According to some estimates, coronavirus-related strains may soon force upward of one in every eight physical museums to permanently close, but despite the struggles, one metaverse-native museum is raising funds to transition to a community-governed model.
The Museum of Crypto Art announced today the launch of the MOCA token, a Polygon-based governance and utility asset. The token will be used to vote on pieces added to the museum’s Genesis Collection and future exhibits, allow for community curation of museum assets, and establish a runway for the museum via a $1.5-million raise.
Of the total MOCA supply, 5% will be airdropped to wallets that collected on OpenSea prior to December 2020, and another 5% will be available via a liquidity mining program.
MoCA, which is free to visit in virtual reality via Somnium Space, has had success in the past in fostering and showcasing cryptoart culture. In an interview with Cointelegraph, MoCA co-founder Colborn Bell said that the museum has highlighted seven solo artist shows via an incubator program, and he hopes that with expanded resources, the MoCA foundation can become a commons for artists to help define NFT standards and institute policies, such as mandatory royalties on secondary sales — part of a wider effort to use the museum and its art to better define the crypto space.
“There is an art movement here that is putting a visual language to the ideals of the cryptocurrency movement, and it’s making tangible and visible something that is inherently difficult to understand,” he said.
Part of that definitional work is gathering and presenting the art that made the NFT movement what it is today — a task of deliberate storytelling that Bell believes decentralized autonomous organizations are especially well-suited for.
“We’re a museum — we’re meant to work slowly.”
It remains to be seen, however, if and how a community-organized museum can survive — let alone thrive.
Ideals and Ideology
While $1.5 million may seem like a paltry war chest (especially given the eye-watering sums nonfungible tokens have sold for as of late), the museum has an unusual acquisition model: 50% of the total MOCA token supply will be solely dedicated to growing the collection.
Collectors will apply to sell art to the museum’s Genesis collection in exchange for tokens. Submissions will be reviewed by Bell as well as two seven-member committees of artists and collectors for merit, and if approved, the team at Nonfungible.com will give a final appraisal of the value of pieces.
Bell said that MoCA, which has a legal entity as a nonprofit in the Caymans, has an “explicit obligation” to never sell the works accepted into the collection, and eventually, that inability to sell will be hardcoded into the DAO.
It’s an idealistic vision that runs contrary to the money-crazed attitude that has taken over certain pockets of the space. Bell said he even wants to avoid the token becoming a speculative asset itself — in part because NFT collectors largely don’t need more speculation.
“All the value I want to bring to the project will be through the token itself. I want to make sure it’s captured there,” said Bell. “There’s been enough wealth generation in this community that there’s no chance, broadly, that people will let this project fail.”
Ultimately, Bell wants to move away from narratives about crypto being used for drugs and, instead, highlight art that represents the highest ideals of the space: Ethereum as an open-market access system, enabling freedom of identity, privacy and data sovereignty. Early NFT artists and collectors worked within these notions as artists sought to express them in their own terms — an “organic” and “collaborative” effort.
“How do we paint the beautiful picture here, and how do we leverage the early, global creators to do that?”
While the appraisal system will start out with semi-centralized committees, the MOCA token will eventually be used to enable permanent, decentralized criticism and curation. Reneil, a tech and strategy lead at MoCA, noted that a blockchain can be used to permanently record how a community reacts to art, and not just the art itself.
While the specifics are still in the planning stages, the team is plotting a reputation-based system that takes into consideration attendance at events, attention spent on the art, and MOCA token holdings to grant users the ability to write the history of the pieces in the collection — community-managed museum blurbs.
If the MoCA ever lends out art, the museums receiving it will be required to include these labels as part of the art.
“We want to conserve the early history of the crypto art space in an immutable way,” said Reneil. “Create an objective reality, an immutable reality from many opinions.”
Partner projects will also be invited to sponsor and curate their own museum wings. Projects with strong cultures and followings will be able to tell their stories on their own terms and experiment with governance parameters specific to their collection. The team is already exploring the possibility of a wing with Aavegotchi — an asset-backed NFT project with a cult-like following.
Bell ultimately believes these collaborative, experimental efforts are why virtual museums will continue to flourish while meatspace collections flounder.
“I anticipate that the legacy museum and gallery system will also increasingly have an ‘audience’ problem as the younger generations will demand digital and social experiences around art,” he said. “More Meow Wolf and less Metropolitan or Gagosian.”