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The Centre Pompidou in Paris now owns NFT art

Last week, the Centre Pompidou — which is Europe’s largest modern art museum — announced that it has acquired its very first NFTs (18 pieces by 13 artists) and that it will be exhibiting the collection this spring. This makes them the first museum in France to own NFT art and, I’m guessing, one of the first in the world. (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently got some as well.)

This is fun for a few reasons. The obviously fun reason is that it’s good for NFT collectors and people who generally support this space. Big institutions bring legitimacy. It’s one thing to say that these JPEGs are stupid while sitting at home on your computer, but it’s an entirely different thing to travel to Paris, visit the Centre Pompidou, look at its white gallery walls, and then say that these JPEGs are stupid!

The other fun thing about this is that it shows a continued openness to new ideas and new technologies. Here are some words from the Pompidou (that have been translated, by Google, from French):

The idea was not to be the first, but to bring together a relevant collection, which could testify to a creative and critical appropriation of a new technology by artists, and how this disrupts and displaces the art ecosystem. From its creation, the Center Pompidou has relied on the idea that contemporary technological creation and creativity should be at the heart of the institution. From 1974-1975, therefore even before the opening of the Center, the National Museum of Modern Art acquired major works and installations by Dan Graham and Bruce Naumann. Video installations using real time, and it was the very first institution to do so.

This wasn’t always the case in France. One of my favorite art history classes from university was one that covered Impressionism. Partly because I thought their work was cool, but mostly because Impressionist painters were, in a way, early modernists. They rejected the academic approaches to painting and instead decided to make up their own rules.

At the time, in the 19th century, this was seen as entirely radical. And it meant harsh criticism from the established art world and an inability to meaningfully exhibit at the Salon (which was everything at the time). But history has a way of showing us that if something is inherently a good idea, you can only remain stubborn for so long.

The Impressionist painters began hosting their own exhibitions starting in 1874 and, by 1881, the government had withdrawn its official sponsorship of the annual Salon. The jurors wanted to cling to only traditional painting styles and the world wanted to move on. And here it is doing that again, today.

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