World Wide Web Auction | Culture | Reports on the arts, music and lifestyle of Germany | DW



It wasn’t that long ago that auction houses only sold tangible items, for example, oil paintings. Today, art lovers can also bid on non-fungible tokens, NFTs for short – non-editable digital certificates, virtual originals.

NFTs are attached to the digital object and identify its authorship, and cannot be manipulated or tampered with. With this new offer, digital art has undoubtedly found its place in the established art market and is set to revolutionize it.

In March, Christie’s sold Daily: the first 5,000 days by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, says Beeple, for $ 69 million (€ 58 million). Suddenly that made him the most expensive artist in the digital world, and it was the third highest auction price ever for a work by a living artist.

Own a piece of Internet history

Sotheby’s also sells digital art. Historical artifacts like World Wide Web source code are of great value to digital natives – and that’s why they’re now under the hammer, at an auction ending June 30.

On March 12, 1989, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for an information management system while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, leading to the invention of the World Wide Web.

The internet pioneer felt it made sense to sell his code as NFT, as stated on Sotheby’s website: that exists. They are the perfect way to pack the origins behind the web. ”

The source code auction is one of a series of spectacular sales of pioneering technical products of the 20th century.

The digital gadget turns into a big business

Non-fungible tokens have great potential – every piece of information about transfers and owners, whether individuals or museums, is recorded there, giving artists more influence over the sale or resale of their works. They are like a kind of “register of values”, according to art expert Georg Bak.

“This is the initial phase, and there are still some issues to be resolved. But this is not a hype that will pass; it will fundamentally change the art market, and possibly beyond,” said Bak to DW.

Currently, a parallel process is underway, with market platforms like Open Sea generating more and more sales and trading in what has value.

Investors, collectors or artists run the market, a fact that the big auction houses have recognized, so they have started to come up with some interesting artifacts. NFTs are even for sale on eBay.

Sotheby’s, for its part, is electrified by the new possibilities. “At Sotheby’s, we see the NFT as a unique opportunity to bridge the digital world and the world of institutional auctions,” said Cassandra Hatton, Global Head of Science and Popular Culture at Sotheby’s.

“NFT technology is one of the biggest innovations in the market that we have seen in quite some time, the possibilities are endless and the story of its development is only in its early stages,” she said. declared to DW.To put it all in context, the source code of the web is a digital artifact that has been around since 1990, but until NFT it would never have been anything we could have sold. “

Milestone for digital natives

Major auction houses sell digital art milestones as well as digital historical artifacts – sometimes bundled into one.

CryptoPunks, by American cryptoart entrepreneur duo Larva Labs, was the first NFT to hit the market in 2017 – 10,000 pixelated punks wearing looks from the 1980s. The original was released as NFT, which means that all changes in ownership can be tracked.

New from original CryptoPunks were auctioned off at Christie’s in May for just under $ 17 million.

Beeple’s collage is the most expensive NFT yet

Sotheby’s recently focused on a blend of historic crypto-art including works by Larva Labs and Kevin McCoy, generative art stars like Anna Ridler, and digital artists like Mario Klingemann and Addie Wagenknecht.

Auction of all the culture of the net

“All the cultural history of the Internet, Internet culture and generative art will be auctioned off,” said Georg Bak. “Museums and traditional collectors are now taking it seriously,” he added, although they are still adapting to the many new artists and digital objects.

CryptoPunk Larva Laboratories

Larva Labs’ cryptopunks was the first NFT to be auctioned

The main problem with digital art was that it was too easy to reproduce and often associated with potential hardware issues, Bak said.

People were also worried that the technology would soon become obsolete. “This has long deterred ordinary collectors,” he added.

In the case of NFT, only one digital file is transferred, it is the original. There are no packing and shipping costs, no customs fees.

It caught the art market off guard, Bak said, and sparked a “new phase of thinking.”

Emergence of hybrid art forms

NFT auctions are attracting a new generation of collectors to established auction houses, who now accept payments in cryptocurrency.

At the same time, large auction houses are involved in forming a new art canon in the digital realm and familiarizing regular collectors with digital art.

 Two people look at the image of NFT Quantum by Kevin McCoy

Sotheby’s sold Kevin McCoy’s ‘Quantum’ NFT in June 2021

It’s a win-win situation for both sides, Bak said. “Now collectors are negotiating digital culture.” It is also exciting for artists and the business community. New forms of art presentation are emerging, said Bak, “including many hybrid forms.”

Digital diversity vs golden picture frame

Berners-Lee’s source code currently on offer at Sotheby’s includes the original file with time stamp and signature, as well as an animated visualization of the source code, a digital poster with the complete code, and Berners-Lee’s essay on his code.

The sky is the limit for the imaginative forms of representation that can be crafted for digital art, just like the sums of money that pass through hands for NFT art – and this is just the beginning.

This article was translated from German


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