Art

Crypto Art Community Celebrates and Critiques Sotheby’s Natively Digital Sale

12th June 2021

Kevin McCoy’s “Quantum” Claimed the High Note for Crypto Artists

Sotheby’s concluded its Natively Digital NFT sale with a record-breaking price for a single CryptoPunk. Though the CryptoPunk’s $11.754 million final bid is already dominating the headlines, twenty-seven additional works were on offer with final bids ranging from a high of $1.472 million for Kevin McCoy’s “Quantum” to a still impressive low of $9,450 for LaJuné McMillian’s “Self-Portrait 2”. Responses on Twitter from the crypto art community ranged widely from celebrations of success to expressions of concern that women, transgender individuals, and artists of color ended up with much lower priced sales.

Sotheby’s Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale took place online between June 3rd and June 10th with final bids coming in at 10:45 pm EDT on Thursday evening. Sotheby’s used Samsung displays for physical showings in New York, London, and Hong Kong which made for a nice look. Sotheby’s also opened an outpost in Decentraland which was intended to support both the Natively Digital sale as well as future efforts in the space.

The physical displays of NFTs were well-received in contrast to the initial response by Gmoney, later retracted, to the CryptoPunks displayed physically at an earlier Christie’s auction. However, Santiago Iꜩcoatl did raise a legitimate concern:

 

The attention grabbing sale of CryptoPunk 7523, in addition to leading mainstream media coverage, is being taken up by the NFT and crypto art communities on Twitter as a counterpoint to recent media speculation that NFTs are dead. For more on the CryptoPunk sale, see “NFTs are Dead” here at NFTS WTF.

The overall successful auctions of 27 additional pieces, most by individual crypto artists,  did serve as vindication for many. For example, Brendan Dawes, whose work “The Pandora Variations” sold for $52,920, shouted out the naysayers as he thanked his supporters:

 

There was also a strong celebratory response to Sarah Zucker’s sale of “Self Transcending” for $22,680 – with many likes and congratulatory comments. Yet it must be noted that for an early piece by a well-known and historically significant crypto artist, the final sale price seems low by contrast to other such works.

As Carlos Marcial noted:

An even stronger and broader critique came from Black Dave:

He went on to share a thread that dug deeper into his concerns regarding the final sales prices of “Black women, female-identifying & non-binary artists.”

The fact that the community is discussing a broader range of identities than one typically encounters at a Sotheby’s auction is testament to the co-curation of Robert Alice and Sotheby’s associates. However, l’arc-en-ciel pointed out the lost opportunity to include an additional woman artist through the community recommendation process:

Given the historical importance of this auction for the NFT and crypto art communities, it would be well worth a researcher’s time to take a closer look at the artists based on identity, sales history, media coverage, and final prices. It would also be worth asking collectors why they chose to purchase specific pieces and what went into decisions about how much to spend. 

Hopefully such research could provide additional insights to support current and future efforts to create a more diverse and equitable crypto art ecosystem. For now, Sotheby’s Natively Digital sale marks an important moment for crypto art, while raising questions about how far the community has come to date.

 

Share this article: