Sotheby's selling first non-fungible token

Quantum, an octagon-shaped animation by artist Kevin McCoy, went on sale at Sotheby's at an online auction last Thursday.
Quantum, an octagon-shaped animation by artist Kevin McCoy, went on sale at Sotheby's at an online auction last Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE

NEW YORK • The first non-fungible token (NFT) created, the origin of a craze that is sweeping the art market, has gone on sale at Sotheby's.

Quantum is an octagon-shaped animation by New York artist Kevin McCoy. It was the first work to be associated with an NFT-type certificate of ownership in 2014, three years before the term NFT was coined.

An NFT is a digital object such as a drawing, animation, piece of music, photo or video with a certificate of authenticity created by blockchain technology. It cannot be forged or otherwise manipulated.

Sotheby's has no pre-sale estimate for Quantum, which reached US$140,000 (S$185,429) last Friday, a day after it went on sale. The sale ends on Thursday.

"In 10 years looking back, if in fact these are to grow, this piece can represent and symbolise the start of something that is quite revolutionary and very impactful," said Mr Max Moore, vice-president of contemporary art at Sotheby's in New York.

NFT exchanges happen in crypto currencies such as Bitcoin on specialist sites. Traditional auction houses are seeking to capitalise on the new phenomenon.

"I fell in love with Bitcoin in 2013 and got really interested in that world," said McCoy, 54, a multimedia artist. He is a pioneer of NFTs that generate several hundred million dollars in transactions every month.

"There was a lot of misunderstanding at the time," he recalled, saying the mainstream art world struggled to understand the crypto-currency world, which itself had little appreciation of art.

He says the craze is only just beginning. "The Sotheby's thing is... a big test to see what happens as far as that goes," he said.

The NFT boom is being fuelled by early investors in crypto currencies who became millionaires.

In March, Christie's sold an NFT for US$69.3 million.

Sotheby's held its first NFT auction in April. During the Quantum sale, it is also selling a virtual character called Alice who will be able to interact with her future owner using artificial intelligence.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2021, with the headline 'Sotheby's selling first non-fungible token'. Subscribe