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An art museum in Europe is planning on offering NFTs for sale in an effort to raise money for the purchase of real-world (non-NFT) art.
The highly respected Leopold Museum of Vienna would like to buy an Egon Schiele painting known as Leopold Czihaczek at the Piano, a famed 1907 work of the artist’s uncle playing the instrument, created when Schiele was just 16 years old.
Recently, another piece by the artist, also painted at age 16, Crucifixion, sold at Sotheby’s for $1.2 million in London.
To attract funds to help with the purchase of the highly acclaimed uncle-at-the-piano painting, the Leopold is digitally replicating 2 dozen other pieces by Schiele in the form of non-fungible tokens, known popularly in the investment world as NFTs.
These “duplications” represent a wide variety of works by Schiele that the museum holds, including 42 paintings and 184 watercolors, according to
The idea of selling great works of art in the form of digital tokens has been a success previously. The Paris-based firm LaCollection helped the British Museum sell NFTs representing the work of Hokusai, the Japanese painter best known for his legendary painting The Great Wave.
The website describes NFTs as “unique collectible crypto assets stored on the blockchain to verify ownership. The tokens can be used to represent any type of real-world or virtual item including artwork, video games items and land/real estate, music, digital trading cards, real-world tokenized assets, video footage and many more.”
Schiele’s painting Leopold Czihaczek at the Piano, now on display at Leopold Museum, had been missing for 100 years, according to LaCollection. Funds from the sale of these NFTs will be used for the restoration and expansion of the museum’s collection of Schiele’s works.
The idea of using non-fungible tokens to raise money for museum art projects is a new one and comes at a time when interest in NFTs may be diminishing greatly. For example, The New York Post reports on June 3rd that “the NFT craze appears to be fading fast, with sales collapsing by nearly 90 percent over the past month, according to new data.” 
The Post goes on to note that the number of buyers and sellers in this digital replication sector has dropped by about 70% in a 30-day period, according to data from early May.
Some of the drop off may be related to how fierce the April sales were and to recent news of losses associated with NFTs.
How much this may affect the Leopold Museum’s fund-raising plans based on NFT sales remains to be seen.
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