Sotheby’s Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale

Sotheby’s recently announced Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale, representing the first time a major auction house will bring together a group survey of the leading NFT artists to auction. Hosted directly through Sotheby’s online auction platform, Natively Digital will feature some of the most sought after works made throughout the seven-year history of the medium; the curated auction will be highlighted by Kevin McCoy’s Quantum, the first NFT ever minted, the only existing masked “Alien” Cryptopunk by Larva Labs, and The Shell Record by leading generative artist, Anna Ridler. The additional NFT artists and artworks included in the auction will be unveiled in the lead-up to the sale, which will be open for bidding from June 3 – 10.

Natively Digital marks Sotheby’s second dedicated sale of NFTs, following ‘The Fungible’ Collection with digital artist Pak, which achieved a total of nearly $17 million across a multi-day sale event that attracted more than 3,000 unique buyers. With the recent announcement that Sotheby’s will accept cryptocurrency via Coinbase as a form of payment for Banksy’s Love is in the Air, buyers will have the option to pay with fiat or cryptocurrency (Bitcoin or Ether). Bidding for all works in Natively Digital will begin at $100, highlighting the spirit of openness central to the crypto community.

Co-curated by Sotheby’s and Robert Alice, Natively Digital presents a remarkable collection of early genre-defining artworks alongside the latest conceptual and aesthetic developments in the space. In a first for Sotheby’s, the sale will feature one artist who is nominated by the crypto and digital art communities, to showcase their work on the global stage. More information about the community-driven portion of Natively Digital will be revealed in the weeks prior to the sale.

Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Specialist commented: “We are honored to host the first curated NFT auction at Sotheby’s, following the tremendous success of our debut NFT sale with the crypto designer-native artist Pak. Natively Digital will bring to auction a talented, diverse, and disruptive collection of artists and digital creators in a celebration of the medium and the various movements forming within the NFT space. From the avant-garde crypto native creators to the generative, conceptual, and pop/futurist digital artists, the collection showcases some of the most brilliant creators to emerge from the crypto art space, as well as early pioneers of the digital art movement. To spread awareness among a wider audience of crypto native collectors as well as collectors new to the category, we are thrilled to display this collection is not only the physical world in a multi-venue show but also within the virtual realm via popular decentralized metaverses.”

Sotheby’s will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale to the Sevens Foundation, a nonprofit focused on evangelizing digital artists and empowering young talent to create with new paradigm-shifting mediums, such as NFTs. Alongside Sotheby’s efforts, the artists of Natively Digital will donate a portion of their profits to charitable organizations benefitting crypto artists, such as the Mint Fund, a resource for crypto artists outside of the US and EU to offset the costs associated with creating NFT art. Sotheby’s will also engage in a carbon offset study with Regen Network, a blockchain-based carbon offset platform, to accurately offset the minting and transaction costs of the sale.

The pre-sale exhibition will be viewable at Sotheby’s headquarters in London, New York, and Hong Kong and across the metaverse, making it the largest multi-venue NFT exhibition to date.


Sotheby's Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale

Leading the sale is one of the most historically significant artworks of the NFT movement, Quantum, which was created by Kevin McCoy – one of the leading new media artists of his generation. Universally regarded as the first NFT ever created, the animated Quantum is timestamped 05-03-2014 09:27:34. Reflecting the immutability of the blockchain timestamp, Quantum offers an unrivaled opportunity to acquire the very genesis of the NFT space. In 2014, during a Rhizome conference, McCoy created what he and his collaborator, Anil Dash, called at the time ‘monetized graphics’ – or monographs — by codifying provenance into an original digital work using blockchain technology. Quantum was the first work minted in this way. Generatively built entirely by code, Quantum prefigures the explosion of digital creativity through NFTs and will be available as the seminal work in Natively Digital. Kevin McCoy’s work has been widely exhibited in the US and internationally, including the Pompidou Center, the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work can be seen in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the 21C Museum, and the Speed Museum.


Sotheby's Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale

Natively Digital will include a rare object from CryptoPunks, a collection of 10,000 unique collectible characters that are considered some of the most iconic NFTs ever created. CryptoPunks is an early crypto art project beloved by digital artists and collectors and is regarded as one of the driving bodies of work in the modern NFT movement. No two CryptoPunks are exactly alike, and these viral crypto collectibles have sold at auction for upwards of $8 million dollars.

Natively Digital will feature CryptoPunk #7523, one of nine “Alien” punks and the only of those nine with a medical mask. CryptoPunk #7523 was created in 2017 by artist studio Larva Labs that unknowingly accessorized this CryptoPunk with what would become the ubiquitous symbol of the COVID-19 era, making #7523 one of the most desirable objects of the collection. The current owner and seller of CryptoPunks #7523 is Sillytuna, a pseudonymous crypto evangelist and NFT collector. Sillytuna will donate 5% of their sale proceeds to the development of projects that support Larva Labs’ efforts to expand CryptoPunks and Meebits, two of their community-driven art initiatives. In addition, another 5% of the proceeds will be donated to organizations involved with the ongoing COVID relief across the world.


Sotheby's Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale

The auction will also feature digital artist Anna Ridler, a leading figure in the world of generative art and AI who is renowned for her use of datasets to create new and unusual digital artworks. One of her most notable crypto artworks was Bloemenveiling, an online auction of short videos of tulips generated by machine learning that used smart contracts on the Ethereum network to sell the work and bots to help drive speculative prices. For Natively Digital, Ridler presents The Shell Record, a continuation of her exploration of this technology, while focusing its attention on the history of barter and exchange through one of its earliest mediums— shells. The Shell Record features a series of images of different shells gathered from the foreshore of the river Thames which form part of a dataset for a moving image work created using generative adversarial networks (GAN), a recent innovation in machine learning. Her work has been exhibited at cultural institutions worldwide including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Barbican Centre, and the Centre Pompidou.


Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as the collection, artist, estate & foundation advisory services of its subsidiary, Art Agency, Partners. Sotheby’s also presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby's Global Fine Art Division, and three retail businesses: Sotheby’s Wine, Sotheby’s Diamonds, and Sotheby’s Home, the online marketplace for interior design.