SFMOMA Acquires First-Ever NFT Among More Than 60 Other Works For Permanent Collection - SF Chronicle Datebook

SFMOMA Acquires First-Ever NFT Among More Than 60 Other Works For Permanent Collection – SF Chronicle Datebook

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s “Final Transformation #2, 2022” (gift of the artist and Altman Siegel gallery). Photo: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has entered the NFT game.

Among its acquisition of 63 works of art for its permanent collection, the museum now has its first-ever non-fungible token by San Francisco artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, titled “Final Transformation #2, 2022,” featuring actor Tilda Swinton, SFMOMA announced Thursday, Jan. 12.

In the art world, NFTs usually contain digital files including audio, visual, text or video elements created by artists. Leeson’s NFT’s content is in conversation with her 1997 feature film “Conceiving Ada,” starring Swinton as Countess Ada Lovelace, the author of the first computer algorithm. “Final Transformation #2, 2022” includes a video excerpt from the final scene of the film as well as an image related to Leeson’s multimedia installation “Infinity Engine,” which shows petri dishes containing DNA. The accompanying text to the image — “the redeeming gift of humanity is that each generation recreates itself” — comes from the film.

The NFT is an edition of two, the first of which Leeson created for SFMOMA’s 2022 Art Bash auction. It was the artist’s first foray into the medium and was sold for $9,000, benefitting the museum.

Lynn Hershman Leeson poses for a portrait March 4, 2022, outside of her exhibition “About Face” at Altman Siegel gallery in San Francisco. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2022

NFTs became a major topic in the mainstream art conversation at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 as many visual art experiences moved toward digital presentations due to pandemic-related closures. A 2021 report by NFT data company NonFungible.com and tech analysis firm L’Atelier BNP Paribas showed the NFT market trading increased by 21,000% to $17.6 billion over $82 million in 2020.

Many criticized the NFT market as a cynical money grab and overinflated bubble due for collapse. By May 2022, NonFungible.com reported sales of NFTs were down around 90% compared to its 2021 peak. The energy costs and carbon footprint of NFTs have also been criticized.

For her part, Leeson said she was asked to create the second NFT specifically for the museum’s collection by Rudolf Frieling, SFMOMA’s curator of media arts. Both NFTs were gifted by Leeson to the institution.

“Lynn is a towering figure and pioneering spirit in Bay Area art,” Frieling told The Chronicle. “She is a role model for all contemporary artists as she has continuously reinvented and recreated her own artistic identity for over 50 years, always with a critical and yet hopeful approach to technologies. This work is a fitting addition to SFMOMA’s holdings as we have collected objects in all of the mediums she has worked in over her expansive career.”

In the spring of 2022, the installation “Room #8” (part of Leeson’s “Infinity Engine” series) was part of the SFMOMA exhibition “Speculative Portraits” (curated by assistant curator of media arts Tanya Zimbardo) and is now in the museum’s permanent collection.

“Room #8,” 2006-2018 by Lynn Hershman Leeson, seen in an installation view from the show “Twisted” at the New Museum in New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni / New Museum

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