No digital art piece has garnered as much attention thus far as “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days," the non-fungible token, or NFT, by the artist known as Beeple. Selling for almost $69.4 million at Christie's, Noah Davis, the specialist in post-war and contemporary art for the auction house, explained that the emergence of big-time digital art was bound to happen.
"We decided to hold this auction because it just honestly was inevitable that we would enter this space where the virtual and the real kind of collided and then became one," Davis told Cheddar. "I think that this last year in the pandemic we all were preparing for this mentally in some way or another, and it was just the right place and the right time."
Davis touted blockchain's unique ability to store information that NFTs rely on to preserve the "authenticity" of particular digital works of art, such as Beeple's piece. But, he also noted that, at first, he hadn't imagined it would be put to use in this fashion in the auction world.
"I probably would have expected, if I'm being honest, that blockchain technology would have been utilized in the art-at-auction field more as a kind of clerical device first rather than an actual collectible category," he said.
The auctioning of crypto art is so brand new that Christie's Auction House was unable to set a dollar value range estimate for the expected sale price labeling it "unknown," according to Davis, who said it was among the first things he had to clear with the firm's legal department.
"The estimate was unknown. We went from a $100 starting bid to $1 million in a little more than eight minutes," he said. "The kind of activity in bidding, the frenzy around this lot is like nothing I have ever seen in art-at-auction before."
Despite NFTs being the hot (in perhaps more ways than one) commodity right now and the traditional auction consumer getting up to speed with virtual auctions amid the pandemic, Davis doesn't see tangible artwork disappearing from auction houses any time soon.
"I don't think that auctions of physical art are going anywhere," he said. "But it does mean that there is a new space where art auction houses can operate and it's a purely digital space."