Miami’s leading contemporary art museum has found a new muse. Her bob haircut is blonde. Her lipstick is hot pink. Her virtual reality goggles are on. And she’s technically not real.
Yuga Labs, the Miami-based tech company behind the celebrity-endorsed Bored Ape Yacht Club collection announced Tuesday that it has launched a museum donation initiative by gifting an NFT, or non-fungible token, to the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami. The initiative, called the Punks Legacy Project, will donate and install CryptoPunks, an NFT series of randomized 8-bit characters, in art museums around the world. (Similar to cryptocurrency, NFTs exist on a blockchain network for ownership verification.)
The first donation to ICA is called (of course) CryptoPunk #305. The NFT will be installed and unveiled at the museum in the Design District on Dec. 3 during Art Basel Miami Beach weekend.
“It’s a signal to the art world that NFTs are here to stay,” said Noah Davis, the CryptoPunks brand lead.
ICA’s acquisition of CryptoPunk #305 is the latest in the museum’s efforts to lead in the NFT space. The organization, which has added NFTs to its collection in the past, was the first museum to launch its own NFT platform.
The donation, though, comes on the heels of a particularly bad week for the crypto industry. The market has been in a tailspin in recent months and FTX, the poster-child cryptocurrency company that Miami’s downtown arena was named after, collapsed. (FTX filed for bankruptcy on Friday, and the arena will find a new sponsor.)
Though CryptoPunk #305’s new home is certain, its monetary value isn’t. Yuga Labs declined to comment on how much the NFT is worth.
Regardless, web3 and NFT-related events are poised to flood Miami alongside the usual art fairs during Miami Art Week, bolstering Miami’s status as a tech-friendly hub.
“We firmly believe that NFTs belong in museums, and we want to help facilitate that,” said Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano, otherwise known as Garga. “There’s a lot of interest in having NFTs on display in art institutions, but they don’t always have the resources when it comes to crypto hygiene, education, and best practices — that’s where we come in.”
Solano, who is from Miami along with Yuga Labs co-founder Wylie Aronow, said he felt that donating the artwork to ICA during Art Basel Miami Beach “was the perfect way to give back to the community.” Earlier this month, Yuga Labs announced a $1 million pledge to support arts and education initiatives in Miami.
Alex Gartenfeld, the ICA director, said the recent NFT boom is the latest phenomena in the history of digital art. The Punks Legacy Project is one of the first large scale NFT donation initiatives of its kind, Gartenfeld said, earning it a certain artistic and historical merit.
As a “21st century museum,” which was founded just eight years ago, ICA has a responsibility to document and display digital art while educating the public on how NFTs work, Gartenfeld said.
“Miami has certainly been developing itself as a 21st century city, one whose infrastructure is deeply tied to the future of tech,” he said. “In some ways, we see ourselves as reflecting the changes that are going on in our community.”
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.