From Black Boxes to Open Systems: NFTs and the Law

This program will be presented via Zoom, register for this online program here.

“From Black Boxes to Open Systems” is a knowledge-sharing initiative presented by the New Museum’s digital art affiliate Rhizome. The project aims to support artists and art organizations develop a better understanding of the concepts, skills, and infrastructure necessary for the exhibition, collection, and stewardship of born-digital art.

Organized in collaboration with Serpentine Legal Lab, which promotes collaborations across art, science, and technology, this event convenes leading art lawyers to discuss the legal implications of NFTs for collectors and artistic collaborators. The recent rise of the market for digital art has been enabled by cryptocurrency “smart contracts,” code that is automatically executed on the blockchain when certain conditions are met. To what extent can smart contracts accommodate real world legal issues that arise for artists, collectors, and institutions? What new issues do they present? What role do the terms and conditions of a given marketplace play? Can NFTs offer an opportunity to rethink longstanding practices in artistic collaboration and sales?

This panel, which is geared towards practicing artists, private collectors, and collecting institutions, brings together Leila Amineddoleh, founder of art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law firm Amineddoleh & Associates LLP; Alana Kushnir, founder of art law and advisory firm Guest Work Agency and Principal Investigator of the Serpentine Legal Lab; Megan Noh, Co-Chair of Art Law at Pryor Cashman LLP; and Yayoi Shionoiri, Executive Director of the Chris Burden Estate and the Nancy Rubins Studio; to share brief case studies and discuss legal issues arising in NFT marketplaces.


“From Black Boxes to Open Systems” was made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this event do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Cover Image: Oliver Laric, Versions (still), 2010. Video, 9:06 min. Courtesy the artist.