Beeple accounted for 42% of art NFT sales in 2021

By Raffaele Redi

Sales by artist alias of Mike Winkelmann led Christie's to dominate the NFT art market

Representation of non-fungible tokens, also known as NFTs, being displayed in a virtual crypto-collections gallery                                 
Sales of NFTs at major auction houses attracted millions of viewers – Photo: Shutterstock
                                

The non-fungible token (NFT) market was dominated by Beeple and major auction house Christie’s in 2021 – with the United States enjoying a 93% market share while Hong Kong generated 6% of global sales, according to the Art Market in 2021 report.

Last year, French online art price database Artprice listed just under 300 NFT lots sold at regulated auctions for a total value of $232m (£177m, €211m). Of the global art market, NFTs accounted for 1.6% of it in 2021 – more than the well-established photography segment, which accounted for 1% of sales.

However, in 2022 digital creations seem to be finding value through NFTs. “Faced with the immense possibilities offered by this technology, traditional artists are launching their first ‘drops’, major museums are creating digital counterparts to their masterpieces and the gallery world is getting organized as well,” said the report.

“The year 2022 could see the offers multiply at the risk of diluting the market. The curatorial choices of auction houses and the educational work they conduct can guarantee the construction of a healthy and exciting marke.”

Christie’s and Beeple dominating the space, Sotheby’s innovating

According to the report, Beeple alone accounted for 42% of the total regulated auction turnover on NFTs in 2021, while Christie’s dominated the segment, recording turnover of $139m.

On the other hand, Sotheby’s, which has been rapidly developing the NFT segment and constantly innovating, sold more NFTs than its direct competitor – 114 versus 80 – achieving approximately $86m in turnover, while the Asian auction house Phillips sold 19 NFTs for a total of $5.3m.

Major auction houses seem to be working hard on their client portfolios as NFT sales have been attracting millions of viewers – 22 million people connected to follow Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days auction – the majority of whom were new customers under the age of 40.

“Full of enthusiasm and rich in cryptocurrencies, new collectors have strongly supported the NFT market throughout the year, generating an exceptional sale rate of 88% – well above the global average of 68% – as well as 25 results above the million-dollar threshold for digital works, which, until then, had no resonance on the regulated auction market whatsoever,” stated the report.

The US dominates the NFT scene

Currently, the global share of the NFT market is divided between the United States, which boasts a 93% market share, and Hong Kong, which generated 6% of global NFT auction turnover, mainly thanks to Asian collectors actively participating in NFT auctions conducted across the world.

The situation is quite different in Europe where there is no clear regulation concerning NFTs. For example, France is facing legal obstacles hampering NFT auctions because, said the report, “the marketing of intangible goods is not regulated there and therefore prohibited”. However, it noted some auction houses have found a way around this by selling their first NFTs accompanied by “physical works”.

“The Aguttes company tested the market in June, selling seven works by the New French Touch collective associated with their NFTs for more than $550,000 in total. A success testifying to a nascent but already dynamic demand,” added the report.

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