Enfilade

The British Museum Releases NFTs of Piranesi Drawings

Posted in Art Market, museums by Editor on April 29, 2022
Giovanni Battista Piranesi, A Classical Forum with Steps and a Column, ca.1748–52, pen and brown ink, grey-brown wash, and red chalk
(London: The British Museum, 1908,0616.10)

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From the press release, via Art Daily:

For its latest collaboration with The British Museum, LaCollection has announced a new NFT drop drawn from a selection of 20 pen and chalk drawings from The British Museum’s collection by the Venetian-born artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778).

Piranesi is regarded as one of the greatest Italian printmakers of the 18th century, best known for his atmospheric representations of Roman antiquity, and in later years, his celebrated series of fictional prisons, La Carceri. His exceptional work as a draughtsman is less well known; yet, his drawings reveal the evolution of his practice and the relentless experimentation and innovation that underpinned his virtuoso ability with the etching needle.

Works included in this drop chart the evolution of the artist from early scenographic drawings to his more elaborate fantasy interiors. The selection includes some of the earliest drawings in The British Museum’s collection relating to his Prima Parte (1743) series of etchings of imaginary temples, palaces and the ruins of Rome.

A Monumental Staircase in a Vaulted Interior with Column (1750–55) is one of the most impressive Piranesi drawings in technique and scale found at The British Museum. Showcasing a mastery of craft, Piranesi deconstructed classical architecture language and reinvented it through dynamic compositions that animate and exaggerate the space; the use of red chalk combined with brown ink is unique in the Museum’s collection.

Piranesi’s drawings were investigative tools for experimentation that explore complex exercises in perspective and spatial representation as well as compelling fantasies. One such example is Architectural Fantasy with Monuments, Sculpture, and Ruins (1760–65), a fantasy scene bringing together a creative selection of different Roman monuments interspersed with figures drawn in miniature to accentuate the grandeur of the landscape.

The 20 artworks will be sold across three scarcity levels:
• Six will be Ultra Rare (two editions, one of which will be retained by The British Museum).
• Nine will be Super Rare (ten editions, one of which will be retained by The British Museum).
• Five will be Open Edition (a maximum of 50 editions will be sold with the final edition number set at the end of the primary sales window; one edition will be retained by The British Museum).

Ultra Rare artworks will be sold by auction, with a starting price of €4,000. Super Rare and Open Edition artworks will be sold at fixed price, selling for €2,000 and €499 respectively. Three preview artworks will be available to purchase from 25 April with the main drop starting on 2 May. All public sale artworks will be dropped by 13 May and the primary sales window will close on 30 June; after this point, no further sales of these artworks will be made by The British Museum. There will be a preferential sales window, closing on 15 May, after which the price of each Super Rare artwork will increase to €3,000 and each Open Edition to €749. For all existing NFT collectors there will be a private drop on 28 April and a final one on 16 May; artworks available to purchase in these drops will not be available in the public sale.

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Anyone looking for an introduction to NFTs might start with Kevin Roose, “What are NFTs? The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto,” The New York Times (18 March 2022). Among the questions critics raise are the environmental impacts; some estimates place the carbon footprint of an NFT as equal to a month’s worth of electrical consumption for a person living in the EU, as noted by Justine Calma, “The Climate Controversy Swirling around NFTs,” Verge (15 March 2021). Also, see Charlotte Kent, “Can You Be an NFT Artist and an Environmentalist?” Wired (17 February 2022). CH

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