Auction houses go for “NFT”, the magic word of the art market

The auction houses go to “NFT”, the magic word of the art market

After the sale of a digital work for 69 million dollars at Christie’s a month ago, Sotheby’s and Phillips are launching “NFT” auctions on Monday, a sign that traditional auction houses want to position themselves on this technology which is shaking up the market. art.

Three months ago, they were only a handful to have heard of these “NFT” or non-fungible tokens (“non-fungible tokens”), a barbaric term which designates a certificate of authenticity associated with a virtual object. (image, photo, video, piece of music).

Since then, the American artist Beeple has sold a digital collage stamped “NFT” for $ 69.3 million and, according to data from the specialist site DappRadar, more than ten million dollars change hands daily to buy these collectibles totally. dematerialized.

The “NFT” offers guarantees of traceability and security to digital art which lacked it, to the point of making it a new El Dorado.

Directly linked to the world of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, this market has its own exchange platforms, such as Nifty Gateway or OpenSea, created on the fringes of the art world.

Symbols of the traditional art market, auction houses did not want to miss the boat.

They bring “context” to a market with still unclear benchmarks, argues Rebekah Bowling, expert in contemporary art at Phillips, the third largest auction house behind Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

“We situate these artists within all of the great” creators, she explains, including those who use the usual physical supports, painters, sculptors or plastic artists.

Through the sale of works “NFT” by digital artist Pak, which takes place from Monday to Wednesday, Sotheby’s also intends to give a pledge of credibility to collectors foreign to this universe, object of “skepticism as to its legitimacy”, explains Max Moore, contemporary art expert at the auction house.

“I expect collectors who have never bought NFT to make their first acquisition because it is a Sotheby’s sale,” says the expert.

Sotheby’s also offers itself a life-size experience, with this sale far removed from the usual canons of auctions.

Pak is thus selling “cubes”, digital works representing this geometric shape, at $ 500 per unit, in unlimited quantities.

For 15 minutes each day, from Monday to Wednesday, as many “cubes” will be sold as collectors want to buy, always at the same unit price.

“Through this collection, Pak questions our sense of value”, summarizes Sotheby’s. “What does value mean? “

In just a quarter of an hour, Monday, Sotheby’s sold nearly $ 10 million worth of “cubes”, via the Nifty Gateway platform, partner of the operation.

– Attract new collectors –

Phillips also plays the card of innovation, cardinal value of the “NFT” galaxy, by proposing a unique work by Canadian Mad Dog Jones, but which will automatically generate others for its purchaser.

“REPLICATOR”, auctioned from Monday to April 23, is an evolving work that will create, over a period of approximately one year, between 75 and 300 other digital objects, all of which will be the property of the initial purchaser.

This openness to the “NFT” comes at the right time for auction houses after a year of pandemic which saw them accelerate with frenzy their digital transition, because they could not hold their usual sales in theaters.

This label should attract new collectors, “who would probably never have been in contact with us before”, emphasizes Max Moore. A godsend for Sotheby’s, which is thus approaching a “much younger audience”, so far out of reach.

The demonstration had already been made during the sale of the now famous “Everydays” by Beeple, which attracted 91% of collectors who had never bid at Christie’s. Some 58% of them were between 25 and 40 years old.

If the objective is also to bring more traditional collectors into the “NFT”, the priority is to capture these new fortunes, “geeks” who have become millionaires thanks to the vertiginous rise of cryptocurrencies.

“My primary goal at the moment is to establish (…) relationships, understand their way of collecting, what interests them”, explains Max Moore, “and then we can solicit them”.

With the idea, later, to interest them in traditional physical works. “I don’t see why we would stop at digital. “

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