Wall Street and Washington may be in a panic about the advent of a crypto world. But not the venerable institutions in fine art — they love DeFi.
Case in point: Christie’s, the 254-year-old auction house, announced this week that it will handle the sale of Art Blocks NFTs on Oct. 1 in New York. The currency being used for the live bids? Ether (ETH), a first for a leading auction house.
Even as the financial industry and its regulators struggle to get a handle on the impact of DeFi, Christie’s and its archrival Sotheby’s have segued seamlessly into the brave new world of digital art and collectibles. In May and June, Sotheby’s auctioned a curated collection featuring an ultra-rare Alien Crypto-Punk. The house has also accepted ETH and BTC as payment for works.
Christie’s, of course, made headlines this March by auctioning off Beeple’s Everyday’s: The First 5,000 Days for a staggering $69M, and followed a couple months later with a set of nine CryptoPunks. But the auction house priced the lots in USD, not ETH. (Beeple was paid in ETH).
Now with the auction of Art Blocks Curated: Sets 1-3, Christie’s is lending credence to the popular refrain: “ETH is money.” The house is also showcasing Art Blocks’ avante-garde generative art projects as a worthy player in the growing NFT canon, a move that could considerably affect their value.
The work hitting the block includes Chromie Squiggles by Snowfro, who is Art Blocks’ founder; Genesis, a geometric abstract by DCA, and Construction Token, a “placement of rectangles” by Jeff Davis. The seller is Matt Gagnon, a businessman who got into NFTs in the spring.
“My gut told me to take the Ethereum that I’ve built up and to invest it in Art Blocks, so over the course of the spring, I bought every single curated project,” Gagnon told The Defiant over video chat. “That was my goal.”
Art Blocks has a curation board with the intention “to create a collection of works that best represent the vision of the Art Blocks platform,” according to the project’s website.
A key moment for Gagnon happened when he acquired an Elevated Deconstruction piece, which is part of a set that’s designed to feature key NFTs and enforce scarcity. Justin Aversano, a popular photographer whose NFT collection called Twin Flames has a floor price of just under 90 ETH, helped connect Gagnon with Christie’s. Specifically, he introduced him to Noah Davis, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s who produced the Beeple auction.
Davis was instrumental in making the auction ETH-based. “I pushed for ETH bidding on Curio and Art Blocks because it’s the native denomination for these crypto art projects and the idea of conducting the bidding in USD simply did not feel right,” Davis told The Defiant.
Bump in Prices
This probably won’t be the last time bidding will be ETH-denominated for the auction house. Christie’s is looking for two more NFT specialists in sales and marketing, according to their job board.
As for the final price?
Gagnon isn’t ruling out a 1,000 ETH sale, worth over $3.5M, for the set. But that’s just a guess. He emphasized how tough it is to quantify all the different NFTs as a package.
Gagnon has set aside 5% of the sale to the Art Blocks artists as he feels he owes it to the artists for their work. Many people in the Art Blocks community are also hoping for a bump in prices because of the sale.
“I hope it goes for the most it can go for, for the artists, for the community, for everybody involved,” Gagnon said.