The Beeple sale marked a milestone in the development of NFT art worldwide. Following its success, other established auction houses and galleries including Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Pace rushed to join the race, announcing plans for sales and exhibitions of NFT works one after another in April. In mid-April, digital artist Murat Pak’s collection “The Fungible” sold for $17 million at Sotheby’s. At Phillips, Replicator (2021) by Canadian digital artist Mad Dog Jones, whose real name is Michah Dowbak, achieved a final price of $4.1 million on April 23rd. In addition to U.S. dollars, Phillips said it would accept the cryptocurrency Ether as payment for the sale. Next week during its evening sale of 21st-century art, between lots by Mark Bradford and Kerry James Marshall, Christie’s will offer a set of nine Cryptopunks, one of the earliest forms of NFT-backed digital art to go viral, which is expected to fetch upwards of $7 million. Also next week, Christie’s Education and the AndArt Agency will hold an online course in Mandarin titled “Understanding Crypto Art and NFTs.”
China’s relationship with NFTs
For Sun, the Beeple underbidder and outspoken founder of the blockchain platform Tron, NFTs are a new way to generate buzz. After founding his own NFT investment fund, Just NFT, at the end of March, he won a collection of Pak’s work at Sotheby’s first NFT auction. The fund is only acquiring artworks priced at or above $1 million, and has purchased works by blue-chip artists including Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, in addition to NFT artists, according to a statement from Tron.
“Asian buyers and collectors are ahead of the market, and they are very open and receptive to new art mediums,” said Ho of Christie’s. “A lot of discussions on NFTs are going strong in the region, which extends beyond art to other fields including music and watches.” In mid-April Wing Shya, the acclaimed Hong Kong photographer, launched Asia’s first NFT art collaboration with singer Eric Chou for the latter’s music video.
Market education is essential
In addition to working with reputable and innovative artists, Max Moore, the vice president and co-head of Sotheby’s contemporary art day sales in New York, said auction houses must play the role of educator given the nascency of the art form. “When we announced the sale, we included an FAQ on the sale page, as well as held a live public panel with prominent players in the space,” he said. “We are very much taking an educational approach to NFTs to ensure that our clients fully understand the value of NFTs and why it’s something they may or may not want to collect.” He added that Sotheby’s will unveil more NFT-related projects in the coming weeks; today, the firm announced it will accept Ethereum and Bitcoin as payment for an upcoming Banksy lot.