The success of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) is sometimes a trail filled with pitfalls … While Sotheby’s was preparing to sell 104 NFTs from the CryptoPunks collection, for a record $ 20 million to $ 30 million (between 18 and 26 million euros)), the sale was canceled in extremes by the anonymous collector.
The explosion of NFTs, a vulgar speculative bubble for some, a revolutionary paradigm for modernity for others, is shaking the art market. The new digital variations of art are an inevitable success given the pharaonic prices for the sale of certain NFTs and the opening of centers dedicated exclusively to it, such as the Seattle NFT Museum. In early February, Sotheby’s announced the auction, scheduled for February 23, of 104 CryptoPunk’s NFTs. Sold in a single batch, they were estimated at between 20 and 30 million euros. But the collection was unexpectedly pulled from the first minutes of the sale.
CryptoPunk Pixel Art
Created in June 2017, CryptoPunk is a series originally composed of 10,000 characters, generated by algorithms that boosted the beginning of the NFT wave. Each of the characters has its own characteristics and a unique physical personality. Emblematic digital avatars in the mysterious NFT market, they take the form of pixelated portraits, in the same position that look a bit sideways. Originally, CryptoPunks was free, anyone could own one. After the “outflow of stocks”, those who wanted to get it then had to buy it back from its owner.
Since then, the market has exploded and NFTs are traded for millions of euros or hundreds of ethereum, the benchmark cryptocurrency. As their name suggests, CryptoPunks challenges the standards of artistic production and attracts a whole new audience that loves this iconic series, true Pop Art 2.0.
Side-lined digital avatars
The sale at Sotheby’s, scheduled for Feb. 23, involved a collection of about a hundred avatars. They are both defined by a type (alien, monkey, zombie, human) and by a trait (hat, glasses, cigarettes, etc.). In this collection, it’s all about people. Their value varies between $ 28,000 (approximately € 25,000) and $ 11.8 million (€ 10.5 million), a record during the sale of CryptoPunk # 7523 by Sotheby’s in June 2021.
The event, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. 19:00, took place in a crowded auction room at Sotheby’s Headquarters (Upper East Side, New York), and was broadcast live around the world. The opening bid was set at $ 14 million and the sale started without anything happening for several minutes … At 19:25, Sotheby’s live announced that the work had been withdrawn, after a discussion with the logger @ 0x650d. On twitter he wrote: nvm, decided to hodl [sic] (“Honestly, I decided to keep it”), followed by a series of memes praising his decision. The author had acquired all 104 punks in a single blockchain transaction. The kit represents more than 1% of all existing CyperPunks and is one of the largest groups of this type held by a single wallet, Sotheby’s said.
– 0x650d (@ 0x650d) February 24, 2022
A big disappointment for Sotheby’s, who saw this event ” an unprecedented showcase for NFTs and digital art, with a presentation comparable to the presentation of the largest and most talked about sale of modern and contemporary art “, The auction house clarifies in a press release. By 7:38 p.m., all mention of the auction had disappeared from Sotheby’s website, and the items were removed. The reasons for this sudden withdrawal are not yet known. This event confirms the volatile, speculative and uncertain nature of NFTs, which nevertheless represent a major social phenomenon. CryptoPunks does not currently want to dethrone anonymous artist Pak’s digital work, which sold for $ 91.1 million on the online platform Nifty Gateway last December.