File Million NFT Gathers Pace

File Million NFT Gathers Pace

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After a flurry of more than 180 bids in the final hour, a JPG file created by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, was sold Thursday by Christie’s in an online auction for $69.3 million with fees. The price was a new high for a work of art that exists only digitally, breaking auction records for physical paintings by museum-valued majors such as J.M.W. Turner, Georges Seurat and Francisco Goya. Bidding on the two-week Beeple sale, which consisted of a single lot, started at $100.

With seconds remaining, the work would sell for less than $30 million, but a cascade of last-minute bids led to a two-minute extension of the auction and pushed the final price to more than $60 million. Rebecca Riegelhaupt, a Christie’s spokeswoman, said 33 active bidders had competed for the work, adding that the result was the third-highest auction price achieved by a living artist, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.

Billed by the auction house as “a unique work in the history of digital art,” “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” is a collage of all the images Beeple has been posting online every day since 2007. The artist, who has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and pop stars like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, uses software to create an irreverent visual commentary on 21st century life.

Beeple’s collaged JPG was made, or “minted,” in February as a “non-fungible token,” or NFT. A secure network of computer systems that records the sale in a digital ledger, known as a blockchain, provides buyers with proof of authenticity and ownership. Most pay with the Ethereum cryptocurrency. “Everydays” was the first purely digital NFT sold by Christie’s, offering to accept payments in Ethereum, another first for the 255-year-old auction house.

Todd Levin, a New York art adviser who saw Leonardo’s “Salvator Mundi” sell at Christie’s for $450.3 million in 2017, said he had “mixed emotions” about the Beeple sale.

“On one hand, it’s super exciting to witness a historic turning point,” Levin said. “On the other hand, the amount of money involved could skew and hurt a nascent emerging market.”

Christie’s record-breaking auction took place at a time when the mainstream art world has been crippled by the fast-moving, speculative market for NFTs, which have recently commanded exceptional prices on specialist websites such as Open Sea, Nifty Gateway, Super Rare and Makers Place. .

Last month, buoyed by a $1.5 billion Bitcoin investment from Tesla, the Elon Musk-led electric car company, and support from major institutional investors, including hedge funds, the total value of cryptocurrencies hit a maximum of more than USD 1 trillion. The value of cryptocurrency-traded NFT art has also skyrocketed, setting prices that are out of line with the rest of the art market.

Another Beeple piece, “Crossroad,” a 10-second NFT video showing animated pedestrians walking past a giant, nude image of Donald J. Trump, collapsed to the ground and covered in graffiti, sold for $6.6 million in Ether at Nifty Gateway. The seller was Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodríguez-Fraile, who bought the work in October for about $67,000, according to Reuters.

NFTs have also become a medium of choice for new performance artists. On Sunday, Burnt Banksy, an anonymous group of “tech and art enthusiasts,” sold a unique NFT consisting of a digital copy of a limited edition 2006 Banksy called “Morons.” The group claimed it had destroyed the original print, valued at tens of thousands of dollars, in an “art burning ceremony”, which is being shown on YouTube and Twitter. The blockchain-certified NFT “Morons” was all that was left.

Offered at Open Sea, this digital copy of Banksy sold for around $382,000, more than three times the price any of the original copies of “Imbeciles” have fetched at auction. The winning bidder was an Open Sea user with the screen name GALAXY, who immediately put the piece up for sale.

Although their popularity has increased in recent months, NFTs are nothing new. In 2017, when the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum began to rise, there was a speculative craze for Dapper Labs’ CryptoKitties, blockchain-certified images of cats, the rarest of which sold for over $100,000.

The price of cryptocurrencies crashed in 2018, and with it the nascent NFT market. But now Dapper Labs has recapitalized and collaborated with the National Basketball Association to create N.B.A. Top Shot, a marketplace for featured digital clips that are the technological equivalent of baseball cards. As of Thursday, they had raked in $345 million in sales, mostly in the past 30 days, according to Cryptoslam, a site that tracks NFT prices.

Blockchain-certified computer files are also being used to trade and monetize an ever-increasing range of cultural, commercial, and personal items, in what some have likened to a digital gold rush.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, is currently selling his first tweet as an NFT at a timed charity auction. The offer had reached $2.5 million on Thursday. This month, virtual sneaker brand RTFKT Studios sold 600 pairs of its NFT products in seven minutes for $3.1 million in total.

And in the music realm, where a combination of digitization and pandemic cancellations has diminished the buying power of artists, NFTs are creating revenue streams.

Rock band Kings of Leon was the first group to release an album as a series of digital tokens. The album, “When You See Yourself,” was made available last Friday in three NFT formats, each with additional enhancements, starting at $50.

In the art world, where the NFT market is more established, the current top sellers are “CryptoPunks”, a cohort of 10,000 individual characters created by algorithms, 9,000 of whom were given away in 2017 to trade and collect into an Ether. dedicated. platform. By early the following year, the most sought after “punks” were selling for around $13,500.

On Wednesday, “CryptoPunk 7804” sold for the equivalent of about $7.6 million on Ethereum, a record for any computer-generated work of art, according to Georg Bak, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art. The price was five times CryptoPunk’s previous record, set last month.

John Watkinson, co-founder of CryptoPunks, said in an interview that he first noticed a resurgence of interest online last spring, during the early days of coronavirus lockdowns around the world. “There was a show factor,” Watkinson said. “Showing what you have to other people virtually was the only way to do it.”

According to Watkinson, CryptoPunk collectors were mostly “die-hard crypto fans” and “the cryptocurrency rich.” “There are some rich people in Silicon Valley who are collecting them now. If you own a rare one of these, it’s significant,” he said. “People in the contemporary art space” were rumored to be buying CryptoPunks as well, he added.

Other contemporary art collectors have not yet been convinced.

“I don’t have the right software in my head to understand what’s going on,” Sylvain Levy, who has a large collection of Chinese contemporary art, said of the latest Beeple and CryptoPunks prices.

“Art is no longer about a relationship with an object. It’s about making money,” he said. “I feel bad for art.”

Linked to the price of cryptocurrencies, whose ups and downs resemble the route of a fearsome mountain bike race, the NFT art market has a reputation for volatility. But for many in the analog art trade, the prospect of making significant sums from inventory without a physical presence remains a fascinating prospect.

“The potential for it to revolutionize the traditional art auction model is enormous,” said Noah Davis, the specialist in charge of the first NFT auction at Christie’s. Beyond the record sale of Beeple’s “Everydays,” he said, the “lack of objectivity” of NFTs meant that auction houses did not face the costs necessary to store, handle, catalogue, photograph and insure a physical work of art. , which makes it “really attractive”. opportunity” for auction houses.

“Will we offer more NFT artwork? Definitely,” Davis added. “Does this mean that they will replace paintings and sculptures at auction? Absolutely not.”

Made a correction on March 11, 2021: A previous version of this article described the “Every Day” error in relation to Christie’s. It was the first purely digital NFT sold by Christie’s, not the first NFT sold by the auction house. An earlier version of this article also erroneously indicated when Kings of Leon was releasing their album “When You See Yourself” as a series of digital tokens. It was last Friday, not March 12. An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of another Beeple work. It’s “Crossroad”, not “Crossroads”.

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