Czechia’s cultural institutions are embracing Web3 | SOPRG

The NFT auction held by Czech National Theater in partnership with SOPRG Art Gallery is still making headlines in different media outlets, most notably in Czechia’s edition of the famous business magazine, Forbes. The country already hosts several synergies between Web3 —especially with NFTs and the metaverse— and cultural institutions.

A pioneer for these types of alliances was the Lobkowicz family, a noble family from Bohemia, have ventured into Web3 to preserve their heritage. A heritage that has been stolen from the Czech people twice: once by Nazis, and once confiscated by the Communist regime. When the collection of cultural artifacts was restored, they came with a hefty bill: restoring and preserving them, which is the family’s full-time job. So Web3 became an ally. Among many other types of activities, the family mints the NFT of an artwork that is to be restored. The ‘replica’ NFT is sold for the amount that the restoration will ultimately cost. The person that buys the NFT becomes a patron and will receive a second NFT once the restoration work has been done. This second NFT works as proof that the work has been done and that the holder of this NFT has engaged in patronage work. With this framework, the family has been able to restore 50 works of art.

The previously mentioned NFT auction held by the Czech National Theater was also used for the same purpose. That is, a coming together of sorts so that a cultural institution can provide better services and resources. In this case, they joined forces with the founder of SOPRG, Milan Prucha, to mint a photo of Nikola Márová —in the role of Odette in Swan Lake— as captured by photographer Pavel Hejný. The point of the auction was to create a rehabilitation and physiotherapy center that the dancers can use, and thus take better care of their bodies, which is the tool for their work.

The NFT was sold for 0.777 ETH (25,000 Czech Crowns) and, according to those involved, was a great success considering that the crypto and NFT market is currently in a downward dynamic. Effectively, some of the news regarding cryptocurrencies tend to make people assume that this is just speculation. However, the technology behind all of this has some real-life benefits. As we can see, the Lobkowicz family has been able to constantly restore their cultural heritage thanks to Web3. Dancers in the Czech National Theater will be able to have longer careers with the resources that a rehabilitation center can provide. Indeed, if there is an area that proves that NFTs have real utility for the good of the world, that is arts and culture.

Why own or sell virtual pieces of heritage

There are several reasons and benefits to owning a piece of digital cultural heritage. The first reason is the immutability of the blockchain record. Have you ever thought of how important it could be to have a record of —a way to account for— all the cultural artifacts that a nation deems as part of its heritage? Turns out, it is a huge part of this effort to restore and preserve. Think of how all the works of art were returned to their rightful owners after years of being confiscated by authoritarian regimes. The regimes themselves did some accounting, which allowed the tracking of the artifacts. All of this is to say that now this record can become digital, transparent, and immune to human meddling thanks to blockchain.

Another strong reason for doing this is the fact that cultural patronage has decreased over the years. Have the patrons, all of a sudden, disappeared? One could say that relying on very few donors might be going away, and institutions that require patronage should perhaps go to the masses to get the funding that they might require. The Lobkowicz family —with each member dedicated full time to protecting the cultural heritage in their domain— has understood this. They have taken this first step of looking away from big individual donors and looking at the masses on a global stage.

The Czech National Theatre’s NFT, as outlined by the Forbes reporting, was bought by an Irish user that goes by the username of “BlockMuse”. Who’s got the NFT might not be so much of an issue, as long as it remains on the Ethereum blockchain for many years (forever, even). Anyone will be able to trace who owns the NFT, who has owned it in the past, and where it originated from.

The value of NFT and blockchain technology is there for all to see. Now, cultural institutions and their stakeholders are realizing their power and starting to use it. In Czechia, the Lobkowicz family became a pioneer of sorts in Web3. Who would have thought that nobility, a centuries-old institution, could be at the forefront of innovation? Turns out, when needs must, anything is possible.

The Czech National Theatre, in partnership with SOPRG art gallery, has also begun an operation inside the realms of Web3. And who’s to say what that might evolve into. Virtual reality and metaverse are no longer a thing of a distant future, but something of the present. Will their offerings be enhanced?