Christie’s is making a move into the emerging crypto art market with plans to offer a fully-digital work of art, making it the first major auction house to offer a piece of this kind for sale.
The work, known as an NFT (Non-Fungible Token), is by Beeple (né Mike Winkelmann), a net artist and graphic designer who has amassed a large following on social media producing commercial projects for pop stars and brands like Louis Vuitton and Nike. A Christie’s representative called him “a leader in the digital art community.”
The work selling at Christie’s, titled Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021), is a digital collage consisting of 5,000 images, one made each day over the course of 13 years, from 2007 to 2021. Unlike most works, which come to sale with a predetermined estimate, Everydays does not have a price range. Bidding will begin at $100 in an online auction that runs from February 25–March 11.
The unique edition from Beeple’s Everdays series is comprised of drawings responding to current events, incorporating surreal scenes of politicians like Donald Trump and Mao Zedung and cartoons featuring Pokemon and Mickey Mouse.
Christie’s is not the first to auction an NFT work by Beeple, whose collection of 21 original works from his Everydays project generated $3.5 million in December in an auction with crypto art platform Nifty Gateway.
Crypto art relies on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the transaction and ownership record of which are encrypted and unable to be duplicated. The present work exists as an encrypted file, and its purchase at the end of Christie’s auction will be registered on the blockchain.
Christie’s has taken an interest in digital technologies, both on the block and behind the scenes. In October, the house sold a piece from Robert Alice’s 2020 painting series “Portraits of a Mind” that incorporates Bitcoin code into its composition. And in 2018, the house collaborated with blockchain-backed art registry service Artory to host the sale of Barney A. Ebsworth’s American art collection.
Through these tech-based initiatives, Christie’s is gauging existing and potential clients’ interest in the nascent market for digital works and blockchain-backed art buying.
“There has been an understanding that the blockchain was going to inevitably play a role in the art business,” said Noah Davis, a Christie’s specialist in post-war and contemporary art in charge of the Beeple sale. “We’re still at the very infancy of how this technology is going to impact the art world.”
For Christie’s, the move into the market for NFT works signals a possible push to attract a new generation of clients who fall outside the traditional fine art collection realm. For the present work, such an audience, Davis said, “skews younger, more in the millennial range” and is “definitely male and more American than not.”
Christie’s, the leading auction house by market share, is not known for its forays in experimenting with emerging markets. But with the current sale, the house seems to be changing course.
“We’re at this moment in time where there could be a drastic shift— a demographic shift, a generational shift— when it comes to what excites younger collectors,” said Davis. “Christie’s as an organization is really excited about a moment in time where you see $3.5 million of sales just organically appear out of thin air. That’s something we want to capitalize on.”