LACMA Has Acquired a Who’s Who of Blockchain Art by Important Generative Artists

LACMA has acquired 22 NFTs of generative artworks, all donated by the mysterious and prolific NFT collector who goes by the pseudonym Cozomo de’ Medici, the museum announced Monday.

Represented in this collection are some of the most sought-after generative artists in the NFT game, including Dmitri Cherniak, Cai Guo-Quiang, Matt DesLauriers, and Monica Rizzoli. Collectible NFTs from the Crypto Punk and World of Women collections were also included in the donation.

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The donation, de Medici told ARTnews in a recent interview, was motivated by a desire to start a new movement at LACMA, akin to the effect that William Randolph Hearst had when his donation of hundreds of artworks essentially converted LACMA from a history museum to an arts museum.

“I was introduced to Michael [Govan] and Elizabeth [Wiatt] at the LACMA and they’ve had a long interest in innovative, digital artworks,” de’ Medici said. “I told them about my collection, which tells the story of on-chain art, our evolution thus far. That conversation sparked an idea to make a donation of a significant part of that collection to LACMA that would help seed a robust digital arts collection there.”

LACMA has taken numerous steps to highlight digital art, including their current exhibition “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982” and a Paris Hilton–supported fund to buy digital art works by female artists.

“For decades, artists have incorporated technology within their practice, and the intersection of art and technology has been central to LACMA’s programming since the ’60s,” Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, said in a press release. “As one of the first museums to support artists’ experimentation with technology, it’s fitting that LACMA would receive the first museum collection of blockchain art.”

LACMA isn’t the only museum acquiring NFTs right now. The Centre Pompidou announced late last week that they had acquired a small collection of NFTs. Last November, Yuga Labs donated a Crypto Punk to the ICA Miami.

LACMA and de’ Medici have made a conscious move to refer to these works as blockchain art, art minted on the blockchain, or on-chain art, as opposed to NFTs.

“The term NFT has a stigma attached to it so we’ve stepped away from it,” de’ Medici said. “The digital art world is splitting into two categories, I call it the great divide. And the great divide separates the first category, PFP NFTs, and the mania of speculation that [is associated with PFP NFTs], from the second category, which is digital fine art like what we’ve seen from the generative art projects.”

Generative art—works of abstracted art made with code that has been minted on a blockchain—has come to represent the most artistic contribution that the NFT scene has had to offer, especially in the heady days of 2021’s NFT boom.

LACMA will include several other works of minted generative art in their collection outside of de’ Medici’s cache of donated pieces. John Gerrard donated one of his “Petrol National” series works, which were on view at Pace last year. Erick Calderon, founder of the generative art NFT platform Art Blocks, Tom Sachs, Jessica Wimbly, and others have also had their NFTs included in LACMA’s collection.

For Calderon, this is a full circle moment. Art Blocks almost single handedly put generative art on the map at a time when cartoon animal profile-pic NFTs were flooding the market. Calderon’s own generative art work, Chromie Squiggles, was the first to be minted on Art Blocks. That collection has since become a historical marker in the NFT boom’s short history. After two years of minting Squiggles, Calderon will be donating the last one, number 9,999, to LACMA.

“I met Michael Govan at Art Basel Switzerland, and it was the first time I spoke to someone from the art world who didn’t need me to explain blockchain and its impact on the arts,” Calderon told ARTnews. “We were on the same page.”

After a long conversation with Govan, Calderon had the idea to donate the last Chromie Squiggle to LACMA. He wasn’t sure how the offer of a donation would be taken but, to his pleasant surprise, Govan was eager to take the work. The donation passed board approval and now Calderon is getting ready to mint to the work and send it to LACMA.

“Obviously, we [at Art Blocks] didn’t invent generative art but it gave a home for generative art in a way that enabled a conversation and community to form around it that just was non-existent before,” said Calderon. “I’m just very humbled to have played a part in that process.”


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