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Sotheby’s gets in on NFT fever with a collaboration with digital artist Pak

Auction house's head of sale Max Moore has already personally bought a work by the artist

UPDATE 6 April: Sotheby's released further details of the sale of The Fungible collection which will take place on Nifty Gateway from 12 to 14 April

Fungible Open Edition, Single Cube Courtesy Sotheby's and Pak

Not content with letting Christie’s hog all the crypto-limelight following that $69.3m Beeple sale, Sotheby’s has announced that it will collaborate with the digital artist Pak on the sale of an NFT.

Sotheby’s is being vague on the details for now—more will be announced soon. But the auction house’s new alliance with the (wait for it) “omniscient designer/developer/wizard” and founder of Archillect, an AI-driven visual content sharing platform, is clearly a statement of intent.

“We wanted to partner with Pak because we are entering a whole new world with digital art, and we felt it was important to work with an artist who has been active in the community for many years,” Sotheby’s says in a statement. “While we can’t yet reveal full details of what’s to come, we want to be true to the democratic spirit of crypto and will be working together to attract as many people as possible to take part in this next adventure, so prepare for some surprises.”

The statement adds that this is “just the first step for us” and Sotheby’s is looking at “how we can not only enter the digital art sphere but create a bridge from digital art to our auction business.” In the next few months, the auction house will also be “introducing well-known contemporary artists into the digital art space.” The auction house will accept cryptocurrencies for the work.

Earlier this year Sotheby's expressed interest in purchasing Pak's The Gift

This morning, in an interview with CNBC, Sotheby’s chief executive Charles F. Stewart said “It’s still very early with crypto art in general and it’s all new to us, but there’s a lot here that we think has staying power.” Stewart said Sotheby’s would be “selling one-of-one works of art but also what are called open editions in the NFT world, where many people can buy tokens for the same work.” He added: “One of the interesting things about NFTs is—beyond the fact you’ve got a new audience and a new aesthetic which is always a great thing in the art world—is this thing has the potential to bypass a lot of the traditional gatekeepers and vetting processes of the physical art world. That’s something that’s really exciting as it develops.”

This is not the first time Sotheby’s and Pak have been linked. On 5 January, Pak tweeted to offer an edition of their work The Title (2020) to an auction house—“Global auction houses. This is for you. Want this art piece. Show us all. I’ll choose.”

Sotheby’s tweeted in response: “We are intrigued…”

Deemed by some media reports as the first piece of NFT performance art, The Title consists of seemingly identical versions of the same image being sold as different editions priced from $0 to $1m. One was bought by Max Moore, Sotheby’s co-head of the contemporary art day sale in New York. A spokesperson for the auction house said at the time: “Max’s acquisition was strictly personal. He’d prefer not to share further comment about the work at the moment. But hope that helps clear up that Sotheby’s does not own the work,” they said.

Moore will now be in charge of the Sotheby’s Pak sale.

UPDATE 6 April

Sotheby's has announced that The Fungible Collection by Pak will be released over a three-day period taking place from 12 to 14 April on Nifty Gateway. To start, Fungible Open Editions will be available for purchase from 1pm EST on Tuesday, 12 April (with a starting price of $500 per fungible cube). "In the days leading up to the sale, Pak will reveal the six other works including 'one-of-one' NFTs, that make up ‘The Fungible’ Collection," Sotheby's says in a statement.

"The individual NFTs are: A Cube (1), Five Cubes (5), Ten Cubes (10), Twenty Cubes (20), Fifty Cubes (50), Hundred Cubes (100), Five Hundred Cubes (500), Thousand Cubes (1,000)," the Sotheby's statement explains. "For example, if a collector purchases one cube ($500), they will receive a single NFT containing Pak’s artwork 'A Cube'. If a collector purchases six cubes ($3,000), they will receive two NFTs: 'Five Cubes' and 'A Cube', summing up to 6 cubes in fungible value."