The Ancient of Days NFT
William Blake (1757-1827), Europe Plate i: Frontispiece, The Ancient of Days, c.1827, relief etching, ink, watercolour, body colour on paper. H 232 x W 170 mm. Gift from John Edward Taylor, 1892. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.
The Ancient of Days NFT
The first uk museum collection nft to be made available for sale, supporting social projects, coming soon on an environmentally friendly platform.
The Ancient of Days NFT forms part of the Whitworth’s socially-driven project, Economics the Blockbuster, which looks at alternative ways of living together in the world. Collaborating with partners across a range of disciplines, the project will culminate in a major exhibition at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, in Summer 2023.
The NFT will go live for sale on 28th July 12 pm for 999 tez.
This NFT is generated using one of the most iconic and widely reproduced images within the Whitworth's collection: William Blake's The Ancient of Days. This is an image that has been reproduced endlessly since its original print for mass circulation in the 19th century. It formed the frontispiece for Blake's illuminated book Europe: a Prophecy, and has since been realised in all kinds of forms, from postcards and posters, to a projection onto the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.
At a time of great social and economic instability, the gallery is entering into the emerging and chaotic world of NFTs to test alternative models of financing social practice. The Ancient of Days NFT will be sold in an edition of 50 with 20% creator royalties written into each NFT. The income raised by the sales of The Ancient of Days NFT will be used to fund social projects co-produced by the Whitworth and its constituents. By minting a collection-derived NFT for sale on the open market, this experiment will explore the potential of directing new flows of private digitised capital into social capital.
As part of Economics the Blockbuster, the NFT sales activity will be tracked to analyse the impact of this emerging phenomena on the established operations of collections and museums. By disrupting habits and familiar understandings, we can imagine and test other ways of doing things.
The release of this NFT and the Economics the Blockbuster exhibition are part of the wider transformation of the Whitworth as a museum dedicated to using art for social change.
All the income the Whitworth receives from the sales of the NFT will be directed to a new Whitworth community fund, to be used in socially beneficial projects in partnership with communities, organisations and constituents of its surrounding neighbourhoods and networks. These projects will be dedicated to applying creative solutions in the key strategic areas of education, health, environment and social cohesion.
In addition, a unique NFT will be minted that tracks all the sales of The Ancient of Days NFT, to remain within the museum collection in perpetuity.
Over the next two years, in conjunction with the release of this NFT, the Whitworth will work with a range of practitioners - from artists, writers and activists to environmentalists, bankers and technologists - to explore alternative economies. The project will include an online research platform dpe tools alongside artist commissions, residencies, workshops, teaching, research, social enterprise, publications, community projects, merchandise, symposia, banking, sponsorship, trading and more.
The exhibition Economics the Blockbuster will open at the Whitworth in Summer 2023.
About the Ancient of Days NFT image
The Ancient of Days NFT has been created using multispectral imaging equipment and expertise developed by the imaging team at The John Rylands Research Institute and Library. This state-of-the-art Advanced Imaging capability is led by the Rylands to support research and conservation across The University of Manchester. This technology and expertise have enabled the Whitworth to generate new visual readings of this iconic and much-repeated image.
Whilst originally produced in 1827 as a print multiple, The Ancient of Days was hand-coloured by the artist – which also speaks to the ways in which NFTs use the blockchain to enhance, authenticate and rarify digital images that can otherwise be endlessly copied and reproduced. The title of Blake's work also has added resonance in relation to the hyper-inflation and speed of the NFT market, as demonstrated with the March 2021 sale of Beeple's Everydays: the First 5000 Days at Christies for $69 million.
The subject matter is pertinent at this moment too. The figure of Urizen is pictured in the act of imposing precision and control, the antithesis of creative freedom. In that sense there is a nod here to the instability of art and who controls its use, meanings and value in an age of digital reproduction and distribution.
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