Auction Houses and NFTs

Auction Houses and NFTs

The rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in recent years has not only transformed the way we perceive and trade artworks, but the art world in general. From Larva Labs' Cryptopunks as the first NFTs to the debut of Christie's first NFT auction, the art world is witnessing a series of epoch-making moments. This shift in the digital art ecosystem has led to a blend of web3 and traditional contemporary art models. Let's take a closer look!

Major auction houses, NFTs and Bitcoin Ordinals


NFTs have been trending since 2017, but the buzz reached new heights in 2021 when Christie's, one of the major auction houses, successfully auctioned Beeple's "Everydays: The First 5000 Days". The digital art piece sold for over US$69M on the Ethereum blockchain, a historic art sale that marked a pivotal moment in the art market and solidified the relationship between the traditional fine art world and the blockchain ecosystem. Christie's also sold Beeple's "phygital" piece "Human One" for $29M, a "triumphant follow-up to Everydays", as they put it.

As the first major auction house to integrate NFTs into the global auction arena, Christie's sparked widespread interest among collectors and artists. Since then, Christie's has witnessed numerous record-breaking prices and noteworthy firsts in the realm of digital art. Hosting the first digital art sale in Asia, embracing cryptocurrency (allowing buyers to pay in ether), and facilitating live bidding in Ethereum (ETH) are just a few of their milestones.

In September 2022, Christie's unveiled Christie's 3.0, a fully on-chain auction platform exclusively dedicated to exceptional digital art. The institution remains dedicated to collaborating with both emerging and established digital artists and creators, providing a platform to showcase their work to a vast global audience. From luminaries like Refik Anadol and Sam Spratt to iconic entities such as Cryptopunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, as well as initiatives supporting charitable causes like the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, Christie's presents a curated selection of top-tier NFT art at various price points. Committed to diversity, Christie's also offers a range of artworks across categories like Design, Luxury, Music, Science, and Technology.


Other major auction house Sotheby's also presents a meticulously curated selection of digital art spanning diverse categories. Offering various sale formats, including online auctions, buy-now options, generative drops, and edition sales, Sotheby's extends a broad spectrum of technical possibilities to sellers. Their international team, strategically stationed in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong, consistently attracts sellers and buyers worldwide, achieving some of the highest prices ever recorded in the market.

In October 2021, Sotheby's introduced Sotheby's Metaverse, establishing itself as the premier destination for NFTs and digital Art. Sotheby's Metaverse takes pride in curating and unveiling meticulously crafted primary drops, collaborating with both traditional and digitally native artists.

In December 2023, Sotheby's orchestrated an auction that featured three pieces from its collection, surpassing expectations by achieving a total of US$450,850 with fees. Michael Bouhanna, Vice President and Head of Digital Art at Sotheby's, having closely monitored the burgeoning ecosystem around ordinals, deemed the year-end as the right moment for the sale.

Sotheby's embarked on its inaugural curated sale of bitcoin ordinal inscriptions in the current year, titled "Natively Digital: An Ordinals Curated Sale." The sale, consisting of 19 lots, concluded on January 22, 2024, amassing an impressive total of US$1,097,534. In an interview, Michael Bouhanna, noted that if digital artifacts "continue to hold the significance they're garnering today, this might well be considered one of the most momentous works ever inscribed."

Online art auctions and NFT marketplaces

Blockchain technology ensures transparency, security and provenance in the art market. With each digital work tokenized and registered on the blockchain, artists and buyers alike can trace the entire history of a piece, bringing a new level of trust and authenticity to the art world.

While Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips ventured into the NFT market, bridging the gap between traditional and digital art, fine art NFT marketplaces were hard at work to provide digital artists with close to real-life experiences.

OpenSea, Nifty Gateway, Superrare and have emerged as digital art hubs, providing platforms for artists to showcase and sell their creations, whether they be natively digital or not.

Online auctions have become the norm, attracting global bidders to participate in the fast-paced world of NFT sales. Renowned digital artists like Pak and XCOPY are now hot commodities, turning heads in the art auction scene., which positions itself as the home for Bitcoin artists, provides creators with a user-friendly UI and many functionalities including a launchpad to inscribe their work on the Bitcoin blockchain, the ability to auction their work, the Prints feature that enables creators to leverage recursive inscriptions and create digital prints from an Original inscription (like they would in traditional arts, similar to printmaking), and many more.

Inscribing their creations directly onto Bitcoin enables digital artists to immortalize their legacy and elevate each artwork to an unparalleled level of exclusivity. Assisting artists throughout the entire process of developing their projects, Gamma has engaged in partnerships with renowned digital and generative artists and initiatives like Yuga Labs, FAR, Jack Butcher, Nullish, and numerous others.

The future of digital art with Web3

The web3 ecosystem continues to evolve, with each first-time event reshaping the landscape and influencing how digital and traditional art coexist. The journey from physical to digital is marked by historic sales, innovative technologies, and a global community of artists and collectors, leveraging social media to promote their work. Whether it's the first auction of a digital piece, the integration of blockchain in the art market, or the rise of Bitcoin Ordinals as a platform for fine art, the art world is being propelled into a new and exciting era.

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