Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s Foundation erupted in protest when the late artiste’s artwork sold as NFTs on the GODA marketplace. Digital art company Acute Art and Stolpe Publishing uploaded over 160 Hilma af Klint artworks as NFTs. The artworks are part of Hilma’s “Paintings For The Temple” series. Read on to learn more about why the ethics of NFTs are put into question with this move.
Hilma af Klint NFTs: What Happened?
Earlier this month, Hilma af Klint’s paintings from her “Paintings For The Temple” series were put to sale as NFTs on Pharrell Williams’s GODA marketplace. In response, the Hilma af Klint foundation posted a Twitter thread questioning the ethics of the move. They stated that this goes against the statutes of the foundation. Furthermore, they said that the 193 paintings put for sale were not on sale at all. They added that the Hilma af Klint Foundation are not the individuals selling these paintings.
The official NFT sale includes 162 paintings, with the rest 31 held privately for non-commercial purposes. Hedvig Ersman, the granddaughter of Erik af Klint (the artist’s nephew) took strong opposition to the proceedings. In an interview, she stated that Hilma saw these paintings as part of one set. Moreover, she states the paintings were never meant for people to have on display. Hence, the very act of selling these NFTs, according to Ersman, goes against the artist’s spirit and being.
Was the Sale of Hilma af Klint NFTs Unethical?
Simon Hohn of Stolpe Publishing claimed the purpose of the NFT series was to “secure the paintings digitally for the future regarding color representation, size and with their proper titles.” Both Acute Art and Stolpe Publishing were able to sell these NFTs due to the artwork being in the public domain. Jessica Höglund, CEO of the Hilma af Klint Foundation added that “the Foundation is not in [a] position to either permit or oppose third party reproductions of Hilma af Klint’s work (irrespective of whether such reproductions are posters or NFTs).”
But the question remains, is this the ethically right thing to do? The fact that the publishers did not reach out to the foundation, or ask for permission to host the paintings, makes this a serious issue. In a space that is already faltering with bad actors, additional unethical moves may not be the solution.
About the Artist
Hilma Af Klint (1862 – 1906) began work on the beautiful “Paintings for the Temple” set in 1906. The paintings represent a pivotal moment in art history. Being first-of-its-kind abstract, nonrepresentational artwork, using simple shapes and uplifting color. Hilma af Klint was also a devout follower of spiritualism and Theosophy. A belief system that made its way to the art that she produced. These paintings were almost mystical to the artist. Which is why she insisted that they remain away from view for two decades past her death.