Following its acquisition of a CryptoPunk last July, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) is deepening its engagement with the digital art space. Not content with being one of the very few institutions to have a NFT in its collection, ICA Miami is now the first major US institution to head up its very own NFT platform.

What happened

Coinciding with its annual fundraiser, the NFT platform was inaugurated with the ICA Miami’s first NFT auction, featuring works by Cory Van Lew. Images: “Alpha,” “Beta,” and “Gamma” by Cory Van Lew / ICA Miami

On April 4, ICA Miami launched its NFT platform in partnership with Palm and LiveArtX. Released to coincide with its annual fundraising gala, the 365 Party, the platform was inaugurated with an auction of three works by artist Cory Van Lew in both physical and digital forms. Four pieces (including the aforementioned three) were created onsite at the gala, with one artwork entering the museum’s permanent collection. Buyers could place their bids via the website in cash or in Ethereum, with proceeds due to support the museum’s ongoing educational mission.

According to Alex Gartenfeld, Artistic Director of ICA Miami, the platform was developed in a relatively short period of time. “Our time was spent imagining a sustainable, inventive, and ecologically sound place to encourage conversation around the art on our platform,” he tells Jing Culture & Commerce.

Following the auction’s end on April 9, the museum plans to keep the NFT platform running for future programming, according to Gartenfeld, whether to engage with the museum’s constituencies, build conversations through pieces within its collection, and produce new work and context for the work.

Why it matters

ICA Miami NFT platform

The platform offers opportunities for the institution to generate revenue, but also to build connections with patrons and run programs to engage the NFT community. Image: ICA Miami

While museums have collaborated with NFT platforms like LaCollection to initiate NFT sales, ICA Miami’s NFT platform serves as an example of how museum-run NFT marketplaces could look like. Besides establishing a new revenue stream, it offers future opportunities for the institution to maintain connections with its digital patrons, build in bonus content or perks, and further engage the creator community — all as part of a broader NFT program.

The museum’s platform was also built on Palm, an Ethereum-compatible sidechain that uses an IBFT-2 consensus mechanism to reduce computing power, allegedly allowing the network to be 99 percent more energy-efficient than other Proof of Work systems. While “green” blockchains have been on the market for some time now, their long-term environmental impact has yet to be fully observed. 

What ICA Miami says

“There is no question that NFTs are an emergent form. We see it as part of our mission, as a contemporary art museum, to engage with technologies at the time they are rapidly developing.” – Alex Gartenfeld, Artistic Director, ICA Miami


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