutch artist Harm van den Dorpel’s NFT piece “Event Listeners” with Bitcoin. At the time, it was the first museum to own a NFT piece purchased with cryptocurrency.
Why it matters
Since the introduction of NFTs into the mainstream, skepticism has swirled around their cultural validity, definite purpose, and status as art objects. Some institutions have shown support for the new medium — UCCA Lab, for one, has staged a NFT exhibition — while others are not sold.
Despite the mixed reception, in the past months, NFT art retains a presence the art world. From the Beeple sale at Christies, to Cube Art Fair’s Times Square exhibition, to a Sotheby’s auction of the original source code for the World Wide Web that sold for $5.4 million — NFTs represent a major cultural, economic, and technological development in the arts sector.
Like many previous art movements and mediums that were contemporaneously dismissed — from Impressionism to Dadaism to photography — crypto art’s journey to cultural legitimacy, though, remains a long one. ICA Miami’s acquisition signifies recognition of the art form by a reputable contemporary art institution, while representing its continued approach to its collections and programs. But more vitally, by gaining a home in a museum’s permanent collection, NFT art’s evolution from a perceived digital fad to a potential museum-worthy piece is well underway.
What ICA Miami says
“ICA Miami’s collection represents the most pressing and pioneering art and ideas of the present moment, across cultures and mediums, as well as historic work that influences artistic production today. ‘CryptoPunk 5293’ joins the ICA Miami collection as a work that is truly representative of the cultural zeitgeist and will have historic significance for generations to come, reflecting ICA Miami’s commitment to fostering an expansive understanding of contemporary art and cultural production in the 21st century.” — Alex Gartenfeld, Artistic Director, ICA Miami