Following the success of Sotheby’s inaugural NFT sales in 2021, which to date have achieved $100 million since launching less than a year ago, Sotheby’s announces the first dedicated live evening auction for NFTs, Punk It!, a single-lot sale of 104 CryptoPunks on 23 February. Carrying the landmark estimate of $20/30 million, the sale marks the highest valued estimate for an NFT or digital art ever offered at auction. It follows Sotheby’s record-breaking sale of CryptoPunk #7523 for $11.8 million in June 2021. The live evening auction will also bring together the physical and digital in an unprecedented showcase for NFTs and digital art with a presentation on par with the most significant and high-profile sales for Contemporary and Modern art.
CryptoPunks were released in 2017 by studio Larva Labs and are some of the world’s most iconic and valuable NFTs that have become a leading visual symbol of the global NFT movement. Their status in the crypto ecosystem, and more recently the fine art world, has evolved into a signifier of visual identity for their holders. The present group of 104 CryptoPunks to appear at auction were acquired together in a single blockchain transaction by anonymous collector “0x650d.” This stand-alone acquisition connects each of the 104 Punks with the same provenance—a wallet that currently represents more than 1% of the entire CryptoPunks collection— and ascribes unique value to the group as one of the largest Punk collections held by a single wallet. The buyer behind 0x650d will continue with this convention when the 104 Punks are sold together as a single lot at Sotheby’s.
For the auction, Sotheby’s will accept cryptocurrency, with the winning bidder having the option to make final payment in Ether (ETH), Bitcoin (BTC), USD Coin (USDC) or in fiat currencies. All cryptocurrency transactions are subject to applicable laws and regulations. The Sotheby’s auctioneer for the sale will also announce bids live from the New York saleroom in Ether (ETH) cryptocurrency alongside US dollars, following the paradigm-shifting move in November when Banksy’s Trolley Hunters and Love Is In The Air (2006) were both offered with real-time cryptocurrency bidding.
Preceding the live auction on 23 February, Sotheby’s will host a special live panel discussion on the history of NFTs and CryptoPunks, focusing on how Punks have gained mainstream recognition, with notable celebrity collectors such as JAY-Z and Jason Derulo adopting Punks as profile pictures. The panel will be live-streamed from Sotheby’s New York saleroom and feature speakers to be announced later. In addition, an exhibition will take place at Sotheby’s New York galleries 18 – 23 February and a virtual show at Sotheby’s HQ in Decentraland.
Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Digital Art, commented: “CryptoPunks are the original PFP series that created the template for other NFT projects that have followed, and which helped propel NFTs to the global stage as one of the most recognisable visual styles that have become synonymous with the digital art movement. To offer a group of 104 CryptoPunks as a single lot is a monumental occasion and one that we are excited to present as a first-of-its-kind evening auction. Never before has there been a dedicated auction presenting NFTs on this level, and we can’t wait to invite the NFT and crypto art community to participate in this special sale.”
PUNK IT! 104 CRYPTOPUNKS
Larva Labs launched CryptoPunks in 2017 as a series of 10,000 24 x 24, 8-bit-style algorithmically generated avatars, each with their distinct characteristics in which no two are exactly alike. The signature pixelated style of CryptoPunks characterises the early NFT aesthetic and is now a symbol of the meteoric rise of the NFT movement. In addition, CryptoPunks reflect the crypto-anarchist philosophy that defined early Ethereum culture inspired by the punk spirit. At the vanguard of digital art, Punks challenge the traditional perspective of artistic production, as well as creating a whole new audience for collecting art with digitally native collectors.
When the experimental CryptoPunks were released on the Ethereum blockchain nearly five years ago, the collection became one of the Ethereum networks earliest NFT projects. It also inspired the ERC-721 standard used for much of today’s digital art and collectables. As the significant avatar project in the crypto and NFT community, CryptoPunks are widely regarded as the first PFP (profile pic) collection that popularised the standard for some of the most successful NFT projects to date. CryptoPunks embody the philosophies of pseudonymity, community, and tradability essential to the blockchain ecosystem and represent the technology’s elegant simplicity.
Each of the 10,000 Punks has a unique set of attributes, with anywhere from 0 to 8 distinguishing characteristics, which were ascribed by the algorithm that defines their visual style. Among the 10,000 Punks, only 8 Punks with no attributes have been dubbed the ‘Genesis Punks.’ At the same time, CryptoPunk #8348 exists as the only one to boast a complete set of eight features – donning a top hat and classic shades, puffing a cigarette through his buck teeth and big beard whilst also sporting an earring and a mole.
The present group of 104 CryptoPunks represents the wide variety of traits associated with Punks, from mohawk haircuts to sunglasses to cigarettes to a range of hats and other accessories that differentiate them and give their unique identities. This group of CryptoPunks also showcases the diversity embedded in the original algorithm.
Yinka Shonibare Takes On Sketch Restaurant Revamp
The renowned British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE RA and project architect India Mahdavi transform Sketch’s iconic London venue with new artworks and interiors. Launching on 3 March, Shonibare’s artist-conceived vision for the Gallery restaurant will be presented with a new sunshine-yellow setting designed by Mahdavi, marking a new culture-defining chapter for Sketch in its 20th year. The acclaimed artist continues Sketch’s long-standing and influential programme of artist restaurant collaborations, including Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley and Turner Prize winner Martin Creed.
Shonibare has created 15 new site-specific works in his signature aesthetic that will reimagine Sketch into a powerful celebration of African culture and its legacy. Titled ‘Modern Magic’, the installation will feature five hand-painted masks carved from wood and ten framed quilts that replicate African masks found in Pablo Picasso’s collection. Renowned for her expert use of colour, Mahdavi has chosen a copper skin for the walls and solar yellow fabrics to complement Sketch’s latest commission.
Using applique and embroidery techniques on richly dyed fabrics, Shonibare illuminates the influence of African traditions on European conceptions of our modern-day world. The masks that line the walls of the Gallery are replicas of those originally used by African peoples to conjure new powers and realms. The spiritual powers of these objects inspired western modernist artists. Shonibare returns to this spiritual power to transform Sketch into a ‘third myth’, that is, a magical world in which cultural exchange can take place freely. The African spirit reimagines classical ideals, like the centaur, as humans and animal forms collide to disrupt order and hierarchy.
Shonibare’s new artworks in his Dutch wax batik pattern will gaze upon diners seated within a copper-hued haven designed by Mahdavi. Sketch founder Mourad Mazouz invited the designer to return to the Gallery and dress it in a new design as the restaurant bids farewell to its iconic pink aesthetic. The Gallery will be basked in golden light and will feature new custom-made banquets with a pared-back design in copper tones. These will stand alongside unique pieces designed by African craftspeople following Mahdavi’s invitation, including Senegalese fabrics produced by famous textile designer Aissa Dione. Exclusive handmade wall lights have been designed by Inès Bressand, who works with weavers in Ghana. The ceiling will take on a Mandarine au Lait shade, a colour created by India referenced in her famous ‘Flowers’ colour range for Mériguet-Carrère, that towers above walls lined with copper de Gournay wallpaper. Sketch will also display a replica model of the pink Gallery that India Mahdavi has specially created to eternalise the stature of the exceptional design.
Yinka Shonibare, CBE RA, commented: “After Matisse showed Picasso African art for the first time, it changed the history of modern art. Picasso was interested in appropriating from another culture, and I also appropriated from European ethnic art. Cultural appropriation can be a two-way street. This collaboration with Sketch has allowed me to expand my creative process – creating a different environment to encounter and experience my art in a fun and relaxing setting.”
Museum Recovery Support Announced By ACE And Lottery Fund
Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund have announced the launch of their new complementary campaigns Unlocking Collections (Arts Council England) and Dynamic Collections (the Heritage Fund).
Heritage organisations have shown colossal determination and resilience over the past two years, with many looking at new ways to continue access to their collections. These new campaigns aim to continue that momentum by increasing the support available for museums, libraries and archives to develop, re-interpret and manage their collections, helping the recovery of the organisations and, longer-term, the communities they serve.
Arts Council England supports museums in England, while the Heritage Fund covers collecting organisations across the UK. By working together, Arts Council England and the Heritage Fund plan to help a wide range of collecting organisations attract and engage even more visitors and truly unlock the potential of the objects they hold.
As the Heritage Fund Dynamic Collections campaign has a broader remit, the Heritage Fund plans to build partnerships UK-wide. Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Over the past two years, the museums, libraries and archives sector has worked tirelessly to adapt and innovate to keep the heritage we all love safe while remaining engaged and connected to audiences. These valuable UK-wide partnerships will help us to support those who manage collections to plan for recovery and a resilient future.”
Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said, “I’m delighted that as the development agency for museums, we have been able to work closely with our colleagues at the National Lottery Heritage Fund to launch and deliver these campaigns. The collections we hold in organisations up and down the country deserve to be seen, and we hope that by encouraging organisations to apply for funding through Unlocking Collections or Dynamic Collections, we will enable people to engage with a broader range of collections and bring them to life in an inclusive and relevant way.”