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MoMA benefactor will auction $100M of masterpieces to fund digital endowment

New York’s Museum of Modern Art will auction $100 million worth of masterpieces so it can invest in digital ‘NFT’ artworks after the number of visitors to the Manhattan site is halved.

The artworks, including a Picasso, Renoir, Bacon and Rodin, are owned by the foundation of the late CBS founder William S. Paley.

They are expected to fetch between $70 million and $100 million in a series of Sotheby’s auctions in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

En route to the auction block are 29 of the 81 paintings and sculptures that Paley entrusted to MoMA after his death in 1990, including works by Picasso, Renoir and Rodin. None of the works up for auction are currently on display at MoMA.

The proceeds will fund another endowment for MoMA, and the museum’s director, Glenn Lowry, says some of the money could be used to buy NFTs, or non-replaceable tokens, the digital craze that has fueled the art world in recent years. flooded.

An NFT is the original file of a digital artwork, such as a video or online image.

Some of the money will also be used to increase MoMA’s digital offerings: Visitors to the Midtown museum have halved from three million in 2019 to 1.65 million in 2021. MoMa says visitor numbers should recover by 2024, but that the digital visitors to its collections are so fast that it now wants to increase its online offer.

Pablo Picasso's 1919 cubist 'Guitar on a Table' is up for sale for a minimum of $20 million at auction on Nov. 14 in New York

Pablo Picasso’s 1919 cubist ‘Guitar on a Table’ is up for sale for a minimum of $20 million at auction on Nov. 14 in New York

Francis Bacon's 1963 'Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes', will raise at least $35 million in London on October 14

Francis Bacon's 1963 'Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes', will raise at least $35 million in London on October 14

Francis Bacon’s 1963 ‘Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes’, will raise at least $35 million in London on October 14

The proceeds will fund another endowment for MoMA, and the museum's director, Glenn Lowry, says some of the money could be used to buy NFTs

The proceeds will fund another endowment for MoMA, and the museum's director, Glenn Lowry, says some of the money could be used to buy NFTs

The proceeds will fund another endowment for MoMA, and the museum’s director, Glenn Lowry, says some of the money could be used to buy NFTs

Among the works up for sale is Pablo Picasso’s 1919 cubist “Guitar on a Table,” which will be offered for a minimum of $20 million at auction November 14 in New York.

Francis Bacon’s 1963 “Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” will fetch at least $35 million in London on Oct. 14, Sotheby’s said.

Other works for sale in the collection include a still life of flowers from 1901-02 by Henri Rousseau and small sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s still life of strawberries from 1905, valued at $3 million, and an early Fauve depiction of André Derain’s birthplace will also be auctioned on the auction block.

While MoMA hasn’t yet dipped its toe into the NFT world and bought digital works, Lowery said the museum has a team monitoring the digital art landscape for potential partnerships or acquisitions.

Because the works are owned by the Paley Foundation, their sale allows the MoMA to raise funds without taking the controversial step of dismantling and selling work it already owns.

The works’ links to Paley are also likely to see wealthy buyers flocking to get them, as his reputation means there will be no questions about the paintings’ provenance.

CBS founder William S. Paley is seen in 1938. An early and prolific collector of modern art, he entrusted his collection to the care of the MoMA after his death in 1990.

CBS founder William S. Paley is seen in 1938. An early and prolific collector of modern art, he entrusted his collection to the care of the MoMA after his death in 1990.

CBS founder William S. Paley is seen in 1938. An early and prolific collector of modern art, he entrusted his collection to the care of the MoMA after his death in 1990.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1905 Strawberry Still Life, Valued at $3 Million, Will Be Sold

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1905 Strawberry Still Life, Valued at $3 Million, Will Be Sold

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s 1905 Strawberry Still Life, Valued at $3 Million, Will Be Sold

Sotheby’s says a portion of the proceeds from the sale will fund donations to a number of charitable organizations, including The Paley Museum and the Greenpark Foundation, as well as the donation from the MoMA.

The donation is expected to help MoMA expand its digital presence through its website and social media channels.

The museum saw visitor numbers plummet last fiscal year, when 1.65 million attended, down from the 3 million normally seen.

While the museum hopes visitor numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years, they see new opportunities to expand online.

And while MoMA hasn’t bought any NFTs yet, Lowery said the museum is open to the possibility.

“We are aware of the fact that we lend an imprimatur when we acquire pieces,” he told the Journal, explaining why the MoMA didn’t buy NFTs at the start of the craze, adding: “But that doesn’t mean that we avoid the domain.’

CryptoPunk #7523 sold for $11.7 million

CryptoPunk #7523 sold for $11.7 million

Ocean Front sold by Beeple for $6 million

Ocean Front sold by Beeple for $6 million

Among the most expensive NFTs sold to date are CryptoPunk #7523 (left, $11.7 million) and Ocean Front by Beeple (right, $6 million)

A copy of the source code for the world wide web, titled This Changed Everything and digitally signed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, sold for $5.43 million

A copy of the source code for the world wide web, titled This Changed Everything and digitally signed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, sold for $5.43 million

A copy of the source code for the world wide web, titled This Changed Everything and digitally signed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, sold for $5.43 million

An NFT is a unique digital token that is encrypted with an artist’s signature and verifies its ownership and authenticity.

The market skyrocketed in 2021 as crypto-rich speculators spent billions of dollars on the assets, hoping to profit if prices rose. But since cryptocurrency prices crashed in May and June this year, NFT prices and sales volumes have fallen.

Scams remain rife in the NFT market even as it falls, with the highest number of NFTs recorded as stolen in July, London-based Elliptic said in a report.

Lowrey said none of the 29 works the William S. Paley Foundation has put up for sale are currently on display in the museum’s galleries.

Several iconic pieces from the collection, including Picasso’s ‘Boy Leading A Horse’, remain in the museum’s possession and are not among the works sold.

Sotheby’s says the collection will be offered at various auctions in New York and London between October and April.

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