$70M Art Collection at MoMA To Be Sold, Proceeds Could Fund NFT Buys

Works by Picasso, Bacon, Rousseau and Renoir will be auctioned off to expand the museum’s digital presence, including the possible purchase of NFTs.

By Tim Hakki

2 min read

The William S. Paley Foundation will auction off at least $70 million in art masterpieces this fall to expand the digital footprint of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and possibly acquire the museum’s first NFTs

MoMA has been caring for William S. Paley’s collection since the CBS co-founder died in 1990. Paley’s namesake foundation, which holds endowment funds for museums and educational and cultural programs, has enlisted Sotheby’s to auction 29 of the MoMA collection’s 81 pieces.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to expand the museum’s digital presence. According to MoMA director Glenn Lowry in the Wall Street Journal, the museum has outlined several possibilities for the money. 

MoMA may launch its own streaming channel, host virtual exhibits and video chats with creators, or collaborate with universities and course providers to offer online courses. More significantly, for crypto fans, MoMA may also purchase its first NFTs. 

Lowry said the museum has a dedicated team keeping tabs on the digital-art landscape to look for potential artist collaborators or purchases.

“We’re conscious of the fact that we lend an imprimatur when we acquire pieces,” he said of NFTs in the interview, “but that doesn’t mean we should avoid the domain.”

What’s for sale?

The arrangement between the William S. Paley Foundation and MoMA gives MoMA the final say in how the collection will be used. A small portion of the sales in the autumn auction will go to other philanthropic causes pursued by the late Paley. 

Many of the collection’s most well-known pieces, including Picasso’s 1905-06 “Boy Leading a Horse” and Matisse’s “Woman with a Veil” are not up for sale. However, Lowry confirmed that a Rousseau and a Renoir will be auctioned off. 

Pablo Picasso’s “Guitar on a Table” will go for at least $20 million in New York this November, while Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes,” will be auctioned for at least $35 million in London this October, according to Sotheby’s.

The collection is expected to fetch between $70 and $100 million. 

While MoMA has yet to own a tokenized artwork on the blockchain, the museum has already helped to create NFTs. In November last year, MoMA contributed metadata of its entire collection towards AI artist Refik Anadol’s exhibition/NFT project Unsupervised.

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