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Christie's, Blockchain, and the Future of Digital Art Collecting

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

By Juliette Yuan. February 24, 2021. New York.

From February 25 to March 11, Christie's will auction a purely digital work with the unique NFT (Non-fungible token), Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, a graphic designer from Charleston, South Carolina, at its first single lot sale. Minted exclusively for the auction, Everydays is a digital collage of 5000 images that Winkelmann created day by day and published online between May 1, 2007, and January 7, 2021. Christie's will accept cryptocurrency at this sale in addition to traditional forms of payment. Along with the sale opening, the art world, since its big move from the physical world to cyberspace following the COVID-19 outbreak, will shift its focus this time from cyberspace to the encrypted blockchain platforms.

Screenshot from Christie's official website. Copyright Christie's New York.

A Brief History of Art on Blockchain + NTF (Non-fungible token) at Christie's

In the mainstream art world, Christie's was the first to launch the discussion and projects with blockchain. In 2018, Christie's hosted its 1st Art and Technology Summit around blockchain. The event was followed by two auction sales - (1) the Ebsworth family collection in collaboration with the blockchain-based registry Artory and (2) the original piece of CryptoKitty digital art created by artist Guilherme Twardowski, which sold for $140,000. Beginning more than two years ago at the end of 2018, a series of thoughtful discussions and business endeavors was initiated at Art Basel Miami, on Artsy, as well as in selected art galleries in Europe. A blockchain ecosystem began building around art, encouraging artists to explore the technology's potential to support their lives and careers with a sustainable market backed by the NFT industry.

In October 2020, at the end of a week-long exhibition of Christie's auctioned works in New York, the first NTF artwork created by London-based artist Benjamin Gentilli was sold for $130K as part of the Post-War and Contemporary Day Auction. "Aside from the creative inspiration artists can draw from the cryptocurrencies' complex cultural, technical, and politically dynamic history, NFTs can also give artists more control and a better stake in their practice over the long term," Benjamin Gentilli observed in an interview with Because the NFTs are unique, an important contribution they made to the art world is to solve the issues such as ownership, authorship, and rarity for both artists and collectors. This is a life-changing game, especially for the digital art community where these issues have always been considered a significant obstacle to art collecting. The Smart Contract on blockchain platforms allows artists to write their terms and gain a profit margin from every sale that happens after their initial sale, including those on the secondary market. For collectors, paying in cryptocurrency allows them to acquire a fraction of their beloved artwork so that anyone with a little bit of financial investment can own a masterpiece that they could never otherwise afford on their own.