Why Christie’s is embracing NFTs?

On 1st May 2007, American digital artist Mike Winkelmann (Beeple) posted a work of art online. He did the same the next day, and for the next thirteen years – even giving up part of his wedding day. Last year, those individual pieces were brought together as Everydays: The First 5,000 Days. Minted exclusively for Christie’s, the digital collage sold at $69,346,250 in March. 

Christie’s became the first major auction house to offer a purely digital work, and the first to do so through NFTs. Recently, too, it became the first auction house to accept cryptocurrency, Ether. Speaking to Fortune, Christie’s post war and contemporary art chairman, Alex Rotter, said they signed up more new clients than ever before for a single lot. “That tells you this is an entirely new category of buyers.” 

Digital art has a history dating back to the 1960s. But, until recently, the ease of duplication made it almost impossible to assign true provenance and value. With the introduction of blockchain technology, however, collectors and artists alike can verify the authenticity of digital artworks simply and reliably. 

Above mentioned work, for example, was delivered directly from Beeple to the buyer, accompanied by the artist’s unforgeable signature, uniquely identified on the blockchain. The digital marketplace MakersPlace was put in charge of issuing the NFT, and these platforms take a roughly 10 per cent commission on each sale, offering artists automated resale royalties at rates the artists set.

Winkelmann is no stranger to the blockchain world. He started selling NFTs on Nifty Gateway in November 2020. One of those works, Crossroad, would change into one of two animations depending on the winter of the 2020 presidential election. It was sold last October for $66,666.66, and resold in February for $6.7 million. There are others, but there’s no doubt he and Christie’s are leading the charge. 

Speaking on the Christie’s website, Noah Davis, Christie’s specialist in post war contemporary art, said the house “never offered a new media artwork of this scale or importance before.” “Acquiring Beeple’s work,” they said, “is a unique opportunity to own an entry in the blockchain, created by one of the world’s leading digital artists.” Christie’s in London, meanwhile, called Beeple a “visionary digital artist at the forefront of NFTs.”


But while Winkelmann pushes on, Christie’s is aware it could be leaving traditional buyers behind. That’s why during spring 2021 they offered expert-led online courses to help people understand blockchain. For just over $5,000, participants could deepen their knowledge of NFTs, understanding what they are, and what makes them different from earlier forms of digital art. Over four days, participants were exposed to the potential perils of its use, developing an unders

Most importantly, Christies answered the two questions we all want to know: who are the collectors, curators and artists? And why do they do what they do? Case of Beeple has answered both.





Image:  Mike Winkelmann  twitter.com/beeple/status/1364956036742995983

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