April 19, 2024
Musée d'Orsay's Innovative Approach: How Blockchain and NFTs Revitalized a Parisian Museum
NFT

Musée d’Orsay’s Innovative Approach: How Blockchain and NFTs Revitalized a Parisian Museum

The Musée d’Orsay experienced difficulty in 2021.

Despite having the biggest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world, the Parisian museum was having trouble drawing people because of the up-and-down nature of COVID lockdowns. Some museum employees had faith that France’s dedication to cultural advancement would triumph and that pre-pandemic museum attendance levels would soon be reached. However, the doors were open, and there were no sizable crowds present.

“French people came less; young people came less,” Guillaume Roux, the Orsay’s director of development, stated. “We realized that we would have to fight to gain back the visitors we had lost.”

Christophe Leribault was appointed as the museum’s new president in October 2021, and his first order of business was to make the Orsay accessible to everyone, as Roux put it: “talking to everyone, even those who had never been to the museum or might never come.”

The director of the Orsay sought to find a method to exploit the cutting-edge technology to draw in new and younger audiences, so Leribault assigned an internal team the duty of researching NFTs and blockchain.

The results of that investigation have emerged nearly two years later: on Friday, the museum announced a one-year partnership with the Tezos Foundation to integrate blockchain-backed artworks and on-chain digital creators into its collections and displays.

Starting on October 3, the museum’s next exhibition, “Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The Final Months,” which will examine paintings produced by the famed Dutch painter in the final two months of his life, will open and serve as the official launch of the relationship by providing on-chain digital keepsakes to visitors.

Starting next Tuesday, visitors to the museum and online collectors will be able to buy two digital mementoes related to the exhibition: one is an augmented reality piece showing van Gogh’s final palette, and the other is an original digital piece created by the French blockchain culture project KERU and inspired by van Gogh.

Both coins will be issued on the Tezos blockchain and come with gamified components that allow owners to earn rewards like lifelong permits to the Orsay and invites to the museum’s opening galas. For a total of €20 (about $21), 2,300 NFTs of each kind will be sold.

In the next year, the Orsay and the Tezos Foundation will also work together on several conferences and educational initiatives aimed at introducing the audience of the museum to cutting-edge technology like the blockchain. Additionally, starting in early 2024, the museum intends to allow several blockchain-based digital artists to build NFT collections that are based on works of art from Orsay’s permanent collection. In operation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a comparable program.

The Orsay’s new efforts, in the opinion of Valerie Whitacre, Head of Art at TriliTech, a Tezos adoption centre located in London that worked with the museum to build its blockchain-related initiatives, are completely in keeping with the institution’s close ties to the Impressionist movement.

“The Musée d’Orsay has a long lineage of collecting artists that might not have otherwise been accepted by traditionalists,” Whitacre stated. “And there is a beautiful sentiment from the team there that experimenting with crypto art, experimenting with how one can engage audiences that are consuming art in a new way, relates to the overall history of the museum.”

The Orsay is presently the 10th most popular museum in the world, but despite its return to pre-pandemic visitation levels, its staff finds a silver lining in the pandemic’s inspired drive toward foreign technology. The institution is home to works by Monet, Manet, Degas, and Gaugin.

“Today, it’s not a question of the volume of people that we might bring to the museum,” the Orsay’s Roux stated. “It’s more a question of being a museum aware of its time, of being a museum that is talking to new generations.”

However, despite the massive numbers that have returned to the Orsay, part of the urgency that shook the illustrious institution in 2021 is still present.  

“We are a 19th-century museum, if we do not launch initiatives to talk differently, to represent ourselves differently, we will end up an old museum of a very old century—very, very fast,” Roux concluded.

Image: Unsplash

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