If you have heard of Gustav Klimt, then you must have also seen The Kiss or The Lovers, one of his most famous pieces of work.
It is an embrace that entranced the world: a couple, swaddled in a golden adorned cloak, so absorbed by their love they are oblivious of the precipice on which they stand.
But now — in time for Valentine’s Day — people can own a part of the artwork in the form of an NFT or a non-fungible token.
NFTs are unique units of data and cannot be copied. An NFT includes a blockchain code specific to each image and acts as proof of ownership.
“If you can visualise, the picture you see behind me is 1.80m by 1.80m, and that is divided into a grid,” Katharina Steinbrecher, director of communications and marketing at the Belvedere Museum Vienna, which houses The Kiss, explained.
“Each of these 10,000 pieces is 1.8cm by 1.8cm. That means that anyone who buys an NFT of the digital Kiss will be allocated one of these pieces.”
“Whether the piece is in the top right corner or whether it is a piece from the middle, from the face, is allocated at random, you can’t choose that,” Steinbrecher said.
“But because each one shows a different part of the picture and each part of the picture only appears once, each one is unique again.”
It is the first time Vienna’s Belvedere Palace Museum has ventured into NFTs.
Other museums have entered the world of NFTs — such as the British Museum with the recent release of digital postcards of Japanese artist Hokusai — but the Belvedere is the first in Austria.
A gift of a ten-thousandth of the painting may be a romantic alternative to flowers or chocolates, but at more than €1,800 each, it is not cheap, although it seems to be popular.
Kate Murphy, a British architecture student visiting Vienna, said, “I like the fact that anyone maybe could buy a small fragment, but also with the internet, there are such fantastic high-quality images that I don’t know if I feel the need to own a fragment of it.”
“Because just educating ourselves about it, I feel like I already know and own that knowledge in some way. But then I don’t know if that’s a good investment opportunity or something.”
The Belvedere Museum is seen as the home of Gustav Klimt with 24 works and one of Klimt’s sketchbooks in their possession, while his monumental Beethoven Frieze can be found at the Vienna Secession Building.
But only fractions of the iconic Kiss are available for lovers to offer as gifts on Valentine’s Day.
The popularity and prices of NFTs have soared in recent years. US-based artist Beeple broke records in early 2021 when his Everydays: The First 5000 Days NFT sold at Christie’s in London for about €61,7 million.