One of (if not the most) significant aspects of NFTs is their immutability. Once minted on the blockchain an NFT will outlive everybody and everything around it: it will last forever. What better way, then, for a Czech royal family to preserve 700 years of history, first stolen by Nazis and then by Communists?
Cultural history and the digital revolution
The Lobkowicz Collection is owned by the family of Prince William Rudolf Lobkowicz and housed within a palace inside the sprawling estate of Prague Castle. Although the collection itself is around 700 years old, it contains artefacts that date much further back: as far as 2000 years. Housed in vaults beneath the castle it incorporates everything from priceless artwork by Bruegel, Rubens and Bellotto to 1200 pieces of weapons/armour, symphonies from Beethoven and countless other rarities.
These objects need to be preserved, which requires funds, which requires people to pay to see them, but there's a problem. Czech law prevents these items from ever being bought or sold, they can’t even leave the country. That makes exhibitions difficult, but digital art holds the solution. When the pandemic bit and museum revenue dropped by 95%, Lobkowicz started virtual tours instead. When these attracted more guests than the physical tours, he realised the power of digital art: it can travel anywhere in the blink of an eye.
Redefining art, history and the aristocracy
The royal family will launch their NFT collection at an event in October. It will immortalise the artefacts on the blockchain, allowing collectors to show their support, export the digital pieces around the globe and raise much-needed funds for preservation. Moreover, it will explore how NFTs can be used to enhance rather than just replicate physical artwork. In the Prince's own words, this is a way “to share the past and create the future.”
The aim isn’t simply to reproduce copies of the original pieces. Lobkowicz wants to use NFTs as a way to deepen the relationship between viewer and art. This means hidden layers of paintings revealed via X-Ray, never-before-heard musical compositions and much more. These are experiences that people couldn’t have simply by looking at the original, physical piece.
Incidentally, all this was only possible due to the meticulous record keeping of the occupiers. As the Nazis looted occupied countries, they kept detailed lists of everything they stole. After the Communists took control in 1948 they did exactly the same. This made it much easier for the family to track the collection and piece it back together. Now it’s immortalised on the blockchain. Looking back on the occupations, thefts and subsequent reacquisitions, Lobkowicz told CNBC “when a nation’s culture survives, so too does the nation.”