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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) can lay claim to a pretty robust pedigree in digital art, whether as part of its collecting or programming. And with the emergence of blockchain art over the past year, the institution has stepped up its engagement with the digital medium — now further borne out in its newly launched digital art fund.

What happened

Last week, LACMA inaugurated its fund to back the acquisition of digital works by female artists, spearheaded by reality TV star-turned-entrepreneur Paris Hilton. The acquisitions will encompass digital practices not limited to augmented reality, multimedia, video art, and naturally, NFTs. The initiative also logs a number of firsts: it’s currently the only fund created by Hilton for an art institution and the first that LACMA has established to center on digital art made by women. 

To mark its launch, the fund has acquired two artworks for the museum’s collection: Krista Kim’s “Continuum: Los Angeles” and Shantell Martin’s “The Question.” Both are fresh video works, with the former being a 40-minute loop of graduating hues inspired by LA’s skies and the latter marrying digital technologies with Martin’s illustrative hallmarks. They will be included in a forthcoming exhibition in the Fall, in a project co-presented by LACMA and Arizona State University that will survey how female creators are innovating in the digital realm.

Why it matters

LACMA digital art acquisition fund

The fund is the only one of its kind created by Hilton for an art institution, and marks the first that LACMA has has established to center digital art made by women. Image: Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Certainly, the market for and footprint of NFT or digital art have been considerable enough that institutions can’t help but sit up and get involved. The Guggenheim, most recently, embarked on its own initiative to broaden its engagement with the digital art sphere. But more so, a fund like LACMA’s is welcome for its direct support of digital art created by women, particularly in view of how digital work — not least digital work created by female artists, who make up but 16 percent of NFT creators — has long been given short shrift by cultural gatekeepers. 

And then, of course, there’s Paris Hilton. The Hilton heiress has lately transformed herself into some manner of NFT evangelist, dropping her own clutch of collectibles in collaborations with Superplastic and RTFKT, and spreading the good word on various blockchain projects. Her digital art fund at LACMA expands on the above support, simultaneously boosting a space and marketplace that she clearly is vested in (one of her tokens made her $1.11 million in April 2021). Nonetheless, her participation here, while lending a culturally legitimate sheen to her NFT adventures, will no doubt cast a wider spotlight on how women are transforming the digital and blockchain landscape. And, well, we’ll take it.

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What they said

“An exploration of digital artists’ creativity is critical as experience is increasingly digitized in the 21st century. We are grateful to Paris Hilton for establishing an acquisition fund, which supports the museum’s scholarship and promotes the practice of women artists.” — Dhyandra Lawson, Assistant Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, LACMA

“As an activist and entrepreneur who likes to push the boundaries in many male-dominated fields, I immediately identified the need to support women in Web3. There are so many incredibly brilliant and creative women innovators in the space.” — Paris Hilton

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