The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art acquired its first NFT, a work entitled Final Transformation #2 (2022) by artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. One of the two existing editions of the work was donated to SFMOMA by the Altman Siegel and Hershman Leeson gallery to be auctioned at the museum's Art Bash Auction 2022, an annual live auction that raises money for the institution's education and community programming. According to a report by the Town and Country, the part was purchased by an unnamed winning bidder for $9,000. The other edition was recently gifted to the museum by Leeson, an SFMOMA representative confirmed to ARTnews by email.
Final Transformation #2 is an NFT from a clip from Leeson's 1997 film, Conceive Ada, starring Tilda Swinton as Victorian mathematician Ada Lovelace. The title is derived from Swinton's last line in the film.
“This visionary film about the legacy of Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who wrote the first computer program in the 19th century, was made nearly thirty years ago, but it resonates today with the idea of NFTs,” said Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts from SFMOMA, in a statement ahead of last year's Art Bash. “Each generation recreates itself with the technological means of its time. Today, we witness a revolution based on artificial intelligence, NFTs and DNA becoming the driving force of a new language for storage and communication.”
Hershman Leeson, a Bay Area artist who has been creating art about humans' relationship with machines since the 1960s, has received renewed attention in recent years as the NFT boom of 2021 has put the spotlight on new media artists. SFMOMA already has some of Hershman Leeson's photographs in its collection, as well as the Room #8 (2006–18), a multimedia work that contains a vial of synthetic DNA.
The NFT was acquired along with 62 other works, including pieces by Wayne Thiebaud, Sky Hopinka and Cindy Sherman. Eighteen of the new acquisitions come from artists not previously represented at the museum, including Yolanda Andrade, Emi Anrakuj and the New Red Order.
“These recent acquisitions represent an incredible range of artistic vision and capture SFMOMA's commitment to collecting works by artists from the region and around the world,” Christopher Bedford, director of SFMOMA, said in a press release. “I am grateful to the curatorial team at SFMOMA for their vision and continued dedication to expanding the voices and narratives represented in our collection.”