Among the highlights of Sotheby’s most recent crypto art sale, Natively Digital, was the news that a CryptoPunk NFT sold for $ 11.8 million. It’s a record sale for the artist, a sign of the strength of the crypto art movement, and a timely rebuttal of recent reports that the NFT bubble has burst.
Now, Sotheby’s has the upcoming sale of five more CryptoPunks in an upcoming one Announced sale, Punks on Paper, opening June 24th. It is likely that each of them will fetch similarly staggering prices. So HYPEBEAST spoke to Sotheby’s to better understand the history of the works and the importance of their place in the market.
The CryptoPunks were first released in 2017 by creative technology studio Larva Labs, founded by artists Matt Hall and John Watkinson. As one of the earliest NFT projects – which began long before the current « gold rush » – the duo used an algorithm to create 10,000 randomly generated 24 × 24 pixel 8-bit portraits, each with a different combination of features . These portraits, known as « CryptoPunks », were published free of charge, apart from a small transaction fee.
Since then, they have become highly sought-after collector’s items, because the punks with the rarest combinations of features have achieved dizzying sales prices. Essentially, they’re the equivalent of Pokémon cards in the art world.
« Everyone is valued by the rarity of character, » explains Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s contemporary art specialist. Groups of characters with particularly rare traits have been given names to identify them, and the rarest of all is the group « Alien ». “It’s only nine,” says Bouhanna. « So they’re worth between $ 10 million and $ 15 million each. »
In addition to their rarity and their high collector’s character, their value also results from their importance as a piece of art history. “They really changed the general definition of art,” says Bouhanna.
Georg Bak, who submitted the work to the upcoming Sotheby’s show, also points out her early role in the use of the NFT model. While the CryptoPunks weren’t the first NFTs ever minted (this award belongs to Kevin McCoy’s ‘Quantum’), they were « the foundation of what we now call NFT, » Bak said.
He’s also quick to dispel the idea that the NFT movement may crash. “We’ve certainly had some heated months in this market,” he says, “but the NFT market is really good. We are only at the beginning. »
Bouhanna agrees. “Even if there is a bubble in the market, investors will look for safe investments. And the CryptoPunks are one of those iconic projects. It is really seen as a long-term, safe investment. »
What makes the upcoming sale even more unique is that the five « punks » will be accompanied for the first time by a certified print signed by co-creator John Watkinson. « It’s the ultimate mix of digital and physical artwork, » says Bak.
Sotheby’s CryptoPunk is on sale from June 24th to July 1st. Further information is available on the Sotheby’s website.
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