The British Museum offers certified NFTs of works by J.M.W. Turner

[08 Feb 2022]


Following their offer in collaboration with the French start-up of digital works by the Japanese engraver, Hokusai, the British Museum has now decided to bring the Romantic painter J. M. William TURNER (1775-1851) into the web3 era. Watercolors by Turner can fetch several million dollars, but the prestigious British institution is now offering the opportunity to acquire more or less rare NFTs of twenty magnificent drawings at much more affordable prices.

This is one of the most original uses of the Blockchain: offering digital ownership of works that exist in our very real world, but which are inaccessible. Indeed, while the 20 drawings will never leave the collections of the very prestigious London museum, the 468 NFTs associated with these works will, on the contrary, be able to move freely and instantly from one continent to another.



Acquiring an NFT issued by the British Museum is a way of supporting the institution, living a new experience as a collector and contributing to Art History’s initial exploration of the Metaverse.


Sharing a work with a major museum

According to the conditions set by their donor (Christie’s former director, R. W. Lloyd), the twenty Turner watercolors bequeathed to the British Museum can never be displayed for more than two weeks every year and can never be loaned. These little treasures are therefore doomed to remain hidden almost all their lives in the museum’s immense reserves. Fortunately, the collections of the British Museum can be consulted free of charge online.

While the paper aspect is missing from this digital experience, the possibility of zooming in nevertheless allows an extremely close examination of the drawing, which is of course strictly forbidden in any museum. And it is indeed this proximity – seeing Turner’s works from a new angle and in their smallest details – that really confirms the artist’s genius. His view of the interior of Westminster Abbey, painted when Turner was 21, is a superb discovery.



J.M.W. Turner, St Erasmus in Bishop Islips Chapel, Westminster Abbey (1796)


With this second project, made possible by, the British Museum is giving new visibility to these twenty superb watercolors by Turner that are unknown to the general public, and, above all, offering them a second life in the virtual universe that is opening up before us.


Creating a community behind a museum quality collection

In terms of NFT marketing, this second joint project of LaCollection and the British Museum amplifies the strategies already seen in the segment: not only do the twenty works give rise to more or less rare editions: 9 Ultra Rare (2 NFT edition), 7 Super Rare (10 NFT edition) and 4 Open Edition (100 NFT edition), but the platform has also integrated several other elements to stimulate collector enthusiasm.

First of all, the Turner “NFT drop” (as the museum calls it) rewards those who participated in the earlier Hokusai drop by granting holders of Hokusai NFTs a few hours of exclusive bidding (i.e. before everyone else) on several Open Edition and Ultra Rare Turner NFTs. In so doing, exploits a sense of “community” that is clearly an extremely important notion on the Internet, both for the NFT market, but also for the crypto-currency sphere.

A marketplace has also been set up for the sale of the purchased NFTs. This not only allows those who missed the chance to acquire one of these tokens in time to access it via the secondary market, but also allows the happy owner of an NFT to dream that he/she will become rich. The purchaser of Hokusai’s NFT O-iwa-san, poisoned by her unfaithful husband […] #1/2, has already put his token up for sale for the modest sum of €148,000 after acquiring it for €5,905 on 14 October 2021. Indeed, since the second edition of this NFT is held by the British Museum, the collector is free to set the price of the only digital version of this work that money can buy as high as he wants.


J.M.W. Turner, A Storm (Shipwreck) (1823)


Out of enthusiasm – but perhaps also partly for reasons of caution – the very prestigious London museum has reserved a copy of each edition. Thus, an Ultra Rare NFT can only have one token in circulation. This strategy further reinforces the sense of sharing the work, both physically and digitally, with the British Museum. The latter, for its part, retains some control over this digital duplicate of the work in the great unknown that the Metaverse represents today.