White Male for Sale, an NFT by the artist and activist Dread Scott that uses the uber-capitalist art form as a form of social critique, will be auctioned off at Christie’s Post-War to Present sale on 1 October, in collaboration with Cristin Tierney Gallery. The piece, as the title implies, is a short video of a white man in mundane 21st century work clothing standing on an auction block amidst a pedestrian-trafficked street corner in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Brooklyn.
“NFTs are non-fungible tokens that confer uniqueness to digital artworks. The term ‘fungible’ resonated differently for me due to its use by scholars of the history of slavery,” the artist said in a statement. “People are inherently non-fungible. But as slavery became an integral part of developing capitalism, enslavers sought to make people fungible.”
The work, which began as a performance, will be completed when it is auctioned off. The sale references the qualitative ranking done to enslaved people, which served a dual purpose--dehumanising them and suggesting their value to potential buyers. “During much of the history of America, enslaved people were sold at auction. Frequently these auctions would take place on a street corner. The enslaved person would be made to stand on a block as they were auctioned. Advertisements announcing ‘Negros for sale’ were common,” Scott says.
The sale comes on the heels of Scott’s first solo gallery exhibition in more than 20 years, We’re Going to End Slavery. Join Us! (17 September-18 December) at Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York.