Hot July at Christie’s: Over $93M in NFT sales and Art+Tech Summit 2021

Hot July at Christie’s: Over $93M in NFT sales and Art+Tech Summit 2021

Christie’s upscale building located in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan. The organizers were exhibiting a 3D frame, which allows a hologram of oneself to be remotely projected elsewhere, and discussing how animated interactive collectible cards will change over time based on the real-life performance of the displayed athletes. Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz, Canadian artist Mad Dog Jones, head of global marketing at TikTok Nick Tran, co-creator of CryptoPunks Matt Hall, co-founder of Tezos Kathleen Breitman and president of TIME Keith Grossman — all movers and shakers in the art and tech space gathered (some of them virtually) at Christie’s fourth annual Art+Tech Summit to discuss the future of nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

The interest in nonfungible tokens is not so new at Christie’s. In fact, the auction house’s first Art+Tech Summit, held in London back in 2018, was dedicated to blockchain technology, and the organizers gave away 300 NFTs created by Robbie Barrat. Surprisingly, only 12 people claimed their free NFTs. All the remaining tokens are probably lost forever, hence the SuperRare team calling them “Lost Robbies.” While no NFTs were given away at the summit this time, the audience in 2021 seemed much more prepared — likely because Christie’s bold moves in the NFT space this year were hard to miss. The auction house has reportedly made a total of around $93.2 million in NFT sales, including $69 million with the Beeple sale in March, $17 million with CryptoPunks and $3.3 million with Andy Warhol in May, and $2.16 million with FEWOCiOUS in June. Moreover, Christie’s curated, online-only “Trespassing” auction made $2.5 million in July, after it released its financial figures. According to the numbers in the report, NFT sales represented close to 42% of the total online sales at Christie’s.

With Christie’s reporting $3.5 billion total sales in the first half of 2021, and NFTs having pulled in $93.2 million this year so far at the time of the report, the NFT category remains tiny in the auction house’s overall revenue. However, it also drives interest from new buyers and expands clientele, as Christie’s stated in a press release:

“73% of NFT sales registrants are new to Christie’s, at an average age of 38 (13 years younger than the average age for clients in other sales); Several have also crossed over to purchase works by established/blue-chip artists.”

The auction house also said that 31% of all new buyers are millennials. For some of the auctions, Christie’s also noticed a reverse interest: Traditional collectors made some moves in the NFT category — specifically, half of the bidding during the “Andy Warhol: Machine Made” NFT auction came from established traditional collectors.

Financials aside, Christie’s seems to also be interested in long-term NFT innovations. The curated program for this year's Art+Tech Summit featured a wide overview of NFTs — from art to games to metaverses — with each panel led by Christie’s professionals as moderators. I have selected the best quotes and highlights across all the panels at Christie's 2021 Art+Tech Summit for a quick recap!

Definition of NFT

Panelists had different views on NFTs. However, most of them agreed that:

  • NFTs are a lot more than just JPGs (in case you still had some concerns).
  • NFTs create a new communication channel.
  • Collectors and NFTs

    A lot of hype around NFTs is built around a general misunderstanding of the value of digital assets. For the majority of people outside the gaming and crypto industries it’s not quite clear — Why would you buy a digital asset, especially at a higher price than the real-life one? Collectors at Christie’s Art+Tech Summit provided their explanations and the motivations behind their deals.

    Creators and NFTs

    An overarching theme was voiced by artists during the conference: They talked about the liberating power of NFTs and the huge amount of support, feedback and love they get from their communities. Artists underlined how the community support allows them to do what they really want, and to focus on what’s important to them. Each was inspired and thrilled with the possibilities technology gives and stressed the importance of social media.

    Limitations of NFTs

    The NFTs still have a lot of technical limitations which slows down adoption. There are security problems, issues with blockchains interoperability, and other gaps in the development of the infrastructure.

    One of the key questions concerning NFTs is that of interoperability between blockchains. Speakers had different views: Mike Novogratz suggested that everything will come down to Ethereum, while Silivio Micali stated that trustless secure bridges will be developed.

    NFT predictions

    The 2021 Art+Tech Summit feels like a statement: Christie’s is committed to NFTs (and beyond) — and is planning a long-term presence in the space, educating others but also learning from the community regarding how to navigate an unpredictable, tricky crypto space. The physical event was intimate, with 150 on-site attendees and a total of 1,000 visitors, including those who attended online. For those who missed the chance to fly to New York, Christie’s generously shared seven hours of talks on its official website.

    These quotes have been edited and condensed.

    The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.