Sotheby’s scouts the NFT metaverse as Christie’s debuts in ETH

By Raffaele Redi

Sotheby’s explores the NFT ecosystem as Christie’s has accepted live bids in Ether

A piece of the Machine Hallucination series                                 
A piece of the Machine Hallucination series – Photo:

The auction house Sotheby’s has sold a non-fungible token (NFT) of digital artwork by media artist Refik Anadol, entitled Machine Hallucination: Synthetic Mars Terrain – E (NFT AI Data Sculpture), for HKD1m ($128,423, €110,392, £94,389). 

The Machine Hallucination Synthetic Mars Terrain – E  NFT was valued at between HKD800,000 and HKD1.2m.  As the auction notes stated: “This artwork comes with an artist-signed 3D physical certificate with backup, a custom computer with software and Epson PowerLite L730U Laser Projector, to be shipped by the artist’s studio to the future buyer.”

The catalogue notes supplied by the auction house described the work as: “Synthetic Mars Terrain provides a unique type of cognitive cartography using a GAN [generative adversarial network] neural network trained on 1.2 millions of photos that the MRO [Magdalena Ridge Observatory] telescope captures of the surface of Mars.

“HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is the most powerful camera ever sent to another planet, one of six instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It arrived at Mars in 2006 and has been imaging ever since.

“The changing projection-mapped virtual texture of the data sculpture is a virtual map on which the planet’s possible futures and hidden histories are revealed.”

The auction marked the latest collection from the artist’s ongoing Machine Hallucination series starting in 2019.

The sellers remarked on the active role of major auction houses in the NFT ecosystem. “Sotheby’s has taken an active role in the NFT ecosystem,” said Robert Sleigh, managing director of business operations, Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

Christie’s first auction in Ether

In another historic first for the leading auction house, Christie’s accepted live bids in Ether (ETH), selling the first lot of its Post-War to Present sale and its Curio Cards, a full set of 30 cards plus an extra, 17b, for ETH393 ($1,267,320).

The sale, which brought together leading examples of contemporary art, NFT makers and design, was led by two abstract paintings from the post-war era, which each sold for $2,670,000: Helen Frankenthaler’s Warming the Wires and Philip Guston’s The Clock II.

According to Christie’s, the sale attracted a global participation, with bidders from 40 countries. For the record, Guston’s work surpassed its pre-sale estimate of $280,000–$350,000 by nearly tenfold, selling for 954% of its low estimate.

The My Curio Cards  project was launched in May 2017, and features a set of 30 unique series of cards from seven different artists, including Luis Buenaventura, Phneep, Cryptograffiti and Marisol Vengas. 

The set of 31 NFTs is considered to be some of the earliest artworks available on the Ethereum blockchain. As they predate the ERC-720 standard, the developers have created a wrapping service that allows the tokens to exist as an ERC-721 standard compatible with marketplaces like OpenSea.

There is a high demand for the cards, with some 3,800 owners and a total traded volume since 2017 of close to $100m, as revealed by NFT Evening. The Curio Cards sold for ETH393 (USD$1,267,320).

According to Christie’s, “The auction achieved its highest total of $34,409,820, with a strong depth of bidding of 145% hammer above low estimates.”

Further reading: LaCollection CEO: British Museum NFTs are the new postcards

Further reading: Historic 250-year-old melody to be auctioned off as an NFT

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