Art/Design, Tech

Looty is NFT digital restitution project for looted African Art

Does it count?

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Jun 9, 2022

The topic of looted art has been making headlines over the past couple of years, and it’s about time that something is actively done about it beyond museums putting out statements. Recently, we started hearing of museums giving back their looted art, namely the Smithsonian, in a giant move for the cause.


But what if we didn’t really have to wait for these museums and cultural centers to return African artifacts and looted art from other civilizations? Chidi Nwaubani, the creator of the NFT project called “Looty,” is actively trying to answer this question. This NFT project takes matters into its own hands and provides “digital restitution” for stolen African art.


The description on the website reads:

“Looty is the world’s first digital restitution project to the metaverse. For the first time, the Blockchain and NFT Technology offers a way for Ownership. To challenge the museum institutions who refuse to return these looted works to the rightful countries of ownership, we are launching NFTs of looted works and paying out reparations in the form of profits made from the sale of each NFT.  In doing so, we hope to answer the legal, philosophical and moral question of what happens if the NFT version eclipses the value of that which is held in museums? Will the works be given back then?”


The way this is being done is as follows: The “looters” working for Looty who happen to be anonymous team members, physically go to the museums and digitally take back the artworks. These “looters” take scans of the works and create renderings that then get turned into NFTs.


The intellectual strength of the work, like so many NFT projects, especially those that have a justice-seeking or charitable component, are brought about through market success. The promise of restoration and compensation, however, falls flat when the items go unsold.


Looty isn’t really the first project to try and create financial and digital retribution for stolen art. Several other ventures have tried utilizing NFTs to raise funds, but what makes this project special is the conceptual idea behind physically taking back what’s been stolen.


But even if the project doesn’t generate significant revenue, the catharsis that it provides will still be of great value when it comes to advancing the conversation of copyright and ownership in art museums and institutions.


In case you missed it, TikToker Clare Brown is challenging European art history.


Photo via Twitter/@LootyNFT